Ideating the Future State Customer Experience

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I’ve been know to say, “You can’t transform something you don’t understand.” You don’t want to change things that are working well or that create value for your customers. So know the current state and what to fix and what to maintain before designing the future state. Know the current state so that you can make near-term fixes and improvements while you’re re-imagining and redesigning the future state, which can take some time.

In future-state journey mapping, you ideate—with customers—the ideal future experience and map out that experience, which then becomes the blueprint for implementation. The future state map shows what the customer will be doing, thinking, and feeling (in the future ideal experience) throughout the respective interactions with the brand.

This table outlines differences between current state and future state maps.

Future state journey mapping serves many purposes, including:

  • Identifying and examining future experiences or journeys in collaboration with real customers
  • Co-creating and designing the ideal experience with customers
  • Co-creating and designing a differentiated experience with customers
  • Envisioning what the experience could look like in the future at minimal risk because it’s tested first on paper

So, where to begin?

I previously wrote about future state mapping and future state workshops but kept it pretty high level. Here’s a bit more detail.

Start with Ideation

Start your future state workshops with an ideation session. In your current state mapping work, you identified specific customer experience pain points that need to be redesigned. Focusing on those pain points, ask customers (yes, you’ll have customers in this workshop!) to brainstorm ideas for a better future experience. What would that look like? What should it include? What are competitors or other industries doing differently that delivers a much better experience? (In your pre-workshop prep meeting, ask customers to bring artifacts – examples of where they’ve seen this pain point solved in a way that simplifies the experience for them.) What is the ideal experience? I always say, think rainbows and unicorns. Ask them to think outside the box. Think about a totally different experience. It’s OK. Don’t panic, and don’t put limitations on what they can suggest. Don’t provide any parameters. As they’re working away, ask customers not to judge what others are saying or writing down; instead, build on others’ ideas and make them better or simply evolve them. Go for quantity over quality.

Oftentimes, as an example and to put the exercise into context, I’ll offer up Airbnb’s 11-star experience framework, first shared by CEO Brian Chesky. (Here’s another resource that will be helpful.)

Then Group the Ideas

Once customers have jotted down and/or shared all of their ideas, the next step is to group ideas into like themes. Are there any ideas that naturally belong together? Some ideas might fit into multiple groupings or themes. They can group the ones that are saying the same thing; they can eliminate ideas that just don’t make sense or don’t seem to be a good fit, as deemed by the group; or they can expand and clarify ideas to figure out where they belong.

Next, Review the Ideas

As a next step, have customers review, vote on, and prioritize the ideas – based on their preferences. The goal is to identify the nuggets that thread through various groups or that stand out as best next steps. Once prioritized, they can then focus on a theme or a grouping to incorporate into the future state journey mapping process.

Time to Map

With the ideation session, you’ve primed customers for the problem they are solving and the experience they are redesigning. It’s time to get up and map the future state. They’ve thrown out some great ideas, and they’ve all been captured, prioritized, and voted on. Let’s see how they put it all together to design the new experience.

How Will You Prioritize?

You’ve received a lot of awesome ideas from your customers during the ideation session. They’ve voted on their favorites based solely on their preferences; they’ve not taken into account how you might prioritize the ideas given a variety of factors, including those that I mention in this post:

  • cost to implement
  • time to implement
  • effort to implement
  • resources required to implement
  • impact on the business
  • impact on the customer, as well as
    • type of customers impacted
    • volume of customers impacted

Here’s a tip, though: impact on the customer should always be a part of your prioritization framework.

But let’s pause for a moment and think about this: don’t automatically and immediately discount an idea because you think it’s going to cost a lot or because it seems so far-fetched. Do your homework. Get your hands on some data. These have to be data-driven decisions. The ROI may be there; do the math first. At the same time, don’t stunt creativity and innovation by using the same logic and reasoning and processes and ideas that got you into this mess! I’m reminded of these cartoons by Tom Fishburne about design thinking and some of the limitations people put on this work.

As Einstein said: We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. That could not be more true in this situation! You might actually need to spend a little bit to gain a lot. If you truly want to be innovative, if you truly want to differentiate, if you truly want to make the experience better, you might need to get a little uncomfortable now for some longer-term gains.

If you want to build something that’s truly viral, you have to create a total mindfuck experience that you tell everyone about. -Brian Chesky, AirBnb

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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