Throughout this experience, our team leveraged CX research and design best practices and advocated for the use of new technologies that were instrumental to the success of our projects. The customer-centric data that we derived from our research provided insights into current trends and best practices relating to ecommerce and marketing Web sites.
On reflection, I realized that the methods and process my team had embraced provided the building blocks for a CX design strategy for my organization. In Part 1 of this two-part series, I’ll take you with me on my journey of discovery through these projects.
Best Practice 1: Customer-Journey Research
Doing customer-journey research is a key best practice in integrating customer-centric thinking and approaches into an organization.
The Challenge or Opportunity
Bringing customer-centric thinking and methods into an organization is both high risk and high reward. In growing and grooming a Customer Experience Design (CXD) team, I quickly had to figure out what success meant for an organization going through the upheaval and growing pains of the latter stages of being acquired by a much larger company. This was a large company that is not known for its customer-centric thinking.
It was often uncomfortable being the one asking the hard questions in meetings: What problem are we solving? What customer needs and opportunities do we need to address? What are the business goals and requirements? While these questions sometimes shocked or disturbed people, my CXD team found an executive champion and, over time, we began making the necessary shifts.
Having a sense of urgency, I immediately identified the gaps in our customer data, as well as the methods we needed to follow to gather that data.
Even now, customer-experience design remains a new approach for many people in software organizations and businesses. I am sure that at least one colleague who is now one of my net promoters thought I was an alien when we started our journey. (He probably still thinks I’m an alien, but at least he realizes that I’m a friendly alien.) One of the most important learnings from our initial effort to research and map the customer journey is that including influential stakeholders is critical when planning customer research. I have applied this learning to all our subsequent efforts. Another key lesson is that your research data and analysis must surface concrete, actionable steps that align with business goals and requirements.
Research Best Practices
It is always important to employ research best practices to gain deep insights about your customers. But, for two reasons, this is especially important for an organization going through a major transition in their Web strategy:
- Your research findings enable your organization to develop and internalize a shared view of your customers.
- This shared view provides the impetus to establish a common, customer-centric philosophy throughout your organization.
Customer-journey research gives you an opportunity to get a snapshot of how your organization is doing in terms of the end-to-end customer experience. One of the best ways to understand and represent customer perceptions is by creating an end-to-end customer-journey map. I’m a big believer in customer-journey mapping, which provides the foundation for developing a Web strategy that delivers the right customer experience.
Forrester describes the value of the customer journey as follows:
“The customer journey spans a variety of touchpoints by which the customer moves from awareness to engagement and purchase. Successful brands focus on developing a seamless experience that ensures each touchpoint interconnects and contributes to the overall journey.”
Just as the customer-journey map provides a roadmap that helps business stakeholders better understand their customers’ expectations for a great experience, it also helps your CXD team understand how to ensure that the experience aligns with business strategy and goals.
The Need: Getting Management Backing
Presenting examples of journey maps from other companies is critical to building credibility. Yes, of course, your teammates should regard you as the CX expert within your own company. But the truth is that companies still like to see external validation of your approach. And, if you’re going to depart from the norm—in terms of current operating assumptions—in any significant way, it’s useful to show how your approach is more innovative or appropriate for your company’s business goals.
So I prepared a presentation in which I shared the experiences of other organizations in using customer-journey maps and how the outcomes of this approach benefited their business. I also included some third-party industry quotations from Forrester’s report, regarding the era of the customer.
The Journey-Mapping Process
To facilitate our journey-mapping process, I hired a consultant. Bringing in an impartial expert from the outside is helpful when working with a cross-functional team, because personalities and politics are less likely to derail the process.
The stakeholders who participated in our customer-journey research included directors, product-marketing managers, product managers, customer-success representatives, and support representatives. This was the first time that we brought this cross-functional group together to talk about the customer. So, in addition to the benefits of journey mapping that I cited earlier, the journey-mapping process itself established long-term relationships between the CXD team and stakeholders. These relationships proved to be extremely helpful during the intensive Web strategy and implementation phases.
During our journey-mapping workshops, we did the following:
- Broke the customer journey into phases.
- Invited all participants to use Post-its to identify customer touchpoints along the following swim lanes:
- User-facing touchpoints
- Human touchpoints within the organization
- Back-end technologies for each of these
- Evaluated each touchpoint to determine whether it is a moment of delight—meaning we should keep doing it or do even more—or a painpoint—that is, an opportunity to do better.
We also did contextual ethnography with various business owners and customers. This involved direct observation of customers by the consultant, as well as other UX research professionals on our team. Some research sessions involved interviewing and observing other teams within our organization—such as Customer Success and Technical Support. For other sessions, researchers visited customers who fit the persona profile and, through both observation and interviews, collected information about their experiences with the Web site and product.
We aggregated the information that we had gathered into a coherent design framework and developed buyer journeys for several personas. Stakeholders and management vetted and approved the journey maps.
The Business Impact
From this journey-mapping process, we extrapolated a roadmap for new design requirements, as well as improvements to existing designs. Plus, we taught designers to base their design solutions on our understanding of the customer and align them with business goals and strategy.
We now use the framework and language of the customer journey in all discussions about projects, priorities, and roadmaps. We have established ongoing customer-journey research as a CXD best practice and continue building out the next phase of the customer journey.