Guest journey mapping: A crucial tool to adapt your guest experience
Hospitality’s Covid challenge
For cruise ship and resort operators, whose livelihood depends on the comfort and safety of travelers from all over the world, a pandemic is a worst-case scenario. In spring 2020, many operators responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with voluntary limitations on bookings and access to amenities. Shortly after, several governmental bodies stepped in, issued global travel warnings, and in many cases, forbade operators from offering cruises or rooms to guests.
Right now, the world changes. We modify our behaviors, spending habits, and priorities. With the anticipation that the new normal is here for a while and an evolving understanding of Covid-19, many companies are reimagining their customer experience. They must demonstrate they can maintain their commitment to safety during a global health crisis and after. The new experiences they create will have to blend the familiar promises of their brands with new social norms, regulations, and guidelines.
The tool at the heart of this redesign has been available to planners, designers, and marketers for years: the customer journey.
Focusing on key interactions: The customer journey map
Journeys help define moments of customer value, which drive investment in your offering. They create structure in your experiences from a fundamental principle of design: empathy. If you know what your customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders experience as they seek information, make decisions, get started, and derive value from their investments, you can tune your experiences to their needs and preferences.
We’ve been writing about journeys at PK for over a decade. While the data and the technology behind the touchpoints grow more complex and ubiquitous, the journey’s format is unchanged.
Customer journey maps create a narrative vehicle for evidence derived from insights, data, and corporate objectives or desired outcomes. Journeys share certain elements that set them apart from other user-centered research methods:
- Each is focused on a single user or user type (often leveraging persona work).
- The journey is mapped over a process, and each stage has a clear trigger and outcome.
- Customer activity is mapped first, and a business’s supporting touchpoints are mapped around that activity.
- The journey maps real-life behaviors and can track offline and online actions, as well as interactions with multiple parts of an organization or an ecosystem (such as partners, influencers, or third-party research to reach a decision).
A customer journey map shows representative customers’ perspectives as they engage with a service to achieve their goals. It looks at a range of tangible interactions, triggers and touchpoints, as well as less tangible motivations, frustrations and meanings.
Why the guest journey matters
The map is the vehicle for customer insights and an honest assessment of your current capacity to meet a customer’s needs. The map encapsulates four core components: what people think, feel, do and use to make decisions. And because all that rich data is compressed into a narrative, intuitive framework, it enables design teams to use it in a variety of ways.
We often build customer journeys during workshops with our clients to combine insights from customer research with touchpoints or areas of accountability for stakeholders and their teams. We also work with customers directly as they create their own maps to highlight decisions a business can use to refine their own online and offline offerings.
The guest journey is also uniquely valuable across the different stages of program, product and experience development.
- Ensures that an organization responds to customer pain points or evolving expectations.
- Enables honest assessments about current organizational capabilities and opportunities for future improvement and growth.
- Shows the significant interactions, pathways or expectations we need to understand.
- Explicitly calls out experience factors that were implicitly known, or not known at all.
- Enables conversation based on evidence.
- Provides the human context and the connection to the business change that is proposed.
- Ensures the customer’s voice is represented and referenced.
As a communication tool
- Provides a focus for conversations with clients and vendors.
- Captures at a visual level complex information and saves time in getting people on the same page.
Many of our clients invest heavily in analytics and infrastructure that combines customer data from a vast pool of sources to understand their customers in granular detail. Guest journey maps put that data to use by bringing the experience that generates those data points to life and keeping customers where they belong: at the center of a company’s focus.
About the authors
Loren Bors is a senior manager at PK, where he helps businesses attract, grow and retain customers. Loren has worked with companies of all sizes and types, from the B2B software Fortune 50 enterprise to the four-person startup, and specializes in assessing market opportunities and designing programs that engage with customers on their terms.
Bhuvana Narayanamurthy is a senior UX designer at PK. She is a subject matter expert in technology use and behavior and has research experience with UX skills that range from research and interaction design to visual design and design delivery. She is skilled in UX for enterprise applications and UX for mobile applications. She holds a PhD in Media, Technology & Society from Northwestern University.