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Understanding the Customer Journey: Take offs, Landings and Everything in Between

If you were sick and needed to go to a hospital clinic, what would be your #1 expectation of the experience? More specifically, let’s say these were the five macro steps of the process:

Which of those steps would be the most important to you? Which one does the clinic have to get right for it to be a successful trip? Since the aim of the visit is to return to good health, people almost always say the Treat step is most important. The second choice is usually Triage… because without that you cannot properly treat. While that makes a lot of sense, I knew a hospital that was very good at Triage and Treat, but still managed to deliver a customer experience so negative that customers were likely not to return – even though they were sick and made well!

How is that possible? Well, I’ve heard it said that the two things people remember about an airplane flight are the takeoff and the landing. The takeoff in this case is the scheduling. What would you as a customer expect from the scheduling process? Most would say a simple process that will get them an appointment when they want to be seen. But this hospital didn’t share that objective. They were a complex care facility and didn’t want to see “ordinary” maladies. So their schedulers had an in-depth series of questions to grill patients with on the phone, just to make sure routine ailments didn’t sneak onto their physicians’ calendars. It was common for patients to spend over an hour on the phone to see if they were “qualified.” (Imagine spending that hour and then getting denied an appointment!)

The Check In process had its own issues- patients had to provide all their information in the lobby, then go to the specific clinic and provide it again. And if they were visiting multiple clinics, they got to provide it more and more. Yikes. So by the time the patient got to Triage and Treat, they were likely frustrated and dissatisfied, but then the hospital rallied with excellent treatment. And then…

The Discharge step was like the landing of the airplane- the lasting memory of the experience. The hospital charged $4 for patient parking as a revenue generator. But to make it cost effective, they didn’t have a manned exit booth. That wasn’t a problem in itself, but the unmanned booth didn’t accept cash or credit cards. The only way to get out of the lot was to pay for parking at a kiosk in the lobby, then use the printed ticket at the exit booth. But nobody told the patients that. It was commonplace to have to return to the lobby to get the parking ticket. Even more fun- the last 100 feet or so of the approach to the exit booth had a concrete wall on both sides… so there was no escape. Patients had to leave their cars and walk back into the facility while all the other cars lined up were honking and swearing at them. Not the way to land the plane!

At Orion we’ve found that a great visual way to illustrate these situations is with a customer journey map. It doesn’t look at the steps of your process- it looks at the connection points of your process to your customers. It does that through a series of basic questions:

Below is a completed journey map for the clinic example.

Two things that are important to note:

  1. Visuals matter. The use of colors in the Customer Gets row is a great way to illustrate when you are meeting expectations and when you aren’t- and in this case note the takeoff & landing are plain u-g-l-y.
  2. Visuals matter, part 2. The use of emojis in the Customer Reaction row is an attention grabber. It is also a reminder that this tool isn’t all about logic, the way process and data tools often can be. This tool is about feelings: Do your customers value you? Will they be likely to come back, given the experience you are providing them?

At Orion, we’ve had a lot of success with this tool. Many times, people get so internally focused on their processes that they don’t spend time thinking about how things look from a customer perspective. In fact, the reason I’m writing this article right now is because of a comment I heard a few days ago. We’d mapped a client’s process using a cross-functional flowchart, and it looked pretty clean and efficient. Then we did a journey map and the Customer Gets row was a sea of red. A meeting participant said:

“Wow, I was really proud of our process when we mapped it last week, but now…”

And that’s the point. If you don’t know you have a problem, it’s tough to fix it!

For help mapping your customers’ journey and reimagining customer experience, check out Orion’s CX Services page.

For help mapping the business processes that create your customer experiences, check out Orion’s Process Documentation page.

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