Customer-Driven Transformation via Walking in Customers’ Shoes


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I originally wrote today’s post for Confirmit in August 2014.

There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”

This statement is really the foundation for designing a great customer experience! There is no customer-driven transformation (and it must be customer-driven) without really understanding your customers and what they go through when interacting with your organization.

What does that mean? It means that, if companies are to design and deliver a great customer experience, they must first know who their customers are, what customers are trying to do with their products or services, what they are going through in order to achieve that, and how the experience went.

So, let’s start with first things first…

Who are your customers?
Many companies talk about developing products and designing experiences for their “target customers,” but what can you really do with knowing that your customers are “males, 18-49?” Targets are too high-level and meaningless when it comes to customer experience innovation and design; they don’t provide details about needs, goals, attitudes, behaviors, or emotions, and are just too far from reality and from what the customer is actually doing.

Personas, on the other hand, are up close and personal – literally. Personas are fictional characters used to describe an ideal prospect or an actual customer going through some scenario with your company. They outline motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying decisions or whatever it is that your persona is trying to achieve.

Using personas to define your customers allows you to shift from target-thinking to a more actionable definition or view. If you really want to develop a personalized experience for your customers, you need to do your homework and develop personas. Personas take you one step closer to a customer-driven transformation.

Once we know who the customer is – whose journey we are going to focus on – we can take the next step: map the customer journey with the organization. We need to focus on mapping very specific jobs to be achieved by the customer. You’ll find out very quickly that it’s going to be much easier and much more meaningful to map at the persona level than for some high-level, meaningless, inactionable target demographic.

There are many approaches to mapping – outlining an approach is a blog post on its own. Don’t get so lost in the HOW that you forget the WHY.

Why should we map?
If there’s going to be any customer-driven transformation, we need to think about the journey, not just about individual, singular touchpoints. Customers just don’t think about things that way – they think about your company and your brand overall. When your product quality stinks, you stink. When your service is bad, you are bad. As a result, you need to take a more holistic view of the experience. Remember, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. So, understand your individual touchpoints, but think in terms of journeys. Also know that much of the experience often happens between the touchpoints, i.e., those things that happen behind the scenes as well as those that are out of the control of the customer and the company, like economic or political factors, traffic on the way to the store, or the lack of parking spaces – which are difficult for organizations to measure directly.

McKinsey found that organizations that focus on the entire experience (rather than just managing individual touchpoints) benefit through enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction. These organizations have broken down the proverbial silos and found effective ways to collaborate across departments, another benefit of taking a more holistic view/approach.

Transformational thinking
The great thing about journey maps is that you’re going to use them to not only transform the customer experience but also to transform organizational thinking – in order to transform the customer experience.


Let’s start with one of the most important things: maps help to ensure that the entire organization is on board with the common goal, improving the customer experience.

One approach to achieve that is to use maps for employee onboarding and continuous training. Maps help the employee connect the dots and make sense of how cross-functional teams work together to deliver the customer experience, and they provide a clear picture of how what the employee does contributes to that experience. Maps help them understand how their work matters.

Maps provide employees with a clear line of sight. When employees have a clear line of sight, it means that they…

  • know how they contribute to the common goal (this is especially important for back-office employees who often feel like they cannot impact the customer experience)
  • know what it means to deliver a great customer experience, and ultimately
  • are given the tools and training – and are empowered – to do so

“Customer empathy” is the latest buzz phrase, but it’s not just a buzz phrase, it’s a reality and a necessity. It’s all about understanding and sharing the needs and feelings of others. To walk in another’s shoes is to understand and live what they are doing, thinking, and feeling; these details are all part of the journey mapping process. When employees are able to empathize, they can deliver a great customer experience for every customer with which they interact.

And finally, we all know how detrimental silos can be not only to the customer experience but also to an organization. When the organization is siloed, information is not shared, the cross/multi/ omnichannel experience is a mess, and the organization as a whole is not really focused on the end game. Cross-functional involvement is needed to build the maps and to ensure ownership of the touchpoints; as such, they become that tool to help break down the silos. Breaking down silos means that data and information flow freely across the organization, without any barriers. When those silos exist, a customer’s end-to-end experiences with the organization are fragmented and painful.

As you can see, maps are quite valuable and not only transform the organization but also your culture, the way you do business, and ultimately, the customer experience.

Empathy depends not only on one’s ability to identify someone else’s emotions but also on one’s capacity to put oneself in the other person’s place and to experience an appropriate emotional response. -Charles G. Morris

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


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