Chart a New Course with Experience Mapping

Have you ever wished you could read your customers' minds and know exactly what they think about their experiences with your organization? If you only had a method for documenting customers' impressions as they interact with your staff, you'd have a good starting point for creating an experience that not only meets their expectations but exceeds them.

Experience mapping is an effective tool for plotting customers' impressions throughout different points in their encounters with an organization. At the end of an experience mapping exercise, you will have a big-picture view of how different experiences shape a customer's overall impression of your organization and what touch points are most important to them.

What is experience mapping?

Organizations that engage in experience mapping are truly walking a mile in their customers' shoes. An experience map is a visual representation of the customer's experience of the various encounters he has while moving through your organization. As he navigates your website, speaks to a scheduler on the phone, listens to a lab tech's instructions, or describes his symptoms to a nurse, your customer is confronting different moments of truth. And the moments of truth are when customers determine whether or not you are living up to their expectations.

Experience mapping provides you with an opportunity to identify exactly when and where those moments of truth are occurring within your organization. By plotting the different actions within a customer encounter, you will see how the actual encounter lives up to customer expectations. You will also be able to determine whether these moments of truth result in a positive or negative outcome.

You can download an example of an experience map by clicking here.

How does experience mapping differ from satisfaction surveys?

Don't customer satisfaction surveys reveal the same strengths and weaknesses of an organization? While there is no doubt that surveys can provide a wealth of information, they are also retrospective tools, asking customers to search their memories for their specific thoughts and impressions of an earlier time.

Surveys may not account for all the important moments of truth that a customer experiences.

They determine customers' satisfaction with specific points (events) along the experience pathway. The weighted value of the events is pre-determined, whereas with experience mapping, one moment of truth may surface as far more important than another in deciding the overall impression.

Mapping depicts the experience as a more fluid event from the patient's perspective instead of a series of isolated events as prescribed by our traditional silos. Oftentimes, organizations structure their departments as isolated silos and therefore treat their patient encounters as silos as well. In the silo mindset, what happens at the registration desk has little to no bearing on what happens in the lab. Of course, this is not how patients view their experiences.

In the patient's mind, his encounter with your organization is more fluid. It consists of a continuous flow of experiences leading to an overall impression. Picture the water toy that is propelled only when the water overflows in one bucket, causing it to tip and fill another bucket, then another and another. What a patient experiences during one part of his encounter spills over and affects his other experiences with the organization. It is the culmination of the various points along the experience pathway that determines how they feel about the overall experience.

Who can do experience mapping?

If you decide that experience mapping would give you valuable insight into your organization and your customers, there are several approaches you can take to getting it done.

You can undertake the process on your own and endeavor to follow different paths that customers may take through your organization. You can observe the reactions and visual cues of actual patients along the way in addition to stepping back and examining the situation through the lens of an outsider.

Do-it-yourself experience mapping has the advantage of being less expensive and is something you can do at any time if you feel you need to do a check-up on different areas.

However, if members of your organization are the ones doing the experience mapping, their personal and professional biases may not deliver the most accurate information.

Even though it's more costly, engaging a consultant with mapping experience will give you several distinct advantages. As an outsider, the consultant won't be emotionally invested in protecting the organization's sacred cows that often exist in the silo environment. The big advantage is having your customer's perspectives analyzed and interpreted by professionals with expertise in service enhancement.

How can experience mapping enhance the effectiveness of other data?

Using experience mapping is by no means an invitation to eliminate other sources of information about patient experiences. Experience mapping plus patient satisfaction data is a powerful combination.

Patient satisfaction data can give you an idea about where problems occur within your organization. Experience mapping will take that data to the next step by analyzing the customer experience leading up to the "problem area" and the experience following that area. Mapping will help you determine specifically which established processes or people are working to impact that experience either positively or negatively.

It is only when you truly understand the customer experience that you can make the necessary changes. Experience maps allow the customers' footsteps to chart the course filled with experiences that your customers will rave about and want to repeat.

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