Monday, June 20, 2011

Join Your Customers on Their Journey

Here’s a great post from Adam Richardson of the global innovation firm frog design about something called a customer journey map. What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.

There’s a couple of map examples in the post, including one that lists a bewildering array of questions a customer looking to purchase a home theater system might have.

“For HD and Blue Ray DVD HDMI audio I do not understand if any post processing is done on the 5.1 Lossless PCM channels from these players. Will DD PLIIx or THX 7.1 apply to these? What are the limitations?”

Yikes. But you know what? It reminds me of some association staff meetings I’ve been in where good intentioned people work to design a new product or service, without ever stepping around to the other side of the counter and looking at it from the customer’s point of view.

Who will this serve? I find that I’m beginning to ask in these situations.

The members.

Ah, yes. The ubiquitous members. But which members? And how? What will they do with it? How would they design it if we put them in charge?

Blank stares. Or maybe one or two raised eyebrows.

You’re not seriously suggesting we ask the members what they think about what we’re working on, are you?

Yeah, I guess I am.

But what if they don’t like it?

That’d be fine. Then we can stop working on this and start working on something they will like.

Looks of skepticism all around the table, but no more than looks. I am the boss, after all.

Well… I guess we could send out a survey.

Here’s a better idea. We know our members. Some of them work in the same town we do. Their offices are fifteen minutes away from where we are right now. Why don’t we take all the sketches and ideas over there and lay them out on one of their tables and ask them what they think?

Now everyone looks downright uncomfortable. Like I’m the dentist and I just told them they’re all going to need root canals.

Gosh, I don’t know. We’re pretty busy around here. And we’d hate to bother them with only half-formed ideas. Maybe we should flesh this out a little bit more? Develop some prototypes. Make sure the thing can actually work before getting their feedback. We don’t want to make promises we can’t keep.

This dialogue has never actually taken place in my association—at least not out loud. Maybe it has actually happened in yours. But if not, I bet the fear and avoidance that lays beneath it does exist in your association.

There is something embedded deeply into the culture of our industry that convinces us our members are too busy to be bothered, that we don’t have to ask them what they think, and that we can ignore negative comments that come back on our evaluation forms. Creating a customer journey map for your next new program may be one way to start changing that culture, especially if its leads you to the same conclusion it led me. We really don’t know how our members think, and there are forces at work that will keep us from finding out.


Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Project managers are particularly accustomed to using process maps, but as you note, we aren't doing it enough in associations. We can engage our members and volunteers in mapping their experiences, as well as observe them in action (anthropological approach) to uncover/discover the maps we currently ask them to follow or the ones they have already created for common association efforts on their part.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

And here's a nice post on cognitive maps and innovation.

Eric Lanke said...

Thanks for the feedback, and the weblink, Jeffrey. I'm not sure starting with a completely white space is the best way to tackle this. I've seen too many "white spaces" filled with what we think we know about our members, not with what we have learned from observing their experiences. In keeping with the theme of my blog post, what about turning the white space over to their members and letting them fill it up?

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