Experience maps, customer journey maps, and service blueprints represent different processes and goals, yet their purpose is to align the customer experience with business initiatives, yielding opportunity and insight into innovative products and services. They are a means to engaging interdisciplinary team conversation and establishing common ground. This article is an overview of the three most common experience mappings you will likely see, and when to use which:
We begin projects looking at the big picture, so let’s discuss experience maps. An experience map is a visualization of an entire end-to-end experience that gives teams perspective and understanding of different touchpoints and challenges of their customers. Experience maps are not linked to a specific product or service and move discussions toward the desired outcomes people seek. These types of diagrams offer a more holistic perspective (than a customer journey) of the human experience with a brand and fundamentally recognize that people interact with many products and services from a multitude of providers in many situations which is increasingly crucial as products and services become connected with each other.
Customer Journey Map
Customer journey maps focus on a specific customer’s interaction with a product or service. Like experience maps, customer journeys are chronological and used for understanding and addressing customer needs and pain points. For example, we worked with a SaaS company to better understand it’s customer support experience. By focusing on one specific segment (open ticket through resolution), we were able to determine customer journey touchpoints that caused pain or delight.
The importance of service design is taking on greater emphasis as the digital and the physical worlds blend, drawing attention across departments in marketing, product management, sales, product design, UX, and interaction design. Service blueprints (yes, ‘blueprint’ is a misnomer) is the tool depicting this process. Like experience maps and customer journey maps, service blueprints depict a chronological progression, yet the focus is on the back-office (employees and systems), removing most customer details. If you want to discover weaknesses in the organization and bridge cross-department efforts, service blueprints will not disappoint. Service blueprints are typically created after customer journey mapping to pinpoint a funnel or breakpoint internally.
Many of our service blueprints follow a simple structure to avoid muddling the diagram but it (and other diagrams) can be customized to fit your needs . A good map regardless of type should be easily distributed and understandable without explanation.
Before you start any mapping effort, 4 decisions must be made:
1. Macro vs Micro
This decision pertains to the business problem and value chain that needs to be solved.
- If you’re early in your customer experience program, you likely need to understand the customer experience pain points, and an experience map makes sense.
- If instead, you know that you need to focus on a particular part of the experience, a journey map might be a better fit.
2. Current vs. Future
This decision involves the actions depicted in the visualization: do they reflect the current or an ideal state?
- Current mappings reflect actual “today” state of what you are mapping. This approach is ideal when the mapping goal is to identify and document opportunities and pain points.
- Future mappings are based on an “ideal” state and help reinvent and conceive how a user or experience would feel in the future.
3. Assumptive vs. Research
This decision depends on the type of input that you will use to build your mapping.
- When you haven’t based your mappings on research, consider them assumptive. Assumptive mappings are based on existing understanding within a team or organization. The benefit is it quickly merges multiple team views and draws others into important conversations about creating value. Though, these assumptions can and should be validated later.
- Research mapping is based on data gathered specifically for building the map. While this method creates the best maps, it takes time and significant buy-in.
4. LOFI vs. HIFI
This decision involves the quality of the final map visualization.
- LoFi (low-fidelity) maps are unpolished and left as sticky notes or created in an unrefined manner in a SaaS program. These maps are best in an early part of the process. Low fidelity means little commitment or creation effort and empowers people to collaborate, revise, and update as needed.
- HiFi (high-fidelity) maps are polished, created digitally, and look final. High fidelity maps are the best for creating an artifact that is going to be shared amongst many in an enterprise. High fidelity can be easier to consume, but less flexible for some because of the “finished” nature of the product.
Mapping experiences have many benefits including building empathy, breaking silos, reducing complexity, finding opportunities, and bringing focus to organizations. Using one mapping method over another will not make or break a project, and you will likely use a combination at different points in your process, to create a thorough understanding of your users and organization.
Mapping also enjoys longevity as fundamental human needs and emotions rarely change quickly. But technology affects human behavior so plan to iterate and update with new findings. Also, there’s no harm in extending the maps to fit your needs, so if you feel you need to add emotions to your service blueprint, emoji away.
Figure 1.1: Customer journey map for Seen-it-all Stanley, created by Heart of the Customer for Meridian.