Customer Experience

Your Guide to Mapping the Customer Experience

May 23, 2016

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According to consulting firm Adaptive Path, the purpose of the customer experience map is to see the customer interaction process from a strategic view.

Today, customers are increasingly choosing services and products based on experiences. This makes it extremely important to map out your customer’s experience: so that you can foster operational and service improvements and understand better the individuals who are the heartbeat of your business.

Bernd Schmitt, a professor at Columbia Business School and author of Experiential Marketing and Customer Experience Management, explains the map’s importance:

“Customers do not just buy products but seek experiences with brands. And there are so many touch points that a company has with customers.”

Schmitt said those very touch points need to be mapped as part of a customer journey.

Customer Experience Mapping

According to Adaptive Path, there are four big-picture steps in customer experience mapping.

Uncover the truth

The data you already have within your organization is one way to start understanding how customers interact with your brand. You can collect data for your customer experience map from multiple sources: online reviews and ratings, social media comments, customer feedback, questionnaires and survey responses, e-mails, phone calls, etc. These types of data can also generate actionable insights through the use of text analytics and sentiment analysis tools.

Read MORE:The Customer Experience Manager’s Getting Started Guide to Text Analytics

Chart the course

Organize a group of map stakeholders who understand your research and discovery, and create a plan to map the journey. Summarize key findings.

Tell the story

This is where you create the map. Before you begin, analyze the kind of information you have, and determine which is most important versus which is simply good to have available.

Use your map

Use your map – send it to every department in your organization and take advantage of the information and insight it contains in order to understand your customers better.

Here’s an example of a customer experience map from Rail Europe (click to see image in full size):

source: Adaptive Path

(Source: Adaptive Path)

Find out what your customers need and want

Alan G. Lafley, executive chairman of Procter & Gamble, said:

“I am a broken record when it comes to saying, ‘We have to focus on the consumer.’ I don’t think the answers are just in the numbers. You have to get out and look.”

According to a survey by Bain & Co., 80 percent of 362 companies think they deliver a “superior experience.” However, customers said only 8 percent of those companies surveyed were actually living up to experience standards.

There’s a clear gap between businesses’ perceptions and customer expectations. Here are some possible causes, according to Bain & Co.:

“Growth initiatives damage the most important sustainable growth – a loyal, profitable customer franchise.”

Businesses alienate their core buyers when they make an effort to increase revenue, such as raising transaction fees. Moreover, if a business looks to spread its customer base, it potentially directs attention away from the core customers.

It’s difficult to build relationships with customers.

Companies face the challenge of trying to understand evolving customer wants and needs and maintaining a great experience based on these changing wants and needs.

To be able to respond to this challenge, a customer experience map is critical.

According to interaction design expert Chris Risdon, there are two key criteria and five key components that make a customer experience map useful.

Key criteria

  1. The map doesn’t need to be explained to others in the organization. It’s understood on its own.
  2. It should be clear that the map is a tool for action, not a conclusion.

Key components

The Lens

This represents the summary of the customer persona. For multiple personas, you need multiple maps: each persona is a map. The lens might consist of principals such as design — or different personas — so you can measure the customer journey against some type of criteria.

The Journey Model

You should not only understand the customer journey in the journey model, but also be able to understand which part of the experience works and which part does not work. Other questions you might ask are “What happens at this stage?” “What is the customer doing at this point?”

Qualitative Insights

This consists of “doing, thinking and feeling,” writes Risdon — the “‘doing’ being the journey model, the ‘thinking’ framed as Can I use this? Will this work? I like how this feels, and the feeling utilizing responses such as frustration, satisfaction, sadness, and confusion.”

Quantitative Information

This represents specific data points within your map that can be used to highlight certain parts of the journey.


What insights do you get from the map? Where do you see opportunities? Where are the pain points and what should you do next?

There is no definitively right way of designing customer experience maps. How yours looks like may even differ greatly from that of your competitors. But no matter the size or category of your business, the task of mapping the customer experience remains crucial, and it is key to delivering the great experiences that spell all the difference between brands that succeed and brands that don’t.

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