Customer Centric Service Design


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Imagine the power of pictorially summarizing your customer survey results so that stakeholders can understand possible customer experience improvements within 10 minutes! Reality Maps help your project teams learn about end-to-end customer experience and pain points in a storyboard format, with an eye toward future innovation.

“By using a Reality Map, our project team solved a systemic customer challenge in less than two months, with a huge impact on revenue”, explained Kimberly Dunwoody, Director of Global Customer Experience Design Strategy at Western Union. In her Pioneering Customer Experience Design presentation at the 2011 Satmetrix Net Promoter Conference in Miami, Kimberly said, “We use the Reality map as a global customer experience framework to consistently deploy improvements across all organization silos”.

Reality Maps are built on four questions, after the Business Intelligence team conducts customer feedback data mining to identify high-priority improvement opportunities:

1) Why would this project benefit the customer?

2) What is going to be built?

3) How will the solution work for the customer?

4) What is the effectiveness against pre-established success metrics?

  • The first question identifies strategic impact, in terms of business results: fulfill a brand promise, reduce cost, and/or increase or protect revenue.
  • The second question determines scope: a storyboard brings substance to ideas for more thorough, yet quick, evaluation by project teams and executives.
  • The third question describes the solution’s design in a process flow format.
  • The fourth question enables continual refinement, circling back to the desired business results as identified by the first question.

Reality Map

The Reality Map’s rows (also known as “swim lanes” on a flow diagram) describe the customer’s world, with emphasis on “moments of truth”. Western Union defines a moment of truth as a step in the customer’s process that could cause the customer to turn away and give their business to a competitor.

  • Steps and issues are listed in the Customer row.
  • An emoticon (smiley face icon) is used in the Experience row to indicate customers’ satisfaction, neutrality, or dissatisfaction.
  • Impact on revenue, costs, and/or brand promise fulfillment is shown in the Opportunity row.
  • Business processes affecting the customer’s steps and issues are shown in the Process row. By including the name of the vice president who owns each business process, the Reality Map is also an accountability tool that inspires a sense of urgency among project teams.

Western Union uses the Reality Map as the primary means to share customer feedback results throughout the company. “In place of thousands of pages of customer feedback data, we summarize our survey results on a 3×3-foot poster that takes only 10 minutes to explain to stakeholders”, Kimberly says. “Reality Maps give employees easy access to customer insight, with highly visible accountability for improving customer experience.”

What a powerful tool that solves so many challenges we all face in achieving high return-on-investment in customer feedback programs. This may be the most efficient method I’ve come across to sensitize employees company-wide regarding their impact on customer experience, and build results-oriented customer centricity throughout an organization.

Lynn Hunsaker

Lynn Hunsaker is 1 of 5 CustomerThink Hall of Fame authors. She built CX maturity via customer experience, strategic planning, quality, and marketing roles at Applied Materials and Sonoco. She was a CXPA board member and SVAMA president, taught 25 college courses, and authored 6 CXM studies and many CXM handbooks and courses. Her specialties are B2B, silos, customer-centric business and marketing, engaging C-Suite and non-customer-facing groups in CX, leading indicators, ROI, maturity. CX leaders in 50+ countries benefit from her self-paced e-consulting: Masterminds, Value Exchange, and more.


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