• A Playbook for Improving Customer Journeys

    It feels great to see and map the experiences that customers have; you suddenly have a handle on what’s really happening from their perspective. But you’ve also set yourself up for something much harder—improving that customer journey you now see.

    You can’t just stop after creating an experience map. That’s because a good current-state experience map is simply oozing with potential: the potential to create an even better experience. But how do you move forward? How do you see the opportunities? Well, it’s a little easier when you know what to look for, what the patterns of success are.

    From a wealth of work in this space, we’ve found some common patterns that have emerged when we travel from current-state experience maps to bringing about future-state experiences. Here are the categories of solutions we’ve seen turn up repeatedly, a list we hope generates ideas and debate over how to best improve the customer experience you’re managing:

    Easing Troughs

    Erasing Troughs
    A particularly bad point in the experience becomes the memorable moment to customers. By solving these troughs you can turn a low moment in the experience into a smooth moment, letting another great moment stand out for the customer. Or, with a great solution, you might even invert the trough into a new memorable peak in the experience. For example, GE Healthcare redesigned their medical imaging equipment so that children would find the experience less scary.


    Early Solutions

    Early Solutions
    A pervasive or reoccurring problem in the experience can often be solved by looking upstream in the experience to find where the problem could be avoided or diminished by setting better expectations or putting the customer on a smoother path. For example, a homebuilder creates an at-home guide for customizing your new home’s build-out so that the decisions would be less daunting when you arrive at their design center.


    Strong Starts
    Strong Starts
    Akin to Early Solutions, these are strong starting experiences that set the customer up with better expectations and greater likelihood for actually making it to the rest of the experience. For example, unboxing and on-boarding experiences are designed to get customers started successfully so that they begin engaging with a new product or service and are therefore more likely to adopt it for regular use.


    Strong Ends

    Strong Ends
    The end of the experience is one of the two things customers remember about their experience (the other thing being the best or worst part of the experience, according to the Peak-End Rule). Finishing on a relevant high note helps send customers off with a very positive recall of their journey. For example, some services work to give you tangible evidence of what they did for you as a final point of uplift.


    Earlier Starts Later Ends

    Earlier Starts, Later Ends
    What’s the customer doing immediately before or immediately after their journey with you? One of the best ways to improve their experience might be by meeting them where they’re at or taking them to the next step of where they’re going. Changing the “goal posts” can change your metrics and results in big ways. For example, take it from Twitter when they gained big by focusing on converting non-users to not just new users, but active users.


    Smoother Handoffs

    Smoother Handoffs
    One of the easiest things to find and often the hardest to orchestrate are better handoffs between touchpoints and moments. Customers quit the journey or have big frustrations when they seemingly have to start over again when switching touchpoints. Smoothing these out means erasing the seams between internal business units and departments to work in a forward flow with the customer. Both OpenTable and Starbucks have started offering Uber rides within their mobile apps to remove the seems between finding a location and getting there to enjoy it.


    Skips and Jumps

    Skips and Jumps
    Completely remove steps or stages of the journey that you can do on the customer’s behalf. For example, Intuit’s SnapTax does the data entry work for customers by uploading and transcribing a photo of their W-2 form (a tax form for employees stating how much money they were paid by their employer).


    Magnifying Peaks

    Magnifying Peaks
    You might have a strong point in the experience that you do better than anyone, but not every customer experiences it or it simply doesn’t stand out. Magnifying peaks means scaling the peak to everyone possible, setting expectations that something great is going to happen, and then embellishing so the customer feels it full-force. For example, Netflix builds up expectations for the release of it’s own content, such as House of Cards, and makes it available, the entire season in full, to every one of its subscribers.


    Total Reimagning

    Total Reimagining
    It’s a completely new experience, taking advantage of capabilities that current providers just haven’t or just can’t take advantage of. In many cases, this might involve reversing assumptions about how the experience is enabled. For example, Airbnb has reimagined rentals, orchestrating an entirely new type of experience so you feel at home wherever you are in the world. Today, Airbnb is one of the biggest providers of overnight rentals, yet they don’t own any real estate.



    The order of stages and steps in the experience is driven by a business process. Meanwhile, the customer’s natural decision-making process happens in a different order. This means re-ordering the business process to work the way the customer does. For example, Warby Parker’s Home Try-On experience moves the purchase moment to a point after you’ve had five days to try out five frames at home.


    Intelligent Experiences

    Intelligent Experiences
    Better knowledge of the customer and digital services allows for journeys to feel smarter: journeys that sense context, anticipate needs, proactively adapt, respect people, and continuously measure and improve the outcomes. Yes, I totally stole this from the qualities of “intelligent experiences” of Mike Wittenstein written up in the CX Outlook. For example, Disney’s MagicBand combines knowledge of the guest and knowledge of park conditions to create better experiences within what remains to largely be the same resort environment as always.

