Journey Mapping to Hypothesis Mapping: Creating Better CX

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Journey mapping is a great way to visualize and truly understand your customer’s journey as they interact with your organization. But when you start a journey mapping project, how do you know where to start? Where do you investigate? It begins with a hypothesis.

Hypothesis mapping offers a unique workshop tailored to delve deep into the intricacies of the customer’s journey from an internal company viewpoint. It provides insights into pain points and Moments of Truth, and most importantly, aligns the internal company perception of the customer.

A frequent practice is to end a journey mapping process with a workshop, and that’s definitely a good idea. It cements the learning and adds depth to your maps. It also helps create ownership with your internal teams. These workshops pull together the data that’s been gathered to create an immersive and empathetic view of the customer experience. But there’s another way to apply the principles of journey mapping, this time to the beginning of the process – hypothesis mapping.

A hypothesis map is not a customer journey map

Hypothesis mapping is often what many call customer journey mapping. However, hypothesis mapping is only just the beginning of the process. If you do not follow up on hypothesis mapping by talking to customers, the insights will be limited.

Hypothesis Maps: A Guide

The core idea of hypothesis mapping is the same as journey mapping – gathering teams and building a shared vision of your existing customer experience. However, as its name suggests, hypothesis mapping does not use your customer’s voice as cognitive map, but instead gathers the ideas of your organization’s employees, using what they think the customer journey will look like to form the map. Not only does this give you a comprehensive idea of what your teams think your customer experience looks like, it also becomes valuable later on in the process.

How to use a hypothesis map

But how should these hypothesis maps be used? First, they can be instrumental in guiding the research for when you actually talk with your customers. Understanding your organization’s internal perspective of customers can inform how to ask questions or even what questions to ask. And knowing the vision of your fellow employees can clarify your own vision, whether in agreement or opposition to it.

Your hypothesis maps are also critical late in the process, once you’ve collected the voice of your customer and created your journey maps. Compare employees’ hypotheses against the journey maps created from listening to your customers. Examine the differences between the two, and use these differences to help inform the recommendations you make to the company to improve your CX.

You don’t want to use the difference to bludgeon your employees – “Here’s the truth! You’re wrong!” (although some do find that tempting). Instead, emphasize where they were right, and use that to highlight areas where their internal view may have led them astray.

Hypothesis Journey Mapping Process

Imagine a room bustling with professionals, divided into teams of 5 to 6 members. Each of these teams will embark on a journey, focusing on a specific section of the overarching customer journey.

Orthodoxies

The first task? Addressing orthodoxies – those deep-rooted beliefs and conventions about the company. They brainstorm and list down their perceptions about the company and hypothesize about how customers view the company. This initial exercise sets the stage for an eventual comparison with actual customer feedback.

Personas

The next phase is building the persona of a typical customer. Each team breathes life into this persona with specific details – age, marital status, profession, location, and a unique name. By identifying the goals and aspirations of this fictional customer, the teams ensure that from this moment onward, they are wearing the shoes of the customer. It’s a transformative experience.

Following this, each team selects a spokesperson who introduces their persona to the larger group. The symbolic act reinforces the importance of viewing processes from the customer’s lens.

Hypothesis Mapping in Action

With personas established, the core of the workshop begins the mapping and hierarchical structure of the hypothesized journey. It is a matrix or table structure that lays out the customer journey map from the internal point of view.

Steps:

Teams identify the touchpoints – the various steps a customer takes. While companies are often aware of many touchpoints, they occasionally miss out on those immeasurable ones, like a customer seeking advice from a friend.

Interactions:

Highlighting operational touchpoints, teams pinpoint where the company’s diagnostic processes or tools come into play with the customer.

“I think” vs. “I say”:

This is a crucial aspect that sheds light on new findings on customer psychology. What customers say isn’t always reflective of their thoughts. Consider a scenario where a customer, despite feeling frustrated, interacts politely with a service agent.

Emotions:

At the heart of every decision are emotions. Teams introspect and map out the myriad of emotions they believe customers might experience during their journey.

Moments of Truth:

These are pivotal moments that significantly influence the customer’s journey outcome. Surprisingly, during such exercises of intelligence analysis, it is discovered that many of these moments are overlooked by companies. For example, a customer logging into a company’s portal many times is a Moment of Truth overlooked by company employees who never have an issue with it.

Processes and Rules:

Lastly, the teams identify the company’s internal processes and rules that impact each journey stage.

When to Avoid Hypothesis Maps

Hypothesis maps have many uses – but there is evidence there are some potential uses that should be avoided, too. It might be tempting to show hypothesis maps to customers, to get their reactions to the organization’s view of them. In fact, we had this debate on the CXPA’s community forum a few months ago.

Look outside your walls

One of the true sources of power in journey maps is understanding what your customers do outside of your “walls,” which has a huge impact on what they do with you. For example, for one B2B client we found that the great majority of the sales journey happens before the potential client engages with our customer. Had we shared our client’s hypotheses, the conversation would have focused around the points that were in the hypothesis map – not on the broader journey. And we never would have discovered the rich information that we did.

Do not share your hypothesis with customers

Sharing your hypothesis limits the scope of your study, in turn blocking access to customers’ true sources of pain. If they’re merely reacting, they’re much less likely to share their own thoughts. That means you get less useful – and less interesting – data.

A hypothesis customer journey map is a research guide

But if used well, hypothesis maps can be a great resource to guide research, understand where an organization is coming from, and ultimately to use in tandem with customer journey mapping to inform what choices to make to better your customer experience. Just keep them to yourself – your customers will be happy to tell you the real story. Customer journey mapping is where you will do hypothesis evaluation/hypothesis testing.

The hypothesis mapping workshop is not merely an exercise, but an enlightening experience that bridges the gap between company perception and customer reality. Through active participation, introspection, and role playing, companies can gain invaluable insights, which in turn help in optimizing the customer experience, leading to stronger, more meaningful relationships.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Tincher
Jim sees the world in a special way: through the eyes of customers. This lifelong passion for CX, and a thirst for knowledge, led him to found his customer experience consulting firm, Heart of the Customer (HoC). HoC sets the bar for best practices and are emulated throughout the industry. He is the author of Do B2B Better and co-author of How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer?, and he also writes Heart of the Customer’s popular CX blog.

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