Episode #263 Chris Risdon - Connecting with Customers through Experience Maps
A customer’s journey may begin on your website or maybe it begins in a physical retail location. But it more than likely won’t end there. Many organizations have a variety of touchpoints where their customers can interact with them. Understanding where, and also when and how a customer is interacting with your product or service is essential to providing them with a great experience.
Seamless transitions across channels makes for a great user experience. Whether it’s looking up a product on a mobile device, after seeing it in a brick and mortar store, and then finalizing a purchase later at home on a desktop or any combination of touchpoints, you want to provide the right information in the right context. Mapping out how a customer navigates these points allows you to tailor the experience.
Chris Risdon refers to this as “designing for moments”. He says that while you’re designing for a screen, you can be designing for a feature, layout, or a specific task. But if your product exists across multiple channels the “when” is just as important as the “how”. When you start looking at your product or service and where it fits into a customer’s day, week, or specific moment in time, you can really nail the key moments and deliver greater value.
Jared Spool: Hello, everyone. Welcome to today's SpoolCast. I have for you an amazing treat. We have the amazingly awesome, Chris Risdon, who is at Adaptive Path, now part of Capital One.
He's just an amazing person to listen to, talk about how you actually take a user experience, and mapping out.
Hello, Chris. How are you doing today?
Chris Risdon: I'm doing well, sir. Thanks for having me.
Jared: Thank you for joining us. There are folks on the planet -- really smart, intelligent folks -- who, for whatever reason, their paths have not crossed this idea of mapping user experiences.
Chris: I don't believe it.
Jared: No. It's true. You can map some out, I hear. What does it mean, mapping out a user experience?
Chris: It's funny that you phrase it that way because we used to ask, in 2011, when I started teaching this, I'd ask how many people had done something like this -- map the user experience, or do customer-journey mapping, whatever semantic version of this you want to do.
If you have a room of 40 people, you'd get two or three people who'd done something like this. Maybe even four. Then I ask it now, as recently as when I've taught a month ago, and get a room of, say, 40 people. I get probably at least half the room raising their hands. They've tried.
It doesn't mean they don't want to get a good foundation like coming to the workshop and see whatever different ways that this can be done or where does it fit. Getting certain questions answered. Where does it fit in the process? Is there something I can do better?
But so many more people are at least familiar with that, and I think that's great. What it is, and what we hope the niche that it fills is, at its simplest, it's an articulation of research. It's a means of articulating insight. You have this insight, you can do research reports. There are other things you can do, like personas and concept models and mental models.
This one hit the sweet spot the past few years, in seeing that there were new complex design challenges. Maybe they weren't new, but an emergence of more complicated design challenges, where you either had to think across channels.
You might be in digital, but you had to at least consider the digital world in the larger landscape of customer service channels, like call centers or physical retail stores or even just the marketing materials they did. You had to start thinking about how even digital ecosystems that didn't have those different channels were used differently over time and space.
Across channels and across time and space, because one day you might be using something on a mobile phone, and the other day you might be using it on a desktop in a different way. That created a need for a tool that, I guess, within the user experience field...
Even though this isn't new...I didn't, and we didn't, invent it. It just wasn't as widely adopted or understood of where it could fit in. It hit a sweet spot of need based on these emerging challenges that user experience designers were having.
Jared: One of the phrases I've heard you use that I just love is "designing for moments."
Chris: Yeah. That's how I thought about it. It's because, if you're designing for a screen, you might be designing for features, and you might be designing for how you get a task done. But, when you're designing for something that might involve, maybe, multiple channels in sequence or simultaneously, like I might be in a physical store, using my mobile phone, or something like that.
Then you have a lot of things going on, but what you really care about is a moment. If you do realize that maybe your product or service lives within a journey that somebody has -- that journey might be a week. It might be a month. It might be a full shopping journey. It might just be the journey for product returns.
Whenever you have those, you can call them touch points, you can call them interactions, but it's really about a moment within that journey. You know that most journeys involving products and services are made up of a few key moments, and that you really need to nail those key moments. You could say, to deliver on your value proposition successfully and create a successful experience for that customer.
