Customer Journeys: Start Ugly!

People have different ways of synthesizing information. Personally, I’m a very visual person. Words just don’t do it for me – I need an image or graphical representation. In facilitating client discussions, too often I find that a dialog can extend for quite a long time – seemingly with everyone in agreement – until I sketch out on the whiteboard what I think I’ve just heard from the group. Frequently it’s only then – when a visual is up on the wall, that questions emerge and true understanding and agreement is achieved.

Unfortunately, I’m a horrible artist. Graphic facilitators are my heros – creating amazing pictures – right there on the spot in front of a whole group of people.   Impressive. You don’t have to convince me as to why creative talent is so valuable – I get it. But I have good news: you don’t have to be an artist to sketch customer journeys.

Sure – when you’re ready to tell the customer journey story to the executive team so you can get your roadmap approved & funded – or when informing the broader organization via an internal roadshow – then it’s time to bring in the creatives. To this point, we had amazing success in animating three different customer scenarios for the C-suite of a recent client. I’m convinced that watching the experience scenarios unfold in a video was infinitely more effective than walking the group through a two dimensional map.

The hard part is simply getting started. Try this the next time you need to get a cross functional customer journey dialog going:

Step 1: Draw something as simple as this guy on a whiteboard…

Meet Jim

Step 2: Ask the group a few questions:

  • What do we know about “Jim”?
  • What data do we have that can identify him?
  • How can our company & products make his life better?
  • What’s getting in Jim’s way? What are his pain points?
  • How are we able to communicate with Jim?

Yes – this is quick and nimble persona building – literally in a few minutes – that then allows the group to contemplate scenarios of Jim’s experience with the brand.

For example – take this scenario:

  • Jim is rushing out of work to pick up the kids from soccer practice.  He needs a solution for dinner.

Jim simple scenario

Ugly – yes. Provoking the right dialog – absolutely.   As elementary and childish as the drawings may appear, the internal dialog that ensues re: the customer’s experience – is so very beautiful.  By shedding the expectation for “beautiful” journeys from the start – you can efficiently get clarity and gel a broad group of stakeholders on exactly what customer experience the organization is seeking to provide.

BTW – for those of you who are also sketching challenged like me, check out this “Squiggle Birds” video by Dave Gray of Xplane.


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