I met Beth Berg—a customer experience researcher—at a journey mapping round table at this year’s CXPA Insight Exchange, and really enjoyed her approach. So, I invited her to get together and discuss her approach, and she agreed.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
My area of expertise is bringing the voice of the customer into customer experience design efforts. As part of the CX team within a company, I provide research support to our CX efforts. I work primarily via qualitative research, providing data the company can use, but I also work to bring in research conducted by other parts of the company that’s useful to our CX work, such as marketing research, analytics, and competitive intelligence.
It’s great that your company has a dedicated CX team—it sounds like they’re committed to using CX within the company. Where are you and your team brought into the CX process?
I’m fortunate to work for a company that has support for CX at the executive level. CX absolutely has a seat at the table through strategy development. We involve VPs and Senior VPs from across the company in CX design through workshops—all facilitated by a CX Architect and informed by research.
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Walk us through a “typical” project, or just the last project you did. At what stage are you brought in?
When company strategy calls for the creation of a new experience, the CX Team is brought in to facilitate its design. We focus on supporting major cross-channel experiences—the user experience team supports web-only design. As the researcher on the team, I begin by figuring out our baseline of knowledge—how much we know about what customers think, feel and do, and how much we’ll need to find out. About 50% of the time the project will require new research.
Our main criteria concerning research is, Is there still something we can learn from customers about what this new thing could be like? We want to find out ways to improve it, by talking to people who have gone through the existing experience. Or, if it doesn’t exist within our company yet, we talk to those who’ve used a competitor’s product, and find out how they like it, and again how it could be improved. If it doesn’t exist at all yet, we try to ask potential customers about the need it would meet if it did, and gauge both their interest and how this potential product could best meet their needs.
For example, if we are researching the experience of calling the company, then we want to know what they were doing before they called, the reasons they’re calling, their preferred way of getting their issue handled—perhaps through another communication channel altogether, what they did after the call, and how they felt throughout the process. We want to expand conversation beyond our specific company, as well, to learn about their broader experiences to better understand how we can improve that experience.
What are your preferred research methodologies?
If our goal is to create a current state or future state journey map, I prefer to use one-on-one interview. For my interviews, I use a cognitive interview process, beginning with questions about recent or familiar experiences, and then expanding from there. There will be inaccuracies any time you have people recount their experiences, of course, but I like hearing directly from people—you may not get a 100% accurate reconstruction of an experience, but you will always learn what their emotional takeaways were from that experience. And that’s what we’re really trying to learn: what our customers think and feel.
I often conduct interviews over the phone, though I encourage interviewees to use webcams—it helps a lot to be able to see their facial expressions and body language as they speak. I find a best practice during these is to recap what they’re telling me back to them, creating a timeline for them of what they’ve told me—it helps them remember things they want to fill in, and makes sure I’m accurately understanding their experience as they remember it.
After the interviews are completed, what’s the next step?
First, I create persona-like summaries and individual journey maps for each interview participant that highlight the key points of what was said in the study. I verify my notes against the recorded interviews, and then I start to group different interviews by themes. I put themes on individual post-its and put them up on a wall—I can usually fill an entire room like this.
From that I synthesize five to ten key things that have been learned overall, to present to stakeholders. We also do a lot of workshops, so I use these takeaways to form scenarios for activities centered around real problems faced by an aggregate of customers. The CX Architect takes the lead on workshops, but keeps me involved throughout the process to ensure the final design is customer-focused.
That sounds great. What advice do you have for others working in CX?
Expose your leadership to the voice of the customer—it really makes a difference. I invite our executives to listen into the phone interviews I conduct—some are very interested and make it a point to attend as many sessions as possible, others prefer to read the reports afterward. For those who do listen in, I think it makes a huge difference. It’s easier to empathize with customers when you’ve heard their individual stories.
The other thing is to make sure the way you design journey maps is actually customer-centric. That may sound obvious, but I’ve seen enough to know it isn’t, necessarily—you aren’t mapping your own internal process, you’re mapping the customer’s experience.
Beth Berg has been conducting consumer research for the past 10 years—largely in the healthcare and financial services industries. She found a home in CX research 5 years ago and hasn’t looked back. As a member of CXPA, she enjoys keeping up with best practices for designing the best possible experience for customers. She has a M.S. in Psychology (Quantitative) from Illinois State University and an M.B.A. from Lindenwood University.