Mapping the customer experience journey
I have spent a large period of my life designing: plant layouts, business processes, information systems and organizations. During these years I have seen, studied and applied several styles, methods and tools to design. Now I’m at the stage of designing the customer experience journey. I asked Kristina Tool, design strategist and customer experience designer, based in Milan, to explain what customer centricity is and how to implement it. Kristina brings a hands-on approach to service and customer experience design and design strategy. She helps organizations to innovate processes, services and experiences, applying design thinking principles to create a user-centred approach.
P. Kristina, what is Customer-Centric Design and what are its peculiarities?
K. Customer Centricity is designing of the processes, products, services and business strategy from the perspective of understanding who your customer is and what your customer wants to achieve, both emotionally and practically. A customer-centric organization takes this knowledge and actively applies it to create a better overall experience for their customer.
Many businesses achieved great success by focusing on their “product”, but now as customers are becoming more demanding and have more options, it is not enough to consider the product in isolation. Companies that do well today consider the overall customer experience, from all points of interaction, and across time, from finding your company, deciding to purchase from you and then what happens after the purchase.
The people inside of a customer-centric organization analyze the entire customer experience across all points of interaction with their organization. They ask how they can make it easier for their customers to find them and learn about how they can solve their customer’s problems. They don’t stop this analysis at the point of purchase either, (it is not “out of sight, out of mind”) they interact with and actively support their customers after a purchase is made.
Customer-centric organizations look for where the customer experience is inconsistent, unclear, frustrating or unsatisfying in some way. Once these pain points within the customer experience are identified they can then be resolved.
Why adopt a customer-centric approach?
P: Why should companies be developing a more Customer Centric approach?
K. Recently I did some research for Generali Assicurazioni. One of their issues is the insurance industry churn rate of 20- 25%. So in an effort to keep more of their customers (while striving to acquire new ones), they are changing how they operate.
Putting your customer at the centre starts by understanding the experience with your company from the viewpoint of your customer. Decide who your customer is and what his needs are, then understand how you can better meet these needs.
You may have a few customer types, but it is unlikely you are trying to be all things to all people. Do your customers value sustainability, prestige, adventure or speed of service? High quality, tiny details? Considering these needs can help you to examine your interactions with them. The company’s values have to be expressed in a clear way. They must be consistent in all the interactions with customers.
P. Can you give me an example?
K. There are numerous businesses in Italy which make high-quality products in a variety of sectors. On their websites, or in their marketing materials, they often claim quality and attention to detail. However, in an international market, their website is filled with grammatical and syntax errors. It is hard to convince a customer about the quality of your product when the website is substandard.
Regardless of who your customer is, all customer-centric organizations must deliver on their promises. It is easy to “talk the talk” about being customer-centric, but do your actions match your promises from the eyes of the customer? Customer-centric organizations examine this and make improvements where needed.
P. How can I effectively examine the experience of my client?
K. The values of an organization that guide its culture can make it easy or hard to be more customer-centric. With some businesses, the focus is internal and often not very open. An organization that looks to understand what its customer sees from the outside will be able to be more customer-centric. To do so, requires curiosity, openness and the willingness to try something new.
The Customer Journey Experience Map is a helpful tool for seeing how the customer has an experience with a company. This mapping process enables all inside an organization to see how their roles relate to the customer journey and how the customer moves across channels. A journey map looks at the multiple touchpoints your customer uses to learn about and interact with your company; for example service calls, storefronts, websites and emails interactions. A journey map examines if how a customer transitions between these touchpoints. Is the needed information provided in a smooth and easy manner, or is there lost time, conflicting information and inconsistencies? A customer journey map can be a great way to reveal where the problems lie. It can help to establish a starting point or taking action to address the problems.
P. Do you have one last tip for me?
K. Like many aspects of the business, (sales, product development, marketing) customer-centricity should become part of the company’s DNA, and an essential component, without which the company cannot survive. Rather than thinking of customer centricity as a “project” the company culture and values should create an environment, which supports building better customer experience. Overall, a company culture which supports curiosity open exchange and willingness to try something new will fare better than one in which is strictly hierarchical, separated and fears change.
P. Thank You, Kristina, for your good advice. You gave me another reason to get out of my box, look at what I offer through the customer’s eyes and redesign it with them.
This interview was originally in 2015. The article was updated in 2020