A customer experience ecosystem map is a visual technique that connects end-to-end customer processes to the ecosystem of employees, partners, capabilities, processes, technology, information, and interfaces involved in delivering the experiences. Without these maps, companies regularly perform blind-man-and-the elephant exercises in which different silos of an organization see only parts of the customer’s experience related to their own jobs. A customer experience ecosystem map breaks down this tunnel vision to help systematically improve or redesign experiences to deliver value.

Customer experience ecosystem maps are evolved from service blueprints, which experience designers have used since at least the mid-80s. They essentially start with a customer journey map that depicts the experience a customer has in a scenario that describes the context and the outcome the customer seeks to achieve. But it doesn’t stop there. It continues to map the value stream responsible for delivering the experience.

Why bother with this exercise? Here are eight reasons:

  1. Create empathy and a shared understanding of the customer experience. Departments work from their own internal perspective and only have a partial understanding of what the customer experiences. Ecosystem maps create a shared picture of the end-to-end customer experience — and connect diverse departments that only have a partial perspective. In order to create a shared understanding of what a customer experiences, UnitedHealthcare mapped the key moments across a customer’s interactions with the firm. It provided packages to all managers that includes the 3’-by-4’ map, cards that describe key customer goals and issues, and instructions for how to use the map to inform improvement projects.
  2. Improve communications and processes between front and back office. One B2B software company knew that a “change request” was a particular pain point for customers. Through the process of mapping the customer’s journey and ecosystem for this scenario with a cross-functional group, the group realized that the change agreement often took longer and required more internal resources than actually delivering the additional services to customers. One of the key problems was simply that account managers had false assumptions about what legal required for the process. 
  3. Focus employees and partners on strategic activities. Employees and partners need to stay focused on the things that drive the most value to customers. Firms have long used Michael Porter’s “activity system maps” to articulate the actions that create differentiation for a company in the market. Ecosystem maps can perform a similar function with a couple of distinct advantages: a) They are easier to create, which makes them more accessible to a wider variety of staff, and b) they take an outside-in approach, starting with the outcomes that target customers seek and then shaping business process to deliver maximum value.
  4. Identify duplicated capabilities that create inconsistency and waste. Mapping the end-to-end journeys for particular customer scenarios points out the duplication of efforts internally that not only wastes resources but also creates horrible customer experiences. One financial services firm used this exercise to illustrate that a customer upon the death of a family member needed to submit two separate death certificates for different business units, which each created their own inheritance process.
  5. Identify low-cost fixes. One credit card firm that mapped the customer experience ecosystem identified simple fixes to a problem, such as training and incentivizing offshore call centers in a similar manner as on-shore call centers. For a health insurer, understanding the dynamics of its customer experience ecosystem helped it discover that it didn’t need to expand its physician network . . . Instead, customers had a problem navigating the current network, and the way the company presented it made customers feel like it was limited. 
  6. Make the business case for projects single departments couldn’t make. When Boeing began a project to revamp its online customer portal for mechanics, it had more than 20 different personas reflecting internal departments, not real customer behavior. By rationalizing these personas by behavior (rather than internal departments) and then mapping the customers’ journeys, the group found enormous synergies for putting in place a common financial system.
  7. Prioritize funding for projects. Journey and ecosystem maps helped Elsevier — a provider of scientific, technical, and medical information and services — create a prioritization matrix that showed how ideas that emerged from the journey maps stacked up in terms of the effort to implement them and the benefit from implementing them. This helps the change management team manage the queue of projects and monitor the results of previous initiatives.
  8. Reframe metrics. Performance measurement should start by focusing on customer experiences that matter most. Charles Schwab centered its initial measurement program on several critical customer journeys that correlated with the health of a client relationship, which included: onboarding, providing a mortgage, and delivering consultations to review a portfolio.

For more information about mapping and applications of the customer experience ecosystem, check out Forrester’s customer experience ecosystem playbook or inquire about hosting a workshop at your company. Or join us in London next month for Forrester's Forum for Customer Experience Professionals EMEA, November 19th and 20th.