Customer Experience also shorted as CX is a way to capture the experience of the use of a product or a service from the customer point of view. It describes the customer activities, intent and also emotions, the interactions between the customer and the organization, and the activities of the organization to support the customer at each step.

Table Of Contents
  1. Customer Experience vs Customer Service
  2. Principles of the Customer Experience and the Customer Journey map
  3. Structure of a Customer Experience map and the Customer Journey map
  4. Types of Customer Experience map
  5. Customer Experience map: from purpose to scope and structure
  6. Employee Experience
  7. Stages to build Customer Experience and Customer Journey map
  8. What’s next? Learn about other frameworks around Product Development like Lean Startup, Story Mapping, Impact Mapping and Agile
  9. Do you want to learn more about Customer Experience and Customer Journey? Here are some valuable references

There are 5 main benefits of capturing and improving the Customer Experience:

  • Invest in what matters to the customer.
  • Keep close to customers and be aware when their needs or behavior change.
  • Strengthen customer loyalty and referential.
  • Increase brand and products value.
  • Raise revenue and customer lifetime value.

Customer Experience vs Customer Service

Surely, Customer Experience is different from Customer Service:

  • Customer Service is the attention and care you provide to your customers through all interactions between the organization and the customers. The role of the Customer Service department as a department facing customers is to manage customers’ requests and to deal with their queries.
  • On the other hand, Customer Experience includes all parts of the organization that impact customer outcomes notably the Customer Service. Furthermore, it spreads outside the organization. Indeed, the Customer Experience to get a job done does not stop to the product or service of the organization.

Principles of the Customer Experience and the Customer Journey map

The Customer Experience and the usual way to shape it, the Customer Journey map, are structured over 4 principles.

The principles of Customer Journey mapping are: view outside-in, align internal functions, focus on customer’s interactions, share a common visual reference.

View from outside-in rather than inside-out

The first one is probably the most disruptive for traditional companies as the idea is the have a view from the outside of the company to the inside. In other words, everything starts from the external experience the customers have with the use of the product or the service, then go to the inside of the organization. Definitively, this is a very customer-centric view and it goes beyond just the use of the product. Really, it puts the product back in the scenario of use by the customers. It is directly connected to the theory of the Job to be done but with the emotional side in addition: customers buy a product to get a job done not just for the product itself.

As a result everybody in the organization can have a clear understanding of the experiences the organization creates to its customers. Not just the frontline people interacting directly with customers but all the collaborators. Customer Experience map is a key tool to empathize with customers and gain understanding of their actual needs. Surely, it is critical nowadays to support customer centricity.

Align internal functions across teams and hierarchical levels

Customer Experience map breaks down silos. Surely, customers experience a product or service as a whole whatever the department contributing to it. As a matter of fact, organizational silos prevent alignment. To put it differently, they focus on optimizing their perimeter only, sometimes at the expense of the end to end customer experience.

The challenge to align departments and functions to the customer experience lies in the difficulty of seeing interdependencies across the organization. Clearly, Customer Experience mapping is of a great help on this issue as it provides visualization that breaks down siloed thinking. As a result, teams can gather and collaborate around this common referential and understand in a look interlocking relationships.

But be aware that Customer Experience maps often reveal inconvenient truths.

Focus on interaction with customers

Value is created, or not, at each interaction between the customer and the organization. A Customer Experience map visualizes both new opportunities to create additional value or areas for improvement. This may be both at the level of operational efficiency and the customer experience design.

Building solutions by focusing on the interactions between customers and organizations is referred to as value-centered design.

Create a shared visual reference for innovation

Customer Experience brings the “big picture” as a visual shared reference that builds a consensus. As a result, people align on a common vision and focus on shared objectives. This influence the decisions they make and enforce the consistency of their actions.

Truly, Customer Experience mapping is an enabler for innovation. In other words, what matters is not the Customer Experience map itself. But the understanding of the situation and the dialog between the contributing teams that result. This visualization highlights opportunities and serves as springboards to innovation.

Furthermore, Customer Experience mapping may even be the start to design a product or a service from scratch. To illustrate, begin by imagining an ideal customer experience, then design the process and the supporting technology.

At last, a Customer Experience map is a long term asset. Indeed, as it consolidates information about essential customers’ needs and emotions it lasts.

Note that Customer Experience mapping can apply in many areas not just business like social or government areas.