Jared: The other day I was in a city that I'm not that familiar with, and I was rushing out to a meeting. I was in my hotel room. I was on my laptop. I brought up the email that had the address of where I was trying to go, but what was really cool was that, when I brought up Google Maps on my phone, that was the top search entry.
I didn't have to do anything. Google knew that, if I was looking it up on my laptop, I probably also want to look it up on my phone. That was a moment that someone had designed for.
Chris: Right, and I think that's really important. I'm just being a big fan of thinking about it in those terms. One of the reasons I've been either thinking about touch points, I've been thinking about moments like that, is because, if you think about things like features, it's an inside-out way to think about it, but it also doesn't really translate to parts of organizations that aren't digital or aren't dealing in screens and software.
I've been trying to think of ways to think of things that can be shared, concepts that can be shared across organizations. Because a particular moment like that, really, even if it's still screen-based, you have to think about the context that it's in. That can involve all kinds of things -- the "where you are," like that laptop or mobile, on the street or inside.
Really thinking about those terms, I'm hoping, distills it a little bit, and really thinks of the essence of "What do we care about?" We care about delivering at this point in time. Delivering on a specific need at a specific time and place. I think that's what you were articulating about that moment.
That's why I hope to boil it down a little and use that kind of vocabulary. Not just for us, who might be in the digital realm and thinking about user experiences on screens, but also when we're having to think about how to design to support things that also exist in physical environments, marketing materials or call centers.
What can we share in rallying around? We can share that there might be a moment that involves all of those things, but what we care about is designing that interaction point, that moment.
Jared: This is going to be really important when we get to start building things for devices like the Apple watch. I spend a lot of time in airports. I don't know if you've heard that. I could imagine, for instance, having my watch know where I am in the airport and telling me important things like what gate to go to based on the fact that I've made it past security.
Or what seat I'm in once I actually start boarding. One of the things I've learned about airports is that jetways induce short term memory loss. Because I often know what seat I'm in when I'm at the top of the jetway but, by the time I get to the bottom of the jetway and I'm ready to get on the plane, I've completely forgotten what seat I'm in.
Chris: I do that, too. I'm like, "I can put this paper ticket away. What am I? I'm 35F. OK, I can remember that." Then I tuck the paper away so I have one less thing in my hand that I'm trying to juggle. I get on plane and I'm like, "Oh, man, what was that? That was 36? F?"
Jared: : Exactly! Or when I walk into the hotel lobby and I'm standing by the elevators, it should tell me what floor to go to, because one of the tricks of doing a lot of business travel is that when you've stayed in three different hotels on three different nights, you try all three hotel rooms [laughs] before you get to the right one.
Chris: In the workshops, I try to talk about how one of the reasons we do this...This isn't by itself. Usually companies like a traditional research report, but it's a good way to show how you can be smarter about what your customer's doing so you can look smarter to them. For example, context is really important. What this really gets down to is understanding the context of different interactions are occurring.
Different moments occur and you realize they're post-security or they're pre-security or whatever that example is. So you get better insight about that and then parts of the organization get better insight about it, because the phone center knows exactly what's happening when people call. The screens might even get really smart with their GPS and other things about what's happening when they interface.
But rarely do different parts of the organization have the full picture. Everyone has their siloed picture, their snapshot of the picture.
Getting a little bit smarter about what's going on in the journey so you can help that way. I didn't used to think about it in these terms but the big framing I've put it in is that it's a hub of empathy, understanding, and strategy. It gives you this insight around the users from those perspectives.
Jared: Say a little bit more about that. The hub is...
Chris: Empathy, understanding, and strategy. Number one, we're dealing with more complicated design problems. That's one of the things I've posited is that we have to think about different platforms, different channels. We're integrating different frameworks for doing this within an organization, like customer experience, or we're bringing in different disciplines, like service design.
We're really thinking about complicated systems now, not just a screen that we know is going to be used by someone sitting at their desk.
I've sort of said our challenge now is we can think about all these moving parts so much and we can get lost in that that it's hard to maintain empathy. The question is, how do we maintain empathy in the face of that increased complexity? That's one more of the reasons we hope experience mapping can help do that because it's meant to show how it's being experienced.
