Companies want customer-obsessed cultures that will help them differentiate in the age of the customer. But transforming a culture can be a challenge: It requires all employees to understand who their customers are, how customers perceive their interactions with the company, and what roles employees need to play in delivering the overall experience. Enter learning maps, which are fast becoming the centerpiece of small-group interactive training sessions at many companies.

In my recent report, "Executive Q&A: Learning Maps; Innovative Tools For Customer Experience Training," I answered some of the common questions related to creating a learning maps to help companies decide if they should develop their own learning maps.

What are learning maps?

Learning maps are large-scale visualizations that use data, graphics, and illustrations to tell a story. The maps are training tools that abstract significant amounts of information into a format that facilitates conversations and understanding for diverse groups of employees.

How are learning maps used to improve customer experience?

Learning maps are typically used in small-group interactive training sessions to help employees understand the company's customer experience strategy and their role in delivering against that strategy.

What are the common scenarios where learning maps add value?

Some of the specific use cases for deploying learning maps include:

  • Sharing a new customer experience strategy.
  • Changing a specific part of the customer experience.
  • Training managers.
  • Integrating employees from acquired companies.

Who helps companies create learning maps?

Root is the largest and most well-known partner for learning map engagements. There are other providers, however. For example, in the US, The Grove Consultants International and Advantage Performance Group have completed learning maps for companies. Trainiac is another firm that creates learning maps and is based in South Africa.

What results have companies achieved by using learning maps?

VCA Animal Hospitals tracked client satisfaction scores before and after the learning map training. It staggered the training rollout by region, which created a natural experiment. The first regions that conducted training were also the first to see improvements in client satisfaction scores. Three quarters after the training, the scores remain at their higher levels.

Barclays Africa used learning maps to train employees on how to deliver friendly and effective service. Gary Sharples, former group complaints and communications director for Barclays Africa, credits the training with helping drive an 18% reduction in complaints and a 44% increase in compliments from customers.

Who facilitates the training related to learning maps?

Most companies prefer to facilitate the training themselves. The learning map consultants train the facilitators from the client company to deliver the sessions. The facilitators can come from the ranks of learning and development staff, managers, or individual contributors who have the willingness and the talent to lead a workshop. For example, Root trained district managers, store managers, and brand ambassadors at Disney Stores to facilitate training of their colleagues.

What else should you keep in mind when creating learning maps?

Companies should start with a clear idea of what information they want to convey in the maps or what behavioral changes they want to see from employees. For example, Disney Store first defined a vision for the retail store experience: "Creating magical moments for guests of all ages." That guided the content development process for the maps.

If budgets allow, companies should create both physical and digital versions of the maps. This enables broader sharing of the maps with remote employees and makes it easier to use maps in the future for new employees or employees moving into new roles.

For answers to more common questions about learning maps, including the process for creating them, and some visual examples of the maps, read the full report. And please share your comments and questions below. I also spoke more about strategies to build a customer-centric culture at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East in New York, Tuesday, June 24th, and Wednesday, June 25th