Designing and developing a product or service often involves a large team of people with different backgrounds and experiences who must be on the same page about the project goals, user needs and customer behaviours. This common understanding is often built with visualisations (commonly referred to as mappings). Mappings can provide a relatively low cost insight to various customer perspectives, describing associated aspects and processes involved in a digital experience or journey.
This article provides an overview of four commonly used digital customer maps, their defining characteristics and when to use which.
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There are four common types of customer journey mapping approaches
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Customer experience mapping
Experience mapping is a widely used design planning technique used by many organisations. In general the benefits of experience mapping are to highlight key parts of any business where your targeted users interact. In carrying out these experience maps you will find areas to improve as well as where you are doing well.
This can apply to almost any part of a business process. Experience mapping is usually undertaken by a UX Designer, but it can also be performed by almost anybody in an organisation that has insight about who the key customers are and how they interact online.
IKEA customer experience map
Created by IKEA, this map presents customer experience during a visit to a store. Does it represent your shopping experience? What opportunities and possible improvements would you recommend for areas where customer experience was evaluated as bad? What are the exit risks (as if a customer could ever find a quick exit route from an IKEA store,!)
Customer journey mapping
In the world of web design, UX designers will use journey mapping to help fix pain points of existing user journeys, and for any product or service planning that utilises User Centred Design.
Customer journeys can be analysed using key metrics in software such as Google Analytics by looking at channel data, bounce rates, exit rates and dwell time on the pages of a website you want people to visit. If bounce rates are high and dwell time is low, this would suggest people didn’t find what they were looking for. We call these exit risks.
But before analysing or considering exit risks of the user journey, we need to think about the user and what they are trying to achieve.
- What DO your main customers want to achieve?
- What DON’T they want from your business?
- How DO you keep them engaged?
- What IS likely to turn them off?
- What IF they don’t “convert” on their first visit?
Most users don’t convert into customers on their first visit. Conversions happen when people are good and ready. So for a website owner to ensure a solid conversion rate optimisation strategy, users will require some nurturing: reach out to them; have them on your database and keep in touch so that when they finally make the decision to buy, you’re familiar, trusted and there.
LEGO customer journey map
Created by LEGO, this is called the “experience wheel”. It is constructed in an interesting and simplified way and shows the analysis of a flight to New York City.
The central part of the wheel includes persona’s characteristics. The next circle is divided into three levels of experience and achieving the goal of travelling. Outside the circle are descriptions of every step a person will take for this journey. Every step was marked with an icon denoting a positive, neutral or negative experience.
This form of map is really simple and easy to make – even at a meeting during discussion on ideas or issues. It’s a great way of taking a quick look at our product or service ‘through the eyes of the customer’.
Customer service mapping
A service map visualises the relationships between different service components - people, physical or digital property, and processes - that are directly tied to touchpoints in a specific customer journey.
Think of service maps as counterparts to customer journey maps. Similar to customer journey maps, customer service maps are instrumental in complex scenarios spanning many service-related offerings. Service Mapping is an ideal approach to experiences that are omnichannel, involve multiple touchpoints, or require coordination of several departments.
Service maps are tied to a specific service and usually divide into 4 quadrants: customer actions, frontstage actions, backstage actions, and support processes. Service Maps reflect a particular organisation’s perspective and focus on the provider and its employees, leaving out most customer details. They can be used to discover weaknesses in the organisation; to identify opportunities for optimisation; to connect cross department efforts and to break down cliques to create one shared, holistic understanding of how a service should ideally be provided.
Here’s an example of a Service (Blueprint) Map:
A N Appliance Retailer
In this service map, key elements are organised into clusters with separating lines. There are three main lines:
The line of interaction depicting direct interactions between the customer and the organisation. The line of visibility separating all service activities that are visible to the customer from those that are not visible. Everything frontstage (visible) appears above this line, while everything backstage (not visible) appears below this line. The line of internal interaction separates contact employees from those who do not directly support interactions with customers.
The last layer of a service blueprint is evidence, which is made of the physical or digital property and places that anyone in the blueprint has an exchange with. Evidence can be involved in both frontstage and backstage processes and actions.
Customer empathy mapping
Another form of a journey mapping is empathy mapping - how do users feel about each step of the journey? What is the empathic connection that makes people buy?
An empathy map is a tool used to articulate what we know about a particular type of user. It externalises user knowledge in order to create a shared understanding and aid decision making. The map is split into 4 quadrants: Tasks, Influences, Goals (plus Pain Points), and Feelings. It shows users’ perspectives regarding the tasks related to the product.
It can be used to build empathy for your users and to create alignment and understanding about a user type: usually used at the beginning of a design process and when categorising research notes from a user interview.
For example: Users buy from people as much as they buy the products they sell. Smaller boutique businesses may have differing ethical standards to larger corporations, so even though the price may be higher the user will still buy from their preferred business. This highlights the importance of a company’s unique identification, brand appeal and individual story.
Types of customer experience mapping you can do:
Lean experience mapping using sheets
We generally employ several types of customer journey mapping at Higher Ground. As we love to work lean - will always apply a simple map in the form of a Google spreadsheet. We will identify the target users originating from the creation of a set of user personas and will consider a typical journey of a persona: how they buy something and what features they need to see as they travel through their journey.
All businesses have more than one user persona, therefore using a lean UX process to sketch a simple and quick user journey using this Google spreadsheet method can deliver quick wins.
Big Picture / Holistic / Macro Mapping
You could use Big Picture Mapping to identify the key areas of each touch point of the user’s journey, particularly those touch points in your business offer that are weak and could be improved quickly and easily.
This area is really where the most UX value is for any business because it highlights where you most need to improve (which is relevant to every business engaged in a continuous improvement cycle and has a clear focus on learning, development, growth and success).
All UX mappings have two-fold benefits. First, the process of creating a map forces conversation and aligns thoughts. Second, the shared map can be used amongst your team, business, or client to communicate an understanding of a user or service. This map can also become the basis for decision making as the team moves forward.
Using one mapping method over another will not make or break a project. Ideally, a combination will be used as needed at different points in your process to create an in-depth understanding of your users and business.