Obviously, it's a sense-making tool because a lot of times we don't know. I know what's going on at the call center, I know what's going on on screens, I know what's happening in the stores. But, from a sense-making, we often don't know what that whole journey looks like.
Even more importantly...When I say journey, I should even clarify that we don't just think about the journey that someone has with our product or service. When I implement this, I really promote that it's about understanding the larger journey within which our product or service lives. It's not thinking about being an airline passenger, a passenger of United or Southwest.
It's about travelling and being a traveler and when you knew you needed to make a trip from when you came back and, if it was a vacation, when you came back and posted Facebook photos. Then looking at the role that your product or service has within that larger journey.
There's a sense-making sense. There's the empathy part of making sure that, even though we're dealing with all these more moving parts, we don't lose sight of the fact that we need to be human-centered and empathic. There's a sense-making like we need to know every part of what's going on, not just our little sliver.
We try to use it as a catalyst for strategy. Once we have this as a hub, we can move up and we can say, "OK. Well, we can create service blueprints to show how we can support this journey through the people and processes and technology. We can roadmap it and identify opportunities. We can do process engineering."
We can help change our organization through this lens of understanding this holistic experience as a hub." We can also move down and say, "OK, we now need to take this individual moment, one of these key moments. Somebody's going to have their marching orders to design for that moment and they need to know what are the dependencies."
If I'm designing a screen, how does it integrate with the call center if I need to? What are the interactions that have to be involved?
I call it a hub because you can kind of move up and down. You can move up strategically and organizationally. You can move down and take a moment but design for it with a richer sense of context and sort of the DNA of the whole journey, now that you have that snapshot.
Jared: One of the things that I'm curious about is you've now been practicing this. When we first talked about this back in, I don't know, 2012, you'd been doing it for a couple of years. That means that now you've got at least a half a decade of doing the sort of journey map stuff under your belt.
Chris: Next year will be, yeah, almost.
Jared: Yeah, so I'm curious now, what successes you've seen teams have because they've done this.
Chris: It's all been anecdotal that, as far as externally [inaudible 11:57] . That's been one of the reasons why I thought I would teach it for a couple years and it'd be out there and then that would be done.
But there were two things that kind of happened. Number one, it's such a great tool for me to learn just by showing up at workshops. Talking to these people about what they've already tried and what their challenge is going in, and one of the reasons why even if they've done experience mapping before, why they might be at the workshop.
The second thing is that it's changed a fair amount since I was teaching in, say, 2012. Less from -- even though I get to do these projects a few times a year -- what I've done and more from what I've learned from what other people are doing.
Usually, one of the biggest outcomes, which was one theme before that I think has just grown just because it's what I've heard as far as what I talk about helps doing, is the kind of cross functional uniting that occurs. It's great that you get the actual insights that it's meant to get. But I always say that it's about the verb, not the noun.
We mean the activity of doing it is almost as important, if not more important, than the actual artifact you get at the end that you can agree upon. It's like, "Wow, OK, we have a sense of what this customer journey is like."
The fact that if you've done it -- I don't want to say right, like there's one way to do it -- kind of the way I tend to promote it, you've done it as a cross functional group. You've brought in parts of the organization.
Just like I was saying earlier, the dot com team knows exactly what's happening on the website and the call center team knows exactly what's happening. But often, never the tween shall meet. It's like, "We're not having insight to create a complete picture."
We now have different parts of the experience, or different parts of the journey, our experience, but we just don't know what that whole picture looks like. Having everyone in the room is half the battle.
When you can actually get five or six stakeholders, they could be the versions of product managers and UX leads from those different parts of the organization. But just having them in the room to share the knowledge and to be along for the ride of getting the insight that's not limited to one aspect. Like the insight of what people are doing when they're calling or the insight of what people are doing on their [inaudible 13:56] site.
The insight of what people are doing when they're traversing both channels. That's probably been where I've heard some of the best success stories. Where they say, "It was probably a challenge to start getting people convinced and even just things like finding time for people in the same room, because we all have our own agendas."
But once they did it and they spent a few weeks going through this process, the usual success stories is they actually would change parts of their organization. Like either they'd find ways to have representation from each other's sort of silo in each other. Or they'd find new ways to communicate, or they even post experience mapping.
