What Customer Experience Mapping and Canoeing Have in Common

by James on July 23, 2009

I grew up in Manotick, Ontario on an island in the Ridaeu River. I’m not trying to get all Huck on you but this experience provides some perspective on customer experience mapping.

Living on an island required an early and deep understanding of water. Swimming and canoeing were integral parts of my early life. So much so that I spent two summers, while in college, working for a long distance canoe tripping camp, Camp Outlook. We took under privileged and juvenile delinquent boys and girls on 10 day canoe trips in Algonquin Park.

Hang in there, I’m getting to the point.

Packing was a constant problem for the young people who attended Camp Outlook. We tried telling them to just “think it through.” Blank stares. Then one of the councilors, I don’t remember who but I’m sure it wasn’t me, told them to think about the trip in terms of their bodies and all the things they would need to do or have each day.

“Start at your toes and end with your nose.”

This worked really well. The children had a point of reference they could relate to and against which they could make the decisions required to pack efficiently. When you have to carry everything over a 1,500+ yard portage, an extra 15 pounds in the pack becomes a very big deal. And when you are many miles from the nearest road, forgetting something is equally inconvenient.

OK, time to reward your patience, here comes the point. In business being able to think through a process is a an important and, based on observation, under utilized skill. This is especially important as you map customer experience. Start at your toes and end with your nose.

Hip Shots

  • Think through each step your best customers go through to purchase and use your product, and list all the elements, people, resources, etc. required at each step.
  • Think about what might go wrong at each stage. Put something in place to reduce the danger of things going awry and have a plan if they do.
  • Document and publish your plan. Be sure all the people who touch each stage of the process understand and agree to their role.
  • Use the plan to eliminate unnecessary steps and processes, and to remind your staff what is required of them before it’s needed.

This approach won’t guarantee that your customers will always have a good experience but it sure helps. You don’t want them to carry an extra 15 pounds, and you don’t want to hear the question, “Who packed the TP?”

Photo credit: The Dilly Lama, creative common

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