    Of course, which category of solution depends on your experience. To really improve the customer experience you have, you’re going to need to use not just one, but a few of the types of solutions above.

    Is this the kind of thing you want to lead and manage your team towards? If so, come be a part of the community at the Managing Experience Conference this March in San Francisco. We’d love to meet you.

    There are 10 thoughts on this idea

    1. Lorenzo

      This is a useful breakdown of options, Brandon. What I like is how it could reframe your view of what may already be a smooth flow of things. It requires not taking things from granted and re-questioning your core assumptions.

    2. Marcko

      Great article, thanks for your insights. Just wondering how you want to measure the effect of your changes. Do you have any thoughts on measuring realtime effects of changes in the Customer journey?

    3. Brandon Schauer

      Marcko, that’s a good and important question. Each of these patterns can possibly be paired with the most likely types of measurable impacts. But in general, conversion and Net Promoter Score (i.e., satisfaction, retention) are often the measures in question. However, I believe that a more complete set of metrics are more likely to lead to to both a better understanding of the experience and a quantitative appreciation of the impact. I like both the HEART framework and the metrics Leah Buley mentions of high-impact design teams at around the 18-minute mark of her UX Week 2015 Keynote presentation, The Modern Design Organization.

    4. L.Mohan Arun

      Marcko, Just wondering how you want to measure the effect of your changes.
      i.e., how to measure effects that the changes you make in customer journeys.
      My answer: use user satisfaction surveys from the control group on which you are doing the UX testing.

      If you are using “top tasks” approach which you should be while smoothening out “skips and jumps”
      as explained in this article, then your user satisfaction should be consistently above 90%.

      For example, in my book, “Content-first UX design” (copies available online through my website) I second the idea of “”Orchestrated Small Chunks of Website Functionality”
      So lets say your small chunk now is “can Paul order flowers for his mum from our store flowersrus?”
      (Page 7 of my publication its also available for First 100% Free Sampling at smashwords.com link is in my website)
      you will do a scenario mapping to map the scenario onto the customer journey.
      Then you will ask Paul whether he was able to order flowers from flowersrus smoothly and predictably and without skips or jumps.
      I guess this is how i would measure your customer journey results using user experience surveys.
      There may be other methods available, and you can let me know of them for inclusion in my ebook.
      You can contact me through my website http://www.mohanarun.com and leave me a message there and/or subscribe to my newsletter. I cover stuff like this and more useful stuff once every month in monthly e-newsletter and you can unsub anytime. Newsletter signup is free.

    5. Bhagawat Jadhav

      Hey Brandon,

      These are well mentioned experiences provides insight to improve CX for different clients according to their existing CX problems. Happy to read and gain the insights.


    6. Sanyog Chaudhry

      Wow, this was really helpful and very simply presented. I think it will be a good idea to think of local examples in order to exemplify the effects of the classifications – easier to relate to. One thing I can think of as an afterthought would be creating the “how-to” for each classification. Is there some already existing material on that as well?

    7. Jan Köppen

      Hi Brandon,

      Thanks for the article, this is a great summary of experience patterns! At the section Strong ends you mention the Peak-End-Rule. Do you have any sources of research with evidence of this pattern that you can share with us?


    8. Brandon Schauer Post author

      Sanyog, thanks for the feedback and ideas. I’ve considered matching likely metrics or business cases for each of the classifications, but I haven’t considered “how-tos.” I could possibly imagine matching some likely methods or assumptions about how to approach each, but it’d be difficult to prescribe how to do it—it’s so situational.

      Overall, we use service design as a practice for approaching whatever classification we might seek to apply to and existing customer journey.

    9. Brandon Schauer Post author

      Hi Jan — the Wikipedia entry on The Peak-end Rule is actually a pretty substantial starting point for learning more about it. We probably need to compose a blog post on our experiences of applying it to the design of service experiences, and how it effects our decisions. Overall, the rule still has some gray areas for interpretation, such as how short or long does an experience have to be for a person to perceive it as having a peak or an end. For examples, does your waiting-at-the-gate experience have a peak and end, or is that part of your experience with the airline’s flight, or is it your entire door-to-door trip or your entire vacation? Regardless, the research and the rule still present important ideas about standing out and ending strong.

    10. Michael Hartmann

      Thanks Bradon for the summary and insight. This is really helpful.

      One thing I like most about the diagrams is that there is no baseline. The easy way to map the journey is with negativ, neutral, and positive “emotion values”. I even had the idea of how about calculating the sum of all touchpoint values and have a experience score. Don’t know yet how to proper calculate each individual emotion. Is there a scale of positive feelings? If I look at the diagrams just from a mathematical view the area below the blue line is larger than the old grey line. Thus this could be said to be the improvement.

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