They'd find ways to come back and sort of integrate their road maps together so they understood. Like, this is where we're both delivering something that, from the end user, should feel like one thing, even though it's a balls to phone channel and the website or something.
The success stories have usually been around how they've actually changed team or organization dynamics. That's been probably the most rewarding part.
There have been project success stories. There have been success stories where we've been able to prioritize pain points and address those. Then, nine months later, we did a new experience map and it was really interesting to see how it changed and then re-prioritize. But it's probably been the team and organizational dynamics actually having a longer term change after doing one of these processes or exercises.
Jared: It's interesting to me that designers often talk about what they want to do is do more strategy work. It feels to me like they think that that's some master switch on the wall that you pull down. In the up position, it's pixel-based design and, in the down position, it's strategy design or something that. You just have to wait until you get permission to flip the switch.
But the way you're describing this, it almost feels like, by introducing this tool, you end up doing more strategy work. Just by the nature of mapping out the experience forces you to talk strategy along with the what are the specific ways we're going to get this screen to do that thing. It's almost like we back into it.
It's like you wake up one morning, you go look in the mirror, and you go, "Oh my gosh, I'm doing strategy work!"
Chris: That's really it. I think that's one of the types of people we see are people who are designers and realizing either they need to or they want to get more involved earlier. Meaning I want to be part of the generation of insights and then looking at those insights. This is kind of a window to looking into those insights, so that we can sit there and actually talk about what we should be doing instead of getting features handed down to us or requirements.
It's like here's something happening at this point in time at this place. You can point to it on a map. It's like an actual map. You can point to it. What should be happening here? Or maybe nothing's happening here and it's not even bad but maybe there's an opportunity for something to be happening here. Then what you're doing is you're discussing strategy.
You're planning out what you should do and that's going to eventually result in marching orders of go ahead and do it and go make something. I think that is the case.
One of the models that I use is that sort of ubiquitous double diamond. It was the Design Council or somebody that came up with it, the diverge, converge, and then diverge, converge double diamond. That first diamond, for those that don't know, you diverge, you open up, because you want to get all these inputs. You want to understand from a wide range of ways you can get inputs, from interviews and observations and surveys and quantitative and qualitative.
Then you close the other half of the diamond because you're narrowing in on the insights. You're synthesizing and sense-making and you're getting it.
The second diamond, you open it up because you want a lot of different ideas. You don't want to constrain yourself too much, and then you close it again because now you're separating the wheat from the chaff. You're seeing which ones are worth testing or piloting or prototyping. You get more and more focused on the design.
That's the long-winded setup but, to talk about where the experience mapping comes, I specifically frame it as something that helps you make the leap from the first diamond to the second diamond. It's a connector between them because it helps articulate your insights but in a way you can actually plan on what you want to do into that second diamond.
That's kind of a long-winded way to frame it, but it's to that point where it becomes the strategy document. Even though I think of it as an articulation of research, it's specifically a type of articulation into our research that allows you to talk and plan and sense-make and basically set yourself up for that second diamond, that second wave of actually making something.
Jared: The double diamond, that first divergent thing, that's the there are no bad answers, there are no dumb ideas part. Then the convergence part is actually, yeah, there were some dumb ideas.
Chris: [laughs] Exactly. But we'll start by saying if there's this point on the map that we want to affect. We'll be saying, what are different ways this could happen? I use case studies like a hotel. What are different ways this hotel check-in can happen or what are different ways this airline check-in could happen?
Just different ways you could deliver that product or service experience. At that point, we are, we're saying there are no bad answers. But if we articulate our insights in that map, we've done other things, they may be personas. They could be principles, like design principles or experience principles, which I'm a big proponent of.
When you have that, open up that second diamond. It takes all of these ideas and see which ones map back to the opportunities you identified in the map and/or the personas you crafted that have these certain needs that need to met. And/or these design principles that you know your design should adhere to or strive to live up to.
That's basically you're taking the things that helped you make the leap to that first diamond and you're making sure, after you've gotten all those no-bad-ideas ideas out, you have something to filter through. You have a litmus test, to say we have something to actually determine, of these 100 ideas, which seven or eight might actually be worth pursuing further.