Structure of a Customer Experience map and the Customer Journey map

Before we get into the structure of the Customer Experience map, it is important to highlight some of its aspects inherited from its nature. The Customer Experience is:

  • Firstly, holistic, as it covers all actions, thoughts, and feelings during the time of the experience.
  • Secondly, personal, as it is not not an objective property of a product or service but the subjective perception of the a given customer.
  • Thirdly, situational, as it clearly depends on the context the customer is in.
I like riding on roller coasters, but not immediately after eating a large meal. In one case, the experience is exhilarating; in the other, it’s a dreadful few minutes of nausea. The roller coaster doesn’t change; the situation does.
Mapping Experiences – James Kalbach

A Customer Journey map is typically made of 5 parts. Firstly, the steps of the customer experience. Secondly, the customer related information for each step: Actions, Feelings, Desired Outcomes and Pain points. Thirdly, the emotional level of the customer during the experience. Fourthly, the touchpoints between the customer and the organization. At last, the organization related information for each step: Activities, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Steps of the Customer Experience (1)

At the very top of the map, there are the steps of the Customer Experience.

Customer actions and feelings (2)

The top rows are related to an archetypal customer, a persona. Indeed, they describe the customer’s experience, over time, for each step, on several dimensions. Typically these dimensions are: actions, feelings, desired outcomes, and pain points.

They can include a dedicated area for the customer’s Emotional Level (3) displaying over time how positive or negative is the customer experience. To illustrate, it results from the rating for instance from 1 to 10 of the experience by a sample of customers.

Touchpoints (4)

This row in the middle is about all the interactions between the customer and the organization. Really, they are the mean to create value.

The map may use several value models to categories the value created at touchpoint level. For instance, the value model from Sheth, Newman and Gross consolidating 5 types of value:

  • Functional value relates to the ability to perform a practical purpose. Clearly, the concern is about performance and reliability.
  • Social value refers to the interactions between people. Surely, it is about lifestyle and social awareness.
  • Emotional value emphasizes the feelings or emotional responses a person has while interacting with an organization product or service.
  • Epistemic value is generated by curiosity or the need to learn.
  • Conditional value is a benefit that depends on specific situations or contexts. For example, everything that is connected to annual events like Christmas, Thanksgiving or Halloween.

There are other value models that you can use, some much more complex like the Diller and Shedroff model that has 15 different categories of value.

Moments of Truth

Moments of truth can be considered of as a special kind of touchpoint. Really, they are key interactions that are highly emotionally charged. They usually happen when a customer has invested a lot of energy in a desired outcome. As a consequence, Moments of truth either make or break the experience of the customer.

Therefore, it is important to display these Moments of truth to identify critical points in the experience and focus attention on what matters most.

Organization activities (5)

The bottom rows are about key organizational activities to support or respond to the customer. To put it differently, it is organizational processes and offerings.

Below is the analysis of these activities with: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Clearly, this supports identifying areas for improvement.

The visual power of Customer Experience mapping

Customer Experience mapping makes it possible to:

  • Consolidate multiple information about the customer, the organization and their interaction at the same time enabling connections and learnings.
  • Highlight touchpoints, their context and demonstrate how the value is generated.

Types of Customer Experience map

Customer Journey map

The Customer Journey map is the most common type of Customer Experience map that we described above. To illustrate, it focuses on the experience of the product or service from the customer’s point of view.

Service blueprint

In Service Blueprint map, even if there is still information about the customer activities, the focus is on the organization part and the interactions between its layers.

Typical dimensions are:

  • Customer actions.
  • Physical evidences: the type of touchpoints like physical devices, electronic software, and face-to-face interactions.
  • Onstage touchpoints: these are the actions of the organization visible to the customer.
  • Backstage actions: these are the actions of the organization not visible to the customer but that still directly impact the customer experience.
  • Support processes: these are internal processes that indirectly impact the customer experience including contributions of partners or third-party suppliers.

Experience map

The main difference between the Experience map and Customer journey map, is that it maps an experience independent of a given product or service. Surely, the Experience map considers a broader context of human activity, beyond the offering of the organization. To illustrate, it displays the connections between people, places, and objects. As a result, the Experience map supports developing a broader offer up to an ecosystem.

Rather than illustrating how individuals consume a product, experience maps allow organizations to ask the question, “How do we fit into the lives of individuals?” The answers often lead to new opportunities for growth.
Mapping Experiences – James Kalbach

Typical dimensions are:

  • Phases of behavior.
  • Actions and steps of the customer.
  • Jobs to be done or needs.
  • Thoughts and questions.
  • Emotions and state of mind.
  • Pain points.
  • Physical artifacts and devices.
  • Opportunities.

Mental model diagram

Mental model diagram is a Customer Experience map that is a perception of how a system works. Attention, it may not be how it actually functions. As a consequence, this makes it possible to understand the customer perception as it may differ from the product or service you have created.

