Interview with Jim Kalbach


Jim Kalbach is the recent author of Mapping Experiences. We had a chance to interview him to go deeper on what he has learned about journey maps.  You can see more about his book here.

Heart of the Customer: Along with your other diagrams, journey and experience maps are often used to drive culture change.  What are your tips for using these to engage leadership and change culture?

Jim Kalbach: This first thing to keep in mind is that a diagram won’t provide any answers outright. It doesn’t magically bring change to your organization. Instead, diagrams are conversation pieces that engage others.

Sure, you want to create an artifact that is accurate, reliable and compelling. But to drive change, you’ll need to focus on including others throughout the mapping process. Think verb (mapping) rather than noun (map).

A centerpiece I invariably include in the process is a workshop. With this, you can use your diagram to explore a given experience with a diverse group of stakeholders.

Beyond that, also consider ways to have others in your team participate in the mapping process. For instance, bring them along to customer interviews during your investigation. Or, create a draft diagram together with sticky notes on a whiteboard. The more people involved, the more people will better understand the customer perspective.

In addition, it’s more important that the team has the same knowledge than each person have new knowledge. Otherwise, they will never make the collective decisions needed for change to happen. Maps of an experience are sense-making tools.

In the end, it’s the mapmakers job to also facilitate the conversation, not just create a diagram. Only then can the organization shift its perspective from inside-out to outside-in.

HoC: In your research, you discuss journey maps and experience maps. In your introduction you reference how the two terms are often used interchangeably, but you’ve separated the two.  Can you share your distinction between the two?

JK: The primary difference between customer journey maps and experience maps is one of perspective.

Customer journey maps tend to look at the experience of an individual as a customer of an organization. They include things like how people first become aware of an offering, how they decide to purchase it, and what keeps them loyal.

An experience map looks at how people get a job done or complete an activity in a given domain. It looks at their overall workflow, but not necessarily from the perspective of their being a customer of the organization.

For instance, the provider of an app that helps event organizers plan and run a conference may seek to understand the customer’s journey. This will include questions like, How do customers learn about our service? Why would they buy it? How do they get support from us? Are they satisfied with the service? The result of this inquiry could be a customer journey map.

The organization could also seek to understand the experience of planning an event. The inquiry will focus on questions like, What do organizers do, think, and feel when planning an event? The result could be captured in an experience map, which may make no explicit references to any specific product or service.

 HoC: As you know, we have our Top 10 Requirements of a Customer-Focused Journey Map. What are your top tips for doing journey mapping right?

JK: In my book, I propose scoping any mapping by first answering five questions:

  1. What is your point of view? This has to do with the perspective I just mentioned. That includes which individuals will you include and which experiences.
  2. What is your focus? The word “experience” is hard to find and included many variables. You won’t be able to include everything in from a real world experience in a single diagram. Instead, the mapmaker selects which facets to include and which to highlight.
  3. What is your scope? Answering this question defines the extent of the experience being mapped – when it begins or ends. There’s no right or wrong answer here, just appropriate or not appropriate based on the situations.
  4. How will you structure the diagram? There are lots of ways to represent an experience and present information. Typically, diagrams are chronological and formed in a table-like structure. But the information could also be represented hierarchically or spatially, and we see diagrams that take the shape of circle or curved line, for instance.
  5. How will you use the map? Again, it’s really about engaging others in a conversation. I recommend considering an answer to this question from the outset. Only then will you be able to include the right people at the right time.

HoC: Where do you see the industry going in terms of mapping experiences?

JK: I see mapping experiences as a foundational activity, like having a business plan or market segmentation. I can imagine that businesses will create a model of an experience as a regular course of business.

One advantage of mapping experiences is that they don’t change too quickly. If you’re looking at people’s fundamental needs and emotions, you often end up with something that can be used for years to come. So having a central model that everyone in an organization can orient to provides a common reference for decision making.

But I also believe that mapping will be more of a means for managing customer experiences. We’re already seeing tools and services that allow you to include metrics and market feedback. In this sense, the map becomes a way for a team to navigate experiences in real time and double-click on any one part of it for more detail.

HoC: Which is your favorite journey or experience map?

jim kalbach interview graphicJK: I’m very fond of Beth Kyle’s experience map for being pregnant. The density of information is high, yet it’s simple to comprehend at a glance – signs of a good diagram. The information design is really good with this one.

But really it’s those diagrams that spark change that are the best. This could be a simple map made with sticky notes on a board or a high level model everyone in a team understands. Experience mapping shouldn’t be about graphic design or artist ability. Maps are about insight, dialog and collective understand.


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