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Kristina Margulets

Kristina Margulets
Content Writer at UXPressia

Expert Opinion on Experience Mapping: Why, How, and What

Journey mapping is becoming a must-have approach to designing stellar CX experiences. There is, however, a lot of discussion around what they are exactly and how to do them right. This article, based on the talk by Martina Mitz at our recent online event, will help you dot the i’s.

Martina Mitz is a UX psychologist with 10+ years of experience in UX design. Started as a web designer almost 20 years ago, Martina then found a new passion, human psychology, and managed to marry the two disciplines in her work. This cross-domain knowledge backed by hands-on experience puts her in a unique position to offer insights into what experience maps are, how you build them, and why you need them at all.

Without further ado, let’s drill down on those essential questions. 

Why

First things first — to get to the essence of customer journey maps, we need to understand why they are important.

Understand the big picture

If you ever tried to do a puzzle, then you know how important a cover picture is. With just one piece at hand, it’s impossible to make sense of where exactly it fits if you don’t have a big picture right in front of you. Customer journey maps are essentially a big picture of the entire customer lifecycle that helps you gain a better understanding and find any missing pieces.

Visualize your insights

Pictures speak louder than words — this old but true saying refers to the highly visual nature of human beings. A human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. Journey mapping not only gives you a bigger picture but also serves as a powerful tool to convey meaningful insights in an effective visual way.

Prioritize your users

Too much of a good thing can turn out to be bad. Featuritis is the excessive expansion of features to the point when users can hardly get real value. Microsoft Word was notoriously known for this feature creep.

Microsoft Word interface overloaded with too many features.

Knowing your customers and what makes sense for them will help you avoid the featuritis trap and prioritize feature development from users’ point of view.

The importance of customer journey mapping cannot be underestimated, but it may not be easy to get buy-in from your stakeholders. Here are some numbers to help you win the case:

  • Employee engagement is better by almost 15%
  • Return on marketing investment is higher by almost 8%
  • Improvement in customer service costs is 23%

Figure 1 below provides you with additional information to prove your point.

Comparative graph of companies with a customer journey mapping program and all others

How

If you want to get a better grasp on CJMs, read the book by Jim Kalbach “Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams”. But for now, remember that everything boils down to three levels — user, organization, and interactions or touch-points in between.

Three levels of mapping customer experience

User level

Naturally, the user level always comes on top. To expand this level, we start with defining stages of a process, or we dig deeper and examine certain mindsets and topics to create so-called buckets rather than consecutive stages. These buckets, or containers, are not linear steps, e.g., a teacher preparing classes and noting the exams are quite different mindsets.

The next step is to define tangible actions and behaviors that you can observe, track, and measure in an objective way. Then we keep drilling down to identify pain points or brakes in workflows, like pausing, switching to another channel, or even quitting the process. To get a complete picture, we also focus on emotional and cognitive aspects, like problems or concerns. It’s also a good idea to add any implicit information, including thoughts and feelings — are users excited, or have they tried to fulfill a bigger goal in their life with your product?

Interactions level

This is a connector level, and depending on the project, it can contain different elements. This level includes all communication channels, such as a website, emails, calls, etc. You can get more granular and examine what devices your customers use to contact you. Or you can take a meta-level approach and look at how people prefer to interact with you — face-to-face or via digital channels.

Organizational level

This is probably the most flexible level. By looking at the context from a user’s point of view and focusing on what makes sense for them, you can examine what a company or an agile team can do.

Thanks to visual representation, you can easily reveal knowledge gaps, identify business opportunities, and even uncover risks like a strong competitor or technical dependency. Having this information at hand, you can start generating new ideas on how to improve particular aspects. Also, by processing the data gained from a user’s point of view, you can decide what data needs to be tracked and can be used as KPI, and what data is actually a vanity metric.

What

So, what are the types of journey maps? The answer is right in Jim Kalbach's book's title that was mentioned earlier — journeys, blueprints, and diagrams.

  • Customer journey maps (a.k.a. user journey maps, experience maps) are perhaps the most famous ones and are heavily user-focused.
  • Service blueprints shift the focus on the organizational level and organizational response to the user experience.
  • Mental model diagrams are the opposite of customer journeys and service blueprints. They are solution agnostic as they deal with examining what happens in people's minds when they're confronted with certain information or situations. Organization level here appears when companies start using these diagrams in practice.
Thee types of customer journey maps: user journey, service blueprint, and mental model diagram

When creating a map, you can be rather flexible: give different weights to different levels, zoom in or out in the scale of the user experience, and include different elements. Sometimes, the result is a hybrid map that contains customer journey elements (based on the discovered linear process and its stages), followed by mental model buckets (based on mindsets, and more implicit processes, like thoughts and feelings).

Now, you may wonder how to choose what kind of map to create. Here’s a rule of thumb you may use:

  • If you have plenty of information or extensive user research, go for experience maps.
  • If you have a lot of internal knowledge from multiple stakeholders (customer service, sales, C-level executives, etc.), go for a service blueprint.
  • If you want to generate or already have new ideas that have not yet been on the market, and you need to test them, go for a mental diagram.

Customer journey maps

Once you have performed your user research, e.g., conducted interviews, you can start mapping the insights on different levels. Want an interview to be a success? My go-to method is to ask an interviewee to walk you through a typical day or week. This way, you can better understand what kind of a person is in front of you and then start digging deeper into the topic. Another piece of advice is to keep conversation natural meaning no notes or checklist questions.

As your map grows, you go on and consolidate this knowledge — whether it’s interviews or tons of existing research — to create depth and achieve meaningful learning. You may also include any competitor research you have. If you have extensive information at your hand, it’s a good idea to involve different teams — from developers, through product owners, to C-level officers — at the first stage to align their problem understanding, identify the most important areas, and generate ideas.

Service blueprints

As it depends on the input from stakeholders, it may take some time to set up the workshop. If you don't finish everything in one session, but you do it right — the follow up will quickly follow. By mapping the processes, you can reveal the gaps in how an organization meets the customers’ needs. It also emphasizes the importance of even the tiniest part for the organization to function.

Mental model diagram

As mentioned earlier, mental model diagrams are used to generate and validate new ideas. When doing a mental model diagram, try to get to know the people in front of you that could be potential customers.

Let’s examine a smart home solution example. To understand how current customers could use their smart home devices in the future in regard to their parents, we interviewed some elderly people, the target audience for a new solution, to understand how they live. Then to see that the solution solves both the problems of the elderly and their grown-up children, we mapped our customers' mindset into a mental model diagram, which informed the development of an additional service in the existing app, rather than a new product line as planned initially.

Wrapping up

When it comes to maps, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Customer journey maps, service blueprints, mental model diagrams — maps are versatile and serve different purposes. When done correctly and validated through actual user data, they can help your organization create added value for customers and unlock competitive advantage.

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