Ecosystem Model

Products may disappear overnight. By contrast, ecosystems that delight customers, if difficult to build, once built, are difficult to compete against.

An ecosystem map displays information as a network rather than a chronological timeline.

Note that a Customer Experience map is for a given persona. Therefore, depending on your context, it may be relevant to build your map for multiple personas and for multiple touchpoints.


Customer Experience map: from purpose to scope and structure

Customer Experience mapping requires making a choice on what to focus the map on. To do so, start with your purpose: what do you intent to work on with this map? Later, from the purpose will derivate all the structure of the map like the scope, the type of customer experience map or the information included.

Scope

The first thing to decide is the point of view of the map, in other words whose experience are you mapping and which experience do you want to cover? Then, you have to define the scope of this experience making explicit its beginning and ending.

Type and structure of customer experience map

Depending on the intent of the map, you choose the relevant type of customer experience map as described above. In addition, some type of maps may have a different structure than chronological. For instance, hierarchical, spatial or network structures.

Focus

The focus of a map is the types of information included. As an illustration: in the typical chronological map, they are the rows. We gave the usual ones above when describing the format of a Customer Experience map but there are many more for customer, organization and touchpoints as proposed by James Kalbach in his book Mapping Experiences:

For the customer:

Physical: artifacts, tools, devices
Behavioral: actions, activities, tasks
Cognitive: thoughts, views, opinions
Emotional: feelings, desires, states of mind
Needs: goals, outcomes, jobs to be done
Challenges: pain points, constraints, barriers
Context: setting, environment, location
Culture: beliefs, values, philosophy
Events: triggers, moments of truth, points of failure

For the organization:

Touchpoints: mediums, devices, information
Offering: products, services, features
Processes: internal activities, workflows
Challenges: problems, issues, breakdowns
Operations: roles, departments, reporting structures
Metrics: traffic, financials, statistics
Evaluation: strengths, weaknesses, learnings
Effort: difficulties, inefficiencies, ease of interacting
Opportunities: gaps, weaknesses, redundancies
Goals: revenue, savings, reputation
Strategy: policy, design making, principles

For touchpoints:

TV ads, print ads, brochures
Marketing emails, newsletters
Websites, blogs, online newsletters
Apps, software programs
Phone calls, service hotlines, online chat
Service counters, checkout registers
Physical objects, buildings, roads
Packaging, shipping materials
Bills, invoices, payment systems
Mapping Experiences – James Kalbach

Note that there are 3 kinds of touchpoint:

  • Firstly, static that does not allow for a customer to interact with them like printed materials, signage, or advertisements.
  • Secondly, Interactive where interaction is possible like websites and apps. They enable calls to action and workflows.
  • At last, Human that are human-to-human interactions. It can be by phone, chat or forum for instance.

Employee Experience

Employee satisfaction is the main parameter that drives the quality of the customer experience. Clearly, if your employees are happy and engaged, they will support a better customer experience, then make customers happy. Thus, be employee-centric if you want to be customer-centric. Employee Experience, also shorten as EX, is the approach of developing a great employee experience. As a matter of fact, it uses the same process and tools as the Customer Experience. Surely, it is the path to delighting customer experience.

The elements that are part of the Employee Experience fall in 3 categories:

  • Firstly, cultural environment: this is the main and most important contributor to the employee experience. It covers elements like purpose, values, inclusion, equity, diversity, personal growth and psychological safety.
  • Secondly, technical environment: this are the software and hardware employees use to do their work. Concerns are about availability, response time but also alignment with employees’ needs and business requirements.
  • At last, physical environment: this stands for spaces where employees work, the office but also today the at-home work area. Important parameters are comfort with ergonomics of equipment and flexibility.

Stages to build Customer Experience and Customer Journey map

The Stages to build a Customer Journey map are typically: Collect the organization strategy and objectives, Define the scope of the map, Frame the initiative or the project, Collect the information for the map, Consolidate the information as a customer experience map, Build organization empathy based on the customer experience, Define and test options, and Design the new customer experience with maps.

Stage 1: Collect the organization strategy and objectives

The first stage is to collect the organization strategy and objectives. Indeed, a customer journey map is more effective when consistent with the organization strategy and objectives. Here are some questions to explore the organization strategy and objectives:

  • What is the mission of the organization?
  • How does the organization create, deliver, and collect value?
  • What is the strategy of the organization?
  • Then what are the strategic goals?
  • Furthermore, what markets and segments are currently served?
  • At last, what are the hypotheses supporting the strategy and related objectives?

Stage 2: Define the scope of the customer journey map

A customer journey mapping starts like any other initiative or project: you define and capture the goals, the scope, the work effort, the time frame and the costs.

