Customer experience journeys without emotion built into it will make companies cry in the end.


Share on LinkedIn

Tambov, Russian Federation – March 24, 2015 Lego figure heads on black background. Studio shot. Copyright: rosinka79 / 123RF Stock Photo/]

There are many customer experience journey maps in the world – beautiful ones, ugly ones, complicated ones, intriguing ones, short ones, long ones and some more impressive ones than others. What does amaze me though is how much focus there still is on processes and procedures and how little focus on emotions, feelings and values (for both internal and external customers). True, if the basics of procedures and processes are in place there might be less frustration for customers, but if this is the only consideration and looked at in isolation, I have a problem with it. Humans are more complex than this – systems are static and can usually be fixed, but add humans into the mix and things gets complicated. Its messy and un-predictive, but herein lies the secret…

Let’s take a real life scenario to illustrate my point.
I recently went through a hospital journey that I want to share with you to show that every moment (even the ones you consider as small) may have an immense impact on your customers.

Imagine going into hospital after a struggle with a usually healthy child that complains about headaches and nausea. After a weeklong battle of trying not to overreact, but also stressing about not reacting in time, my husband, the doctor and I decided that it would be sensible to admit my son to hospital to monitor and test him so that we could put to bed our fears that something big was wrong.

When we reached the hospital I was asked to leave my son at the paediatric ward and had to go downstairs to complete the paperwork. Whilst standing in a queue I was extremely stressed out about leaving my son alone. Thoughts like ‘what if they put the drip in without me being there’ and ‘why is this taking so long’ amongst other thoughts rushed through me. I was at breaking point, so when the lady behind the counter told me that there were still three people in front of me and it could take a while I broke down. As a mother it is my job to protect and be with my son. How do single parents do it! (my husband who was away in Johannesburg on a business trip was just the cherry on top).

This moment in the journey was designed with processes and procedure in mind. Get the paperwork done, send it off to the medical aid, admit the patient and Bob’s your uncle. No emotion was ever thought of when designing this journey of fear for a mother with a sick child….I wonder how different this experience would have been if someone could have come to me in the ward with a laptop or iPad and do the paperwork there where I could be with my son. The process would still be completed and the objective reached, but with a totally different emotional outcome for the human on the other end. How different things would be for my son – not being alone in a scary place not knowing what is going to happen next or his mom stressing about her son.

Like in a movie I will forward to the next scene the following morning after spending the night on a very uncomfortable sleeper coach of some sort at the hospital (other than the sleeping experience, I must compliment the hospital nurses and staff who really did go out of their way to help us to make our experience in hospital much more do-able).

I get to the parking area to quickly go home for a much needed 2-minute-Cape-Town-water-restriction-shower and to feed the cat, still full of stress and even more tired than before and are ambushed by a parking attendant in the hospital parking area. She tells me I need to pay for a full day parking or go back inside to get my ticket validated. Now, on any other day this would not have phased me at all – it may have peeved me off a little, but my first reaction was – ‘are you kidding’. ‘I do not have time for this – I can not go back inside now as I need to get back to my son’ and ‘why on earth did no one tell me about parking or validation while I was in hospital’. ‘And by the way – who still carries cash with them!.’ ‘No Snapscan???’

In isolation this moment is functional and straightforward. I am sure the hospital has their reasons for making people pay to come to hospital, but I wonder if they ever thought of the impact such a small thing like parking has on their customers? Pay for parking and be on your way right? But what if it is not – what if the build up to this moment were designed with the emotional journey and mindset in place – how different could it have been?

I need to commend the rest of the hospital and medical aid journey where the staff looked after my son and me, made jokes and showed a lot of empathy (the medical aid representative even brought him a teddy bear which he still treasures). The problem is that this emotionally loaded journey was never designed with a full 360 degree view.

The lessons I take out out of this is that you can not design a journey in isolation – it is imperative to look at the moments before, after and in-between the experiences that you have control over. And to do it you need to include all possible emotions – whether rational or not, into the full picture. Your customers will remember you not by your logo and how efficient your processes were, but by how you made them feel about themselves in the moment when they interacted with you.

My son is out of hospital and is doing well. I do however think we should rename Customer Experience Journeys to Customer Experience Adventures! Every one brings with it the unknown – the human emotion with all its beautiful messiness. Let’s embrace a mindset of ‘all emotions are welcome’ and deliberately design emotion into all customer experience journeys!

Mareli Smit
Hi, I'm Mareli Smit! I’m the Program Director for the Brand Warrior initiative at Brandlove, where we create transformative experiences for employees and customers. I also run our Customer Experience Mastery program, giving CX leaders the tools for success. I’m also the author of "It's About Time" a guide to designing your life. Outside work, I enjoy cooking, mountain trails, and relaxing by the beach. I'm passionate about guiding individuals and teams to success. Let's connect and start a conversation!


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here