Jared: One of the things that I'm curious about is do teams run into challenges when they're trying to do this, particularly when they're getting started?
Chris: Getting started is probably one of the hardest parts. I have never had a silver bullet on how to do it. Probably anything I talk about or teach, people say, "How do I get people involved who aren't normally involved?" or "How do I introduce this?" Usually what they want to do is say, "Hey, I learned this new thing. Let's start doing it this way."
What I've found is you usually have to set the table in a way that doesn't affect, essentially, other people's ways they're going to be evaluated. They have their thing. They're doing it. They might be running different parts of the organization.
So doing something too radical too suddenly is scary to them because they already know how they're going to be evaluated. They already know how their performance or the performance of their group or the performance of their output is going to be evaluated or judged. They don't want to introduce something risky and often, at this stage, doesn't have this instant ROI attached to it.
It's usually the things you identify through the map that you will start to measure. It's not impossible but it's hard to measure a whole journey, but the journey is a great way to take parts of it that can be measurable that you want to change. At this early stage, you don't know what that looks like yet.
I frame it as they usually need to set the table. I might even start as simple as having conversations, maybe even having brown bags where people from other parts of the organization you want to be involved can be invited. Nothing's going to change yet. Showing them some case studies or some example or some success stories, then thinking about, very typically, how they can do something like this in a small way.
One of the things I talk about is how there's no set journey. I mentioned this before. You can journey a full shopping experience or you could journey the product return experience. It might have enough number of touch points and channels involved. I might have to look up the return policy. I might physically have to a receipt.
I might still have to go to the store. Somebody as an employee has to use their judgment of whether I'm doing it. There are lots of things that are happening.
You can take something small that you know will be a quicker win, because it'll be more bite-sized as far as actually being able to effect change there. Then look at it as a success story. You can always pick other journeys or you can zoom out the scale and say, "Now, let's look at our whole picture so we can identify other areas."
Like the product return area, that might need further investigation, further zoom in, or might be obvious that we can tackle this in a unified way.
I think that's one of the challenges. One of the challenges is that where to start. It has to start small. Pretty typical, you hear that from a lot of methods, but small in a way where you're not even maybe doing it yet. You're doing brown bags and stuff just so people can feel safe at first by doing it versus saying, "You want to do this? Sure, way. I'll sign off on it and let's just do it and have faith."
You actually have to really introduce it to them.
Jared: It feels to me that what happens is you develop a comfort with this. Like almost any technique, particularly in design, there's a starting point where you're just figuring it out as you go and it feels a little bit like you're making it up as you go. As time goes on, we start to get comfortable but, because it's a team activity, the whole team has to get comfortable with it.
Chris: It's a good point. That's usually it. It's going to usually be introduced by somebody, often a designer, like the people who come to my workshop. This is one thing I've really tried to evolve as I've taught the workshop as I've seen this need. They really need to be good facilitators of this. That's why I really think about how I teach people to introduce it to their organization.
I teach what's the responsibility of you. You're not just going to say, "Hey, look, this is what I learned, so now let's all do it together." You almost have to be that center for facilitating and knowing it. That puts the burden on that person to have, in a sense, retained more from the workshops so to speak. I try to make sure the deck that follows up and everything feels like they can get that support.
One of my favorite times is when I hear about the second, and it might be nine months later. It might be a year later, but the second time that they've gone through this big activity is because everyone's all familiar with it. I really like hearing that story because they do feel like we did it the first time, we identified opportunities, we actually roadmapped those.
We knew what we were tackling, when, and, when we tackled those things, we had that better sense of the moment that we're designing for. It worked to different levels of success. Sometimes there are challenges as well. Somebody saying, "Oh, out of the box, they did it. Awesome, and they loved it."
At some point at the end, they saw the merit in it enough that in somewhere between 6 and 12 months later, they re-visited it to do like, "OK, now that we've changed some things, now the journey might actually be being experienced in a different way. It's well worth doing," and that's always good. Whether it's six months, or two years, it's always good to re-visit, so you can see how the journey is evolving.
