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Friction mapping

A framework to map customer journeys, uncover points of anxiety, and ideate potential solutions.

Excellent customer experience is no longer a luxury. It's an expectation.

To meet the demands of today's consumer, businesses need to find ways to reduce friction at every stage of the customer journey.

In this 20m webinar, we're looking at friction mapping, a framework we use to map customer journeys, uncover points of anxiety, and ideate potential solutions to improve the customer experience.

This session covers:
• How to gather valuable insights on the full end-to-end customer journey
• How customer frictions and anxieties can highlight opportunities for development
• How understanding customer anxiety can help to prioritise ideas and develop a roadmap

This webinar will be especially relevant for design and product teams who:
• Have lots of customer data and feedback, but struggle to turn that into actionable insights
• Need to generate, challenge and validate ideas for product development
• Want to uncover the most vital areas of the customer experience for their business

Video transcript

Hi, I'm Karl, Head of Design at 383, and I'm going to talk to you a little bit about friction mapping, which is a framework that we developed to help our clients understand their customers challenges and their problems, and then figure out and prioritise the right areas to focus on for developing solutions.

Now, we all know customer journeys can be complicated, especially in large organisations, so being able to know which of your customers problems to tackle first can be a massive advantage.

But it can also be incredibly difficult for any business to step back from what they do day-to-day to get that all-important holistic view.

To quote Leon in his recent rapid prototyping webinar, “It's never been easier to create digital products, but how do we create the right thing quickly and repeatedly?”

With better access to tools and knowledge to be able to create anything from the comfort of your own home, how do we make sure that we're making the right thing that we can then iterate and evolve over time? So, if you look at it through the lens of any business, how do they decide where to invest their time and money on improving the customer experience, while also reducing the risk of placing bets in the wrong place?

This means that to get to the stuff that makes a difference, you've also got to be able to filter through everything else to understand the strands that require the right focus and prioritisation that can make that difference.

As a component part of our rapid prototyping framework, friction mapping was created to ensure that we could adopt the perfect blend for considering both the user and their needs as well as those of the business, but using tangible research so that we can quickly evidence where we should start and why, then filtering through a lot of the noise and early ideas to quickly get to the right idea, so that we can go and start testing it in the wild. The process was developed to understand as much about the customer journey as quickly as possible, so that we can hit the ground running and start helping our clients design and test new products and services.

The basic premise is that it's a visual representation of every experience the customer has with your brand, product or service. It helps to detail their end-to-end journey, any frictions they have along the way, and the channels that they're having those frictions on, while also understanding the goals and the things that they're trying to get done. It helps to detail every step of the business process and the customer’s end-to-end experience, detailing tasks and goals along the way, with any of the challenges that they might face, and what those challenges make the customer think or feel.

Classically, journey