I believe in starting a conversation with fellow leaders and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading the message about the importance of UX. That’s why I have started a project of #UXFika – lightweight conversations with inspiring UX leaders, creators, and people who make a change through design.

This week’s special UXFika guest is Erik Lindahl – UX & Service Designer, coaching organizations to work efficiently with the customer journey. Erik helps to combine business value and technical feasibility with human needs and desires. He truly enjoys combining real user insights, data, and business perspective to create product experience journeys at every touchpoint.

That’s why I wanted to dig deeper into the concept of customer journeys – a visualization of an individual’s relationships with a product/brand over time and across different channels. I believe it is an excellent tool for UX designers to foster a more user-centric approach to product design, which ultimately leads to a better user experience.

How did you get into the world of UX and why?

Firstly, the concept of UX was quite frightening. As I started learning it many answers came to my mind.

If we take it from the beginning, I moved on from visual design to UX, and I tend to think I have moved from designing interfaces into thinking more about solutions as a whole, instead of individual screens and touchpoints. At the end of my education, I was doing an internship in an advertising agency, where I eventually became a freelancing designer – that was my stepping stone into the industry. I took quite a journey from there – participated in many workshops that did not make sense, did design work, met loads of clients with various levels of UX maturity… And eventually ended up building my own company – to create experiences that I am proud of.

I think the most important part of this journey was understanding that you have to be prestigeless – vulnerable to learn, willing to constantly improve. You have to come to a project without answers and firstly find the questions. When I started – I took projects that I was not even sure I could complete. But you have to be transparent with yourself – what you know and not know. Good things will come to you if you are humble.

One of the key activities you do is called Customer Journey Mapping – why do you think it is important for companies to map their customer journeys?

Mainly, I think the customer journey map can work as an exceptional eye-opener for a company and its different employees. I remember when I was a kid; I used to make copies of maps and then evolve them by drawing my own imaginary ”countries” on top of them. Building good customer journey maps brings me the same excitement, as when learning about and exploring the world as a child. When I coach or help companies, I think in a similar way. The map is a unifier for the whole company. Finally, you have something visual for the whole team to connect the dots.

Imagine the opposite – you have no visual representation of a customer journey, no mapping, no structure… You just always hear “improving conversion, improving the sales process, etc” – you have multiple meetings about it, but you don’t see the full picture.

The map can show you what is happening and how it is happening, but it cannot answer ”why” (at least not until you’ve filled it with lots of validated research data). Therefore you always have to use it as a starting point or point of reference, not as an end goal.

What makes an effective customer journey map according to you?

There are many important aspects. Firstly – it is about the creation – try to bring as many different perspectives as possible to the room – marketing, customer support, sales, IT, etc.

Secondly, it is about triangulation. An example; if you are lost in the forest with a mobile phone, the mobile towers can help a rescue team to triangulate your position. The more towers there are, that can help as a reference point, the higher is the chance of finding your exact position. The same applies to the customer journey; you should strive to validate your findings with as much research and data touchpoints as possible. You should also try to get user insights to validate the customer journey. Recently, I did a lot of customer interviews mapping the journey directly with the user – this actually makes it much more accurate and realistic. Thirdly, it is good to have the ”map” in an analog form – so that everyone in the company can see it, use it, contribute to it. In this way, it invites change and continuous improvement.

When should companies not do customer mapping?

I can’t think of an example really… As long as there is a customer – there is always a customer journey to map.

However, I think that in many small businesses – especially service-minded businesses owned by a few people, there is so much more personal and direct connection with the actual customer.

So the few employees and/or business owners have a much better chance of being able to visualize the full customer journey in their own head. And if they don’t, the customer usually comes straight to them to inform them of their fault. In this case, spending valuable time on mapping out customer journeys might not be an important priority as the personnel is already in a daily, direct connection with the customers.

How do you create customer journeys? What is your approach and process?

I like the core viewpoint of the jobs-to-be-done framework; to create a journey based on what ”job” the customer is trying to fulfill. My main process is starting with a workshop and ”hacking” the system along the way. I would normally meet as many people as possible that are connected to the journey, to get good insights. I use a lot of posts-its to build a journey in a simple way. After the workshops I try to make a digital alternative as well but represented in a very similar way, I don’t try to polish it too much. Afterwards you start building on top of that – add more layers, make it more in-depth, combine with data, ongoing user research, etc.

What are the most common customer journey mapping mistakes?

Time – dedicating too little time to go deep enough
Doing it from an inside out perspective – when you never include user perspective
Doing it without complementary qualitative and quantitative research insights
Having the wrong expectations – what can a customer journey tell you? Take it as an experiment. The expectation is not that you make it perfect, get all the answers and then move on – usually, this would just mean you’ll forget it and it becomes yet another pointless ”customer data artifact”!
Not trying to avoid the common biases that we all carry inside ourselves, and not being conscious of our internal problems.

How do you incorporate data into customer journeys?

One way is to bring customer research data into the customer journey workshops after interviewing them, or simply bring users to the room. From a qualitative aspect, it is always nice to have a user’s view on their own customer journey (through the interviews, diary studies, etc.). In addition, if you have a chance you can complement it with your own studies and investigation: by doing a field study and actually understanding the real behaviors of customers. You can also look into Google Analytics, Hotjar, Hubspot data to understand where people drop off, what they search for, and so on. It is a starting point to find interesting quantitative patterns.

For example, I was working with the customer journey for a funeral company. They have noticed that many people were spending a lot of time on pages that were not (according to business) very important for converting people on the website. The users went to pages about poems and songs in the funeral ceremony – so it seemed that was part of their mental model when thinking about what is most important around the funeral. It’s crucial for the customer journey: to understand how people think, feel and what’s in their mind besides the key product you want to sell (in this case – a funeral service).

How do you make a customer journey into a living document?

Don’t polish the customer journey into a fancy template just for presentation purposes. When you polish it too much, it usually ends up ”lost” in various organizational presentations, but is not used in a real sense. Many times I also create a digital customer journey with post-it-notes – to make it as real as possible and so that you can share it with as many people as possible within the company.

If you want to understand more about the underlying process, I really recommend watching this TED talk about the process of toasting bread and how many people interpret it differently:

What does the future hold for UX, what do you think?

I think that we have built up a huge UX debt in many products up until now, and as UX designers we have to work on it and adapt technology to humans rather than adapting humans to technology, as it’s been till recently. UX is becoming a key competitive factor and therefore we are in a good position to make a change.

More democratic UX is also something to aspire for: being more transparent, being more inclusive and open.

Extra bits

A skill you would like to learn:

Overcoming fear of heights, and flying. I would like to be able to handle it better.

Tool you cannot live by:

The post it note

Best customer journey you experienced so far:

I think Slack is an example of a great onboarding experience. It is really intuitive, easy to use and also scale the way you use it. Other than that, I would say the best customer journeys in my own experience are usually the non-digital ones; for example when you are in direct connection with a sole business owner and can share direct feedback and human emotions.

About the UX Fika Series

In UX Fika series of blog posts, I talk with people that inspire me and whom I look up to as my role-models. The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had a chance of learning from.

For my international friends, FIKA is a Swedish concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea). With no rush, full immersion and being present in the moment. That’s why I thought “UXFika” is a perfect name for meaningful conversation with UX leaders I look up to.

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