Empathy through Experience Maps

Myles Clemones
Dec 6, 2016 · 3 min read

Considerable amounts of time, money and resource is put into designing individual touchpoints for customers, yet often the experience across all touchpoints and how they interconnect is lost, resulting in key moments in the journey going unnoticed. The process of experience mapping helps uncover these key moments or pain points for customers, and provides insight into how they can be designed for.

An experience map is an effective tool that showcases customer interactions across an often complex journey with a product or service. It helps articulate research and make sense of multi-channel customer experiences and the context in which the experiences take place. It also enables multi-disciplinary teams and stakeholders to view the interactions through a customer lens rather than one of a technical or individual point of view.

The experience map is also a great empathy building artefact by enabling experiences to be viewed over time, not just at any one point in the journey. A single good experience is quickly forgotten when followed by a miserable one. The map should illustrate user expectations, motivations and behaviours over time in the journey, which when designed for can be a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Ideally, a map should be a culmination of quantitative and qualitative research. The primary method of research used to generate insights for your map should be from conversations with real customers who can draw on their experiences, feelings and expectations. Think of the map as giving legs to the research and enabling it to come to life through a single, engaging infographic. It should clearly represent the research and tell a compelling story. The key is to articulate the emotional journey people are experiencing and what their behaviours are in response to these emotions.

Place the map on a wall for passers-by, or use as focal point for those war room discussions. It’s surprising how a single artefact can tell such a compelling story highlighting the high and low points for users, and what their needs are at specific points in the journey. Make sure the map is seen by as many of the employees associated with the product as possible. A large poster size print serves as a great tool when integrating customer experience practise across the business, regardless of the department.

As with all types of research, there’s a time and place for experience maps. Often smaller parts of a comprehensive journey might need to be mapped individually such as the onboarding process or returning a product, or these could be articulated within in a larger map encompassing the full lifecycle of the customer experience.

Ultimately, it’s a tool to help understand people and design experiences for them.

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