Mapping our own customer experience

December 05, 2012

Last Friday, my colleague Rainer Schnabel and I attended the Association of Professional Design Firms (APDF) quarterly exchange at the Viceroy in Santa Monica. This event was called ‘New Business is Your Business,’ and focused mainly on Marketing. A lot of time was spent thinking about customer service and the customer experience, so naturally we began to think about applying these thoughts to our own business and how we could improve.

If Design Concepts were a physical product, our user interface would be our business development and project management teams. This is a comparison our president, Dave Franchino, likes to make regarding our customer service model. I like this analogy and, over time, have aspired to situate it within a total experience map to better understand the details that I likely overlook.

Experience maps are one of the many tools we use with our clients, but they are immensely powerful. When done comprehensively, they can track and outline the entire user experience in one place, revealing what really happens in the market, pain points for the users, and opportunity areas that may have been previously obscured. But their most powerful function is the way they tend to shift the perspective on our project opportunity not only for our clients, but for the Design Concepts project team, as well.

At APDF, too, a lot of the conversations centered on shifting perspective. They were led by Mark Goldstein, a top marketing and advertising executive The Wall Street Journal has called “the guru of new business.” Mark brought a laser-like focus on how to best prioritize our day-to-day activities to reflect the things we strive for; namely, providing deep and lasting impact to our clients.

​If Design Concepts were a physical product, our user interface would be our business development and project management teams.

Some of his ideas were very simple, like how to thoughtfully, succinctly, and respectfully respond to RFPs while still leaving the opportunity open to take a unique approach. Others were more dynamic, like how to use carefully choreographed meetings and well-defined individual roles to appropriately respond to a company’s strengths, opportunities, and potential pitfalls. Doing this properly can help lay the groundwork for powerful shifts in perspective throughout the course of work.

As usual, the thing that makes APDF exchanges so unique is the honest and thought-provoking ideas and applications that come from discussing all of this with peers during break-out sessions, receptions, and evening small group dinners. That’s where inspiration can take hold and be refined. By the end of the conference, Rainer and I had the framework for our own customer service experience map and now just need to fill in the details (which is the hard part). We’re excited, however, and have already begun.

Our goal in this exercise is to make sure that we are focused on the right things every day, not just the ones we’re best at or that have worked themselves into our routines. We are excited to take to the next level, and are thankful to have an organization like APDF to facilitate the discussions that can inspire it.