John Zilch with Dun & Bradstreet.
A few years back, I was working at a mid-sized software company and was part of a project team looking to overhaul our pricing and packaging. The initial stages of the project involved speaking with customers, researching the competition, and performing the math necessary to hone in on the correct pricing. Then we built packages around the pricing, which was a way of bundling features and products together at an aggregated price to meet customer needs. (Note: The most difficult part of this exercise were the names themselves. Like most companies, we were boring, using the periodic table to find the right precious metals to name our packages.)
With these hurdles leaped, we believed we’d hit the homestretch. However, when we began buttoning up the customer experience around the forthcoming changes, we realized we’d only hit the tip of the iceberg.
No one across the organization seemed to be thrilled about the execution of the pricing roll out. Sales wasn’t keen on our communication strategy. Marketing needed to make website changes. Product didn’t trust the current upsell/cross-sell machinations for the new stuff. Support freaked out over the whole darned thing. The pricing/packaging looked great. And the customer experience was going to be a disaster if we didn’t get our act together.
So, we mapped out the customer journey… on paper. We jotted down every known detail on a whiteboard, and then invited folks to review and provide feedback and questions. We did many rounds of this, often with the same people. The more we met with different teams in our little huddle room, the more we added to the customer experience mapping up on the wall. Before long, we needed a bigger wall. Hey, would the Red Sox mind if we hung a few items from the Green Monster during the All-Star break?
Ultimately, we created what we called a “fishbowl” (which I’ll refer to as a “journey room” for the sake of this article) in the middle of our office. The journey room was a common area with a series of white boards where we published the entire customer experience as a series of workflows and diagrams. (This was somewhat intimidating and looked a little like a circuit board upon first glance.) We provided Post-its to encourage our coworkers to leave suggestions, questions, ideas, and corrections. Our UX design team assumed the role of journey room owners. They’d answer any questions and take action on feedback.
It didn’t take long for various folks from various teams to congregate and contribute. Having the customer journey posted in a physical, central location meant folks saw it every day. They saw their friends hanging out. They debated and worked together to tackle problems. Most of the office contributed. For all we knew, Matt Damon came by after hours to mop and figured some stuff out.
As changes were made to the board, pieces were finalized and individual teams took away action items to implement in advance of the changes.
Before long, we’d optimized the customer experience and successfully completed our pricing roll out. Then something interesting happened: the journey room stayed open. As new insights were made or projects were started, folks used the room to further improve the lives of our customers. Then we started charging money and people came from far away to see it! Okay, I made the last part up. However, the journey room did serve as the record of truth and a living document of our customer’s experience from their first website visit to product adoption.
We are in the midst of a digital revolution, and it's remarkable how we can get closer to - and further from - the customer at the same time. How many websites do you visit today where online assistance is provided through a chat window? How confident are we that “Susan” is a real person and not an algorithm guided by artificial intelligence? Personally, I’m less confident, but only because “Susan” recently mentioned lunch with her friend “Siri.”
Customer-centricity is strangely both “top of mind” and “under attack” in the digital world. Documenting, publishing, and maintaining a consistent, effective customer journey reinforces the importance of customer empathy. So, find a room, map the customer experience, and see what happens. You’ll be surprised who shows up.
John Zilch is Director of Product at Dun & Bradstreet, helping marketing and sales drive revenue through effective data management and analysis. John is also the creator of the growthandgrit blog where he shares his experiences building products and growing businesses.