It's usually when, now they've been doing along enough, that people have done this like a second time around. It is very exciting to hear. We just knew that we needed to do this. Not we needed to sell it. Not we needed to teach people how to do it.
It's like they understood the value of it, and they understood where it lives in the process, and what we're trying to get out of it. Even though for different organizations, that's slightly a different thing, but nonetheless, when I hear that, which I couldn't hear in 2011, 2012, because I hadn't been long enough, but now in 2013, and '14, I'm hearing how people have gone through this a couple of times.
That second time is really great to hear about how you didn't have to sell it, and you knew what you're doing with it. That's really good to hear.
Jared: Is this one of these things where down the road, you actually can't imagine that there was a time when you didn't do this?
Chris: Yeah, I hope so. For me, it's that way clearly, and that's not just because I've got this cottage industry of teaching. One of the reasons I've liked continuing teaching, is because I've just seen such a useful reason for doing it in my projects.
I'd like to hope that that's what other people are getting out of it as well. Again, if we're right in sinking this as a tool at the time when people are facing this real cross organization, or cross channel kind of more complicated problem, then yeah.
Once you start doing it, again, you're going to do other things, and that's why I call it the hub, because it's a place to start around getting a consensus across groups, and channels, and divisions, and silos.
You get that, then you're like, "Well, yeah." Call it a hub, or call it a binder, but you need that connective tissue, that this provides.
Jared: How important are walls? Is this one of those things where, if you can put this up on the wall so everybody can be in front of it? Is this something where having a wall for this stuff to live, becomes a really almost a water cooler like experience for the team?
Chris: It's just about a requirement. First off, the way I teach the process, it shows that you don't just say like, "OK, we need to map the customer journey, so designer over there, can you open illustrator and create a map of our customer journey?" Because it's a collaborate process...
Jared: Then let's put it in a PDF on share point, and never look at it again.
Chris: Exactly. First off, as a group team, I'm a big advocate of you can, having some type of project room, or wall room. Whenever possible. This is one of those things, when I talk about how organizations have changed, you can talk about some success stories, is one thing I've seen, or organizations.
It feels like a small thing, but for some organizations that are large and don't have this, would they have been to say like, "Oh, this meeting room that always just used to be a meeting room, we've been able to common [inaudible 27:24] for the next six months, and just make it our project room, and this has never been done in our organization."
To me, that's a huge success win, and they have this room where they'll put up the map, but there are so many things that are complimentary to the map. It might be those personas. It might be these design principles.
Not only as a project team are they then creating this place, so that they can reference, and then they can make messy, but people pass by it. They pass by it, and they look in. They can see something, and even if it's a mess, there's a story to be told about what I call the through line, like the traceability.
Like there's research, and the research begot insights. The insights beget journey maps, and experience principles which begot these ideas and concepts, which begot these prototypes. That's often, although, one of the hardest challenges people have at any phase of those things, is making sure that they feel justified and connected.
Why did we do research? Why did we pay for it? Well, why should we make prototypes and invest in it?"
When you have a place where you can show the through line, or the traceability, it goes a long way. Then you can also socialize that map throughout other parts of your organization, where big advocates have well. But even just having this center piece place, whereas the physical hub to this paper hub, or this artifact hub, is really important.
Jared: There you go. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you the evidence that Mr. Chris Risdon is an amazing individual who knows his stuff. Chris, thank you so much.
Chris: Thank you for the compliment, and thank you for taking the time to have me. Appreciate it.
Jared: I got to say, if you guys listening to this are just blown away by how exciting this experience mapping stuff is, you need to come to Chris' workshop. It's going to be at the UX Immersion Conference that's going to be in Salt Lake City in April 13th through 15th.
We are very excited to be there. We're very excited that Chris will be there with us. It's going to be a great conference. He's going to do a full day on this. You're going to build out, experience maps, create these hubs, and design for moments.
Chris: I like it. That's the marketing material right there.
Jared: There you go. Come sign up uxim.co will tell you all about it. Chris, thank you again for sharing your brilliance with us today.
Chris: Absolutely, and I'm looking forward to April.
Jared: Yeah, and I want to thank our audience for listening to us today, and as always, thank you for encouraging our behavior. We'll take to you again. Take care.