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Best Practices for Using Contextual Research to Inform Customer Journey Maps

Words by Ben Wiedmaier

While attending recent conferences like CX New York and connecting with fellow People Nerds at UXPA International, conversations often turned toward how companies better understand their users—and frequently, how to augment journey maps with qualitative data.

So how can you create richer, data-backed, engaging journey maps that truly represent your customers and their everyday experience?

Autumn Schultz has used dscout for contextual research in journey mapping projects at Trunk Club and most recently at ShopRunner, where she now serves as Research Design Lead. We asked Autumn to join for a webinar to share her experiences creating empathetic, data-driven journey maps that resonate with key stakeholders. Read on for tips on journey mapping effectively.

Why Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a detailed diagram that represents the stages your customers go through while interacting with your company. Journey mapping provides insight into the strengths and shortcomings of the user experience you deliver. How might this be valuable? Although not an exhaustive list, journey mapping can help companies:

  • Improve organizational alignment: Journey maps are crucial tools for establishing a common understanding of the experience your company delivers to customers now—and a vision for how to improve it. Later in this post, we’ll explore strategies and examples for gaining buy-in and making the process collaborative.
  • Identify gaps in the journey: Where is the customer stranded without a clear next step? Customer pain, dissatisfaction, or annoyance caused by disconnects in your journey can unite your organization around initiatives to improve the customer experience.
  • Pitch and position new offerings: Many maps take an end-to-end approach, making them perfect for pitching and positioning new services or features. With a data-backed journey map, you can identify the moments worth focusing on improving with new features or offerings.

Best Practices for Building and Sharing Effective Journey Maps

Journey Map as a Team Sport

Any map is only as good as its ability to spark innovation; to do this, it needs stakeholder buy-in. Prior to starting your research, schedule coworking sessions with ambassadors from each and every team touched by a customer’s journey (e.g., product, sales, marketing, engineering). Work to gather their assumptions and understand their learning goals from new research. Come publication, give tours of the finished map to the ambassadors, highlighting team-relevant findings to engage specific departments and organizational leaders.

Make the Customer the Anthropologist

The best customer journey maps leverage data derived from … the customer! Unfortunately, this isn’t always as obvious as it seems. Armed with a smartphone (and its camera, voice recorder, and keyboard), your customers can capture the highs and lows of using your service or product, surface steps you might have missed, and suggest solutions to gaps they encounter. With these collected insights, your maps will be customer-in as opposed to business-out, reflecting the reality of your customers instead of your product team’s assumptions.

Map the Overlooked

Most journey maps focus on the entire flow of a customer through a product or service offering. But what about before they’re even aware of your offering? What happens after they’ve visited your site for the first time? How do customers become evangelists or churn? What are the journeys of your competitors’ customers? Broaden the scope of your map and watch your customer-centricity grow.

Make Your Map a Living, Public Document

Journey maps are not museum pieces meant to be observed at a safe distance; they’re more like an interactive community installation. Invite comments, suggestions, questions, and challenges by displaying it prominently in your office space, printing it on paper (don’t laminate!), and handwriting notes of your own. If stakeholders see that the physical product invites collaboration, they’ll join in, creating opportunities for synergy. The map then grows, evolves, and snowballs to maximize its organizational impact. To extend the life of your journey map, run small studies regularly over time so the insights stay fresh.

For more from Autumn on how she’s leveraged qualitative research in her journey mapping projects, watch the recorded webinar!

Ben is the product evangelist at dscout, where he spreads the “good news” of contextual research, helps customers understand how to get the most from dscout, and impersonates everyone in the office. He has a doctorate in communication studies from Arizona State University, studying “nonverbal courtship signals”, a.k.a. flirting. No, he doesn’t have dating advice for you.

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