person looking at data on a wall, trying to find a way to cluster it

Customer experience data: how to structure CX data in the world of service design

October 8, 2020

So we have spent weeks and months collecting all types of customer data. By conducting interviews with our customers, doing desktop research, hosting workshops with our team, digging into KPIs, as well as many other approaches. Through this process we have generated a large pool of high-quality insights – so large that it has become increasingly fragmented and difficult to find specific knowledge. So, what do we do now? How do we make a start when it comes to data management so that our resources are stored in clear, logical ways that are easy to access when we need them? In this article we will explore how to manage the results of our service design efforts in ways that make our customer data more structured, organized and accessible.

Any of us who have dived into the world of service design. As we stand in the midst of ever increasing amounts of customer experience data, outputs and information, rooms where sticky notes cover over the walls, sketches and pages of interviews from our customers, we might easily feel lost amongst the trees and uncertain of where to begin to start organizing all of our data.

Information overload is an increasingly common experience for many of us. In a world filled with data it is easy to find ourselves in a situation where our mind is simply overwhelmed by the amount of information we are required to organize and process.

The challenges of bringing order to this chaos may seem insurmountable, however the rewards of developing organized ways to manage our data outweigh the effort required to put it into a workable shape. With a few relevant tools and processes we can begin to structure our information in ways that improve our ability to make our data accessible, understandable for the wide range of people who may need to use it for analysis, innovation and decision making.

Gathering a diverse range of customer experience data

As we begin to dive into the world of service design, and especially customer research we can quickly start to gather a lot of resources that need to be arranged and ordered so that we may be able to realize their true value. Perhaps we have been out in the field interviewing people, running focus groups, or have simply been tasked with bringing some order to the feedback we have received from our customers about how they are experiencing our services.

As a result of this work we begin to accumulate a lot of customer experience data that exists in a wide variety of formats such as videos, website links, audio interviews or data held within excel spreadsheets.

This raw customer experience data is a valuable resource, however this value increases exponentially when we are able to organize it into practical and usable formats

Failing to organize this data can result in many very odd situations:

  • Paper journey maps falling off the walls
  • Sticky notes with important insights floating around in the office kitchen
  • People keeping important insights for themselves, on sticky notes on their monitors, because the paper journey map is not easily accessible for them, or for their team
  • People don’t know where the data on the journey map comes from because there is no reference or link to it
  • Highly paid team members spend hours digging for data and crawling through complicated folder structures
  • Insights are simply lost; everybody knows there have been efforts to work on a service design issue, but nobody knows what the results have been and what the status quo is.

By implementing some different service design tools and frameworks that we have available to us, we gain the ability to bring order to our customer data and bring a sense of clarity to how we store, access and utilize it.

So how do we bring order to our data in a way that really creates value?

Creating centralized hubs for our customer experience data

When we talk about good data management, one of the core ideas that defines the subject is centralization. Centralization is the process of determining a central location where our data will be stored, and where it can also be easily accessed.

Service design offers us many tools for putting this into practice and providing structure to manage our customer data. By using tools such as journey maps and personas we are able to create centralized hubs that connect different types of data from our customers' experience. In this way we directly address data fragmentation by connecting information to specific locations within a customer's journey where it can be easily referenced and located.

The way that journey maps are able to break down a customer's journey into discrete steps and stages provides a great structure for us to attach relevant data that we collect.

If we are constructing our journey maps in a physical space we gain a lot of clarity simply by having our data attached to relevant stages and presented in a more visible way. However as we continue to generate an increasing number of different journey maps, we risk losing their potential as they are left forgotten on walls or stuffed into empty cupboards.

Digitizing our service design resources

As we continue to gather diverse forms of data, are required to work at a distance, have data that needs to be constantly updated or simply accumulate too many resources to store efficiently we will eventually need to consider transferring our work onto digital platforms.

Being able to transition our journey maps and data they contain onto digital platforms opens up a range of new possibilities, such as being able to link more diverse forms of data to our maps, more advanced methods for storing and retrieving information, better conditions to remotely collaborate on and update our work, as well as having easier methods to present and share our work with others.  

