One of the key principles of design thinking is that it is customer-based. Before attempting to innovate a product which will best serve your customer, it’s important to understand how a potential customer becomes an actual customer, and how he interacts with your brand throughout the entire process. There are several touchpoints in the customer journey, from initial interest to purchase to use of the product. Examples of touchpoints in the customer journey are visiting the website, reading an email newsletter, going into a bricks and mortar store, reading the product manual and contacting customer service with a problem. For each touchpoint, you want to know how the customer felt, what he liked and didn’t like and how he would improve the product or the customer experience associated with it.

In order to document the customer journey, you can conduct interviews with new and loyal customers, asking them about their experiences at various touchpoints and mapping it out. Alternatively, you can ask customers to map out their own experiences, either by writing up descriptions or by creating videos.

Once you have gathered information from a sufficient pool of customers, map a few different journeys, according to buyer persona. You might have one journey for a web customer and another for someone who purchased in an actual store. Or you might find that women interact differently with your brand than men. Create a visual representation for each persona so employees can easily envision each of these journeys. Provide enough detail to provide real insight into the journeys, and don’t forget to include the emotions that the customers experience.

When you break down the customer experience into individual stages you can analyze each stage to pinpoint problems and look for innovative solutions. If customers are turned off by the product manual, it’s time for a redesign. Perhaps the language needs to be simplified or illustrations need to be added. If customers complain about not getting enough help from salespeople, you will want to retrain staff to give superb service. And if customers say your website is confusing and unattractive, rethink the design and create a site that is simple to navigate and beautiful to look at. You may also discover the product is not meeting the expectations of the customer or working as smoothly as expected, and a new and improved product is necessary.

A mapped out customer journey is an opportunity to look at how your brand and product are perceived by customers. Remember the objective: Truth is not important here, so there is no point in dismissing customer reactions as unfair or untrue. Instead, look at these perceptions and see how they can be overturned, either with improvements to the product itself or to the process of customer service. Create a customer journey which is filled with joy and excitement over the purchase of an excellent product which will answer the customer’s needs and turn him into a brand evangelist.

Triode can help you design your interviews or analyze the written descriptions and videos of your customers experience. Feel free to contact us for any support you may need.

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.