Last month, the team from Social Media Today underwent an intense, two-day workshop on design thinking and customer journey mapping.
The workshop was facilitated by Banafsheh Ghassemi, the co-founder and CEO of Tangerine Lab, a Washington-based customer and brand experience design firm.
Ghassemi co-founded the company in January 2014 after a long career in the mobile industry, and a few shorter stints in the financial and nonprofit sectors.
The Lab's approach to consultancy has three key components:
- They use design thinking or human centered design in developing customer solutions and strategies.
- They use data and advanced analytics to inform, validate, and measure the performance of their strategies.
- And, when it's appropriate, they use customer technologies ranging from enterprise CRM to social media to mobile payments to ecommerce to enable their strategies.
So what exactly is design thinking? According to Ghassemi, design thinking is a problem-solving framework that's rooted in empathy for the person you are designing or solving a problem for. "It was originally used to design products, but now it's used much more broadly to solve very complex organizational challenges as well as many global challenges such as poverty, disease, environmental issues and so forth," she explains.
Essentially, design thinking is a way to think creatively - and less linearly - about how to solve problems.
Tangerine Lab marries design thinking with customer journey mapping to help companies and brands reshape and redesign their customer experience.
Before a company can begin, however, Ghassemi says that they have to develop empathy for the customer by asking them questions about their experiences with the brand, observing them in their interactions and engagements, and even role play as one of their customers or clients.
"All throughout their journey, so to speak, we capture the things, the places, the people they come in direct contact with," she explains. "Things like the brand's website, mobile apps, stores, the sales person, the customer support person, and so on. And throughout the journey we also capture the emotions, the motivations and the met and unmet expectations of the customer."
Since we had an abbreviated workshop, the SMT team wasn't able to survey our clients and readers. We did, however, put ourselves into the mindset of our clients, contributors, and readers, and looked at our customer experience from their points of view.
We put up three big sheets of paper and used Post Its to track each individual point in a customer's journey - for example, as a contributor, we detailed the steps involved in signing up and creating a post. From a reader's standpoint, we followed the steps involved in navigating the site. And as a client, we mapped out the steps involved in securing a sponsorship and the follow up process.
The exercise gave us a visual map of the SMT customer journey from various points of view - and more importantly, it let us see the spots where we needed to improve our customer service.
"A journey map is a documented but dynamic visualization of what we see and collect," explains Ghassemi. "You can say that it's a map of our empathy. It's seeing and feeling the brand from the perspective of the customer and not internal operations and limitations of the organization."
The SMT team creating their customer journey maps
The map allows brands to identify "moments of truth" or those interactions that make or break the relationship with the brand. In other words, the customer touch points and interactions on which a brand should focus its scarce resources of money, people, and time, rather than what the brand thinks or assumes the clients care about.
"What our clients love about journey maps is that with clarity, and very quickly, they can see what they should put their focus on," she says. "They turn the massive and nebulous hairball that is customer experience strategy into something that is actionable very quickly."
One of the bonuses to using design thinking and customer service mapping is that it's fast, agile and iterative - the iterative nature allows clients to get quick feedback from the customer and the key internal stakeholders can course-correct before it's too late or too much has been invested and potentially wasted on "big bang" solutions. The process is also collaborative, and makes customer experience everyone's responsibility. And finally, it helps to create a culture of "customer centricity."
"This approach nurtures a culture of innovation that has to include risk taking and embracing failures as lessons that can be taken forward," says Ghassemi.
We at SMT have been implementing the lessons learned from Tangerine Lab's workshop, and plan to incorporate design thinking and customer journey mapping into our quarterly objectives. It truly is a transformative experience, and I highly recommend it for companies of any size.