Depending on the time and resources we have available, the process of digitizing physical pieces of work can take days, or even weeks. These delays can have a significant impact on the momentum of the project we are working on and motivation for all involved.  

Recently however, advances in artificial intelligence and image capture technology have made the process of digitizing our service design efforts increasingly easier. This allows us to shift our work online more efficiently and to maintain the relevance of our work.

Connecting diverse types of customer data to our journey maps

As we undergo our customer research we accumulate a range of different types of data that are simply not suitable for being attached to our physical journey maps. These might include artifacts such as:

  • Relevant images of the customer journey
  • Video recordings
  • Observation notes
  • Audio files and their transcripts
  • Screenshots or recordings
  • Digital analytics data, e.g. from Google Analytics
  • Results from (digital) surveys
  • Heatmaps or eye tracking results

Having our journey maps in a digital format allows us to upload or link these different data types to the relevant stages along our customer journey. By increasing the diversity of the data held within our maps we increase our opportunities for analyzing and uncovering important links within our customers' journey.

Being able to connect a wider diversity of data allows us to be more inclusive of what we are able to connect to your journey maps and in the process reduce the risk of losing or forgetting important pieces of data.

Organizing and storing our data within structured journey maps repositories

As our journey maps are also constantly growing and evolving documents, when we update our research or come across new information, working in a digital space allows us to quickly exchange, update and re-arrange data on our maps to reflect the changing circumstances of our users.  

As we accumulate more data and create more journey maps it is important that we are able to store them in ways that make accessing our data intuitive and efficient. A journey map repository is a useful way to do this that allows us to arrange different granularities of our customer journey on a hierarchy of levels, with high level journeys at the top and different sub-journeys below.

Much in the same way that we use Google Maps we are able to zoom out and see the big picture, while also being able to zoom in on specific customer sub-journeys and the data held within. Structured in this way, each piece of customer data that we have linked to a particular sub-journey finds its relevant place within the bigger picture and is much easier to access when we need it.

Besides enabling us to quickly find sub-journeys, a journey map repository also helps us find previous projects, research data, redundant work and synergies. It also allows us to find different maps depending on different use cases, audiences, main actors, or from different times.

When we are able to centralize our journey maps in this way we allow different teams to effortlessly find research data collected by others, make their own data available, and for multiple parties to maintain a living document for our customer experience data.

Creating conditions that drive collaboration through increased accessibility

There are many forces that put pressure on our ability to share information and collaborate, these can include:

  • Our organization growing in size and having greater numbers of people to manage
  • Having increased numbers of people working remotely
  • Not having the right tools for centralizing data causing fragmentation and restricting access by different departments

The result of these different factors can manifest in different ways, most noticeably in data silos where certain parts of our organization hold information in ways that prevent access and sharing. For whatever reason, if data is withheld it can impact our productivity, create blind spots for decision making and reduce our ability to collaborate towards outcomes that have a positive impact on the lives of our customers and success of our business.

Organizing our data within a centralized digital location, such as a journey map repository promotes access and collaboration within different departments in an organization. By creating this central location for customer experience data, we create a more collaborative environment for information sharing where diverse streams of data from across an organization can be shared and accessed.

Sometimes promoting a better way of working is as simple as providing the right tools that can point people in a positive direction.

When our data is structured and organized using methods such as a repository we create the platform for synergies between different groups rather than conflicts, enable our remote workforce to share and collaborate as well as increase everyone's efficiency by making data easier to access.

In summary

Putting in the time to manage and structure our customer experience data can provide a sense of ease and clarity when we are faced with ever increasing amounts of data and information overwhelm. To improve how we manage our data we can focus on the following areas:

  • Utilize service design tools to provide centralized locations to structure our customer experience data
  • Digitize our physical forms of customer data and service design resources so that they may be easily formatted within digital journey maps.  
  • Structure journey maps within journey map repositories so that we have an organized overview, from our high-level to lower level sub-journeys.
  • Use centralized hubs to drive data sharing and collaboration between departments and with remote workers.

By following these approaches and continually striving to connect and manage our customer experience data we foster conditions that improve our productivity, capture value from our data and drive collaboration within our organization.