Determine the Customer Experience to map: the Customer Value Chain map

The Customer Value Chain map is an overview, for a given Customer Experience, of the key actors interacting internally or externally around the organization and how the value flows between them. This is the material to identify the Customer Experience to investigate, therefore maps.

  • Firstly, list all actors and entities involved in the experience.
  • Secondly, put the primary provider then the primary actor in the center.
  • Thirdly, put other actors and entities around the two actors in the center to display their main relationships.
  • Fourthly, add the value flow between providers and customers.
  • At last, review the Customer Value Chain map to identify the experience to focus on based on following criteria:
    • Customer relationship to focus on.
    • Point of view in this relationship to investigate.
    • Type of customer.
    • As a result, select the experience to focus on with start and end moments.

Build Personas

Personas are archetypal customers sharing common patterns of behavior, needs, and emotions. As a matter of fact, they are a short but efficient way to describe and understand a target group. Usually, a Customer Journey map reminds the related persona in the top.

Select the type of Customer Experience map

  • Customer journey map (CJM) focuses on a person as customer of the organization. The typical journey is that the person becomes aware of the offering, decides to buy it, and then remains as a customer. A Customer Journey map supports marketers, salespeople, and managers understanding the customer lifecycle to build better relationships.
  • Service blueprint reviews how a customer experience a service. The focus is internally on the service once acquired to enable designers and developers to improve the service delivery.
  • Customer Experience map takes a broader view and covers the whole experience of the customer related to the job to be done, not just the use of the organization product or service. Customer Experience map is a key tool to identify new opportunities for innovation.

Stage 3: Frame the initiative or the project

Based on the Customer Experience to cover, like all initiatives or projects, frame the mission:

  • First, estimate work effort, duration and costs.
  • Second, assess required resources.
  • Third, capture elements in a mission statement.

Stage 4: Collect the information for the map

Leverage existing data

For sure, there is a lot of data available that you can start with to empathize about the customer:

  • Direct feedback: with all the direct contacts from customer to the organization like via phone, email, contact forms, online comments, face-to-face service encounters, and chat.
  • Social media: review what people say in social media in your market.
  • Reviews and ratings: check reviews and ratings for relevant information.
  • Market research: tap into past surveys and focus groups from the organization.

Interview touchpoints

Once you have leveraged the information available off-the-shelf, interview people in the organization interacting with customers:

  • First, collect roles and functions of the participants.
  • Second, identify those acting as touchpoints with customers.
  • Third, collect feedback of touchpoints on what they think experience of the customers is.

Qualitative research

Then turn to real customers to get more understanding. Clearly here, you can use all technics and tools from Design Thinking to empathize with customers.

A specific tool regarding Customer Experience is the critical incident technique. In other words, this technique aims at getting the feedback from customers on a critical incident. Ask the customers to:

  • Recall a critical incident they experienced, a past event that went particularly badly.
  • Describe the experience with what happened, what went wrong, and why. Ask them how they felt at that moment.
  • Finally, ask them about the expected experience, what should have happened, and the ideal experience, what would have been ideal. Surely, this reveals their underlying needs and expectations of the experience.
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
Bill Gates

Quantitative Research

Next step is still to empathize with customer but this time with quantitative research. Especially questions on a scale are helpful to measure a parts of the customer experience:

  • Frequency that they experience steps of the experience.
  • Importance of each touchpoint.
  • Satisfaction at each touchpoint or step.

Stage 5: Consolidate the information as a Customer Experience map

Now it is time to consolidate the essential information collected about customer as a Customer Experience map according the structure described above. Here we will focus on the format of the fields with the guidelines provided by James Kalbach in his book Mapping Experiences:

Actions: start each with a verb; e.g., download software, call customer service.
Thoughts: phrase as a question; e.g., Are there hidden fees? Who else do I need to involve?
Feelings: use adjectives; e.g., nervous, unsure, relieved, delighted.
Pain points: start each with a gerund; e.g., waiting for installation, paying invoice.
Touchpoints: use nouns to describe the interface; e.g., email, customer hotline.
Opportunities: Begin each with a verb that shows change; e.g., increase the ease of installation, eliminate unnecessary steps.
– Also add supporting quantitative information.
– At last, use simple design, typo, colors, graphic elements, icons to decrease cognitive load dealing with the map.
Mapping Experiences – James Kalbach (partially adapted)

Check after you have designed your customer map that:

  • First, it is relevant to the organization.
  • Second, it requires little or no explanation for people to deal with it.

