Mapping out all the steps a customer takes while interacting with your company is a powerful way to improve the experience. Customer journey maps clarify what customers are trying to do, what barriers they face, and how they feel during each interaction with your product or service. Refining these smaller steps, such as how people complete a purchase online or file a complaint, is what journey maps are known for. What many companies don’t realize is that these maps can also help them identify broader business opportunities if they step back and look at the journey more holistically.
Let’s look at the benefits of analyzing the smallest scale, or what designer and author Dan Saffer calls “microinteractions”: interactions of a few seconds or less that can either delight or hinder the customer. He gives an example of the Facebook Like button which freed people from having to actually type words to express approval. And recently at an ATM, the woman at the one next to me exclaimed, “It just wished me happy birthday! How cool!” That’s a microinteraction that converted her into a brand advocate.
Working on these discrete, concrete interactions is attractive because the problem is usually obvious and it’s clear what to change and what will benefit the customer and the business.
On the other hand, if you step back to look at the whole scope of the customer journey, you may identify new customer challenges and opportunities to tackle.
A few years ago, I worked with a large pharmaceutical client who wanted to improve how patients with an incurable disease self-injected their drug. (For confidentiality, I’m not going to name the company or the disease.) The logical starting point for our customer journey mapping was at the most granular level: the activity of taking the drug.
Over the course of nearly 20 in-home ethnographic visits, we got a nuanced picture of what the experience involved. The drug had to stay refrigerated at home — mixed in with the family’s other things — until needed, and because the disease caused physical impairment of the hands, inserting the needle was even more challenging for patients.
We developed solutions for each of these problems: We rethought the packaging so that it was more convenient and secure when stored in a fridge. We tested a wide variety of shapes for the injection device to find one that was easier to operate.
These were concrete, meaningful improvements, especially considering that patients would be repeating this process each week for the rest of their lives. But the research also opened our eyes to the bigger story within which this weekly regimen was nested: living with this disease.
We looked at the traumatic and life-changing first stage: getting the diagnosis. This was followed by starting to use the drug. This process was often complicated by the fact that patients did not always get sufficient training on the injection procedure from their doctor or nurse. Later on, they sometimes couldn’t remember all the steps to follow.
Then every month or two, patients would be delivered a new batch of doses. Since the drug needed refrigeration, it was packaged in dry ice and bulky styrofoam insulation inside a large cardboard box. And where did most people receive deliveries? At work. One woman told us how embarrassed she was getting these large boxes, as her colleagues thought she must spend a lot of money on shoes.
We proposed initial ideas to address these findings, and even early on it was clear that they implied significant modifications to business as usual: Engaging other stakeholders like doctors and nurses to improve training, or innovations in shipping and packaging to reduce waste and improve the delivery experience. But none of these were in the client’s comfort zone at the time.
That’s understandable. It can be challenging to address these opportunities in the bigger journey, as they are initially vague and unfamiliar or seem like distractions. But embracing them can lead to new growth opportunities. Disney, for example, is a master of zooming out beyond individual customer interactions and capturing larger parts of the journey — they’ve gone from cartoons to parks to hotels and beyond.
Amazon, too, exemplifies this approach; it’s taking ownership of the entire delivery process with same-day delivery and drones, displacing the Post Office and UPS as the last step.
Chances are your competitors are not looking broadly either, and they face the same barriers to entry. Enhancing the small-scale interactions is vital, but if you are willing to be open-minded and unconventional, you could uncover unique insights for competitive advantage throughout your customers’ full journey.
About the Author
Adam Richardson is a Group Product Manager at Financial Engines, and was formerly a strategy leader at innovation firm Frog Design. He is the author of Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems are its Greatest Advantage.
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