Stage 6: Build organization empathy based on the Customer Experience map

You have empathize with the experience customers have. Now you need to build in all the organization Empathy about this Customer Experience. Note that, Empathy doesn’t come from the Customer Experience map itself, but from the conversations people have around this map.

To build empathy in the organization about the Customer Experience you can

  • Mark up the map: invite people to comment on, correct, or add information directly to the map.
  • Foster discussion: focus people on a discussion based on the map and on a given topic like moments of truth, critical touchpoints, moments with negative experience.
  • Tell stories: have people remind past stories they went through, then connect them to the workflow of the Customer Experience map and bring evidences.

Identify Opportunities

Here you can focus on critical aspects of the Customer Experience map:

  • Identify moments of truth.
  • Then, score them regarding importance and size of the gap.

Frame the opportunities

Opportunities can be either:

  • Weaknesses: mostly points of failure. What is expected by the customer? How to improve the customer support?
  • Uncovered areas: find steps where the organization does not support the customer. Same here, what is expected by the customer? Especially look at overlooked moments of truth.
  • Customer’s effort: identify steps where customers have to spend a great deal of time or energy. How could you ease that?
  • Competitors: check what the other organizations are doing, especially best practices as a source of inspiration.
  • At last, rephrase the problem in the Design Thinking question format “How might we?”. This will support the ideation step to generate options for the solution.

Stage 7: Define and test options

Now it is time to switch from empathy and define, to ideation about the solution and design and test options, in other words potential pieces of solution. Here also Design Thinking is the reference for technics and tools with phases ideation, prototype and test.

Ideate: diverge to generate ideas

  • Think about how to remove barriers that prevent people in the organization from doing their job.
  • At last, challenge the industry assumptions to open new possibilities and innovating solutions.

Prototype and Test: prioritize and select ideas internally

  • Use the quick feedback technique to filter fast and cheap your ideas and identify the best.
  • Test concepts with feedback from focus groups or think out loud interviews.
  • Demonstrate internally how ideas are relevant with storyboards or, prototypes.

Prototype and Test: run market experiments

You may have some feedback on your ideas at this stage but only internal feedback. This step is about getting feedback from the market and real customers. Here also, prototype and test your ideas with Design Thinking practices and tools.

Make sure to shape well your hypotheses that you are going to test and have measurable outcomes. Clearly, without measurable outcomes, you cannot test hypotheses

Stage 8: Design the new Customer Experience with maps

There are 2 ways to build the new Customer Experience map: based on the current map or from scratch with an ideal Customer Experience.

To be mapping: creating the new Customer Experience map based on current map

In this case, you include the future experience within the current state map. Sometimes, however, the future state will go trough a different flow of interactions with other steps or an alternative chronology of steps. In this case, it is better to display this future state as an entirely separate map.

Ideal Customer Journey: use Storytelling

Storytelling is a narrative communication and refers to the art of telling stories. In the marketing area, storytelling is a communication technique that involves creating a story around a product or brand. Surely, this especially makes sense in the context of Customer Experience as the experience the customer goes through is a kind of story.

Storytelling makes it possible to build the experience as a story. In addition, it helps have a simple and holistic view on complex problems.

Let’s review how James Kalbach presents the narrative arc that structures good stories. So you can apply it when building a Customer Experience as a story:

Exposition: start with setting the context, the situation and introducing the characters.
Inciting incident: This is the point where something goes wrong or there is some change to the situation.
Rising action: Intensity and action increase as the story unfolds.
Crisis: The story culminates at the point of maximum friction. This is the point of no return.
Climax/resolution: The climax is the most exciting part of the story and the point at which the audience realizes that all might be well again. This is when the problem that was surfaced by the inciting incident is resolved.
Falling action: After the climax, the story comes back down in action and begins to end.
End: This is the very end of the narrative. Typically, there is a return back to the original state.
Mapping Experiences – James Kalbach (simplified)


What’s next? Learn about other frameworks around Product Development like Lean Startup, Story Mapping, Impact Mapping and Agile

  • To learn more about other frameworks supporting Product Development like Lean Startup, Story Mapping and Impact Mapping check my other post.
  • In addition, you can review my posts introducing Agile and Agile at Scale.
  • At last, learn more about innovation with all my posts about Digital and the disruptive technologies.

Do you want to learn more about Customer Experience and Customer Journey? Here are some valuable references

From James Kalbach:

Other web resources:

  • Post on Customer Experience from Qualtrics.
  • Article on Customer Journey from Qualtrics.
  • Examples of Customer Experience map.
  • Post on Customer Experience from blog Hotjar.
  • Article on Customer Journey from blog Hotjar.
  • Post on Customer Experience from Zendesk.
  • Article on Customer Experience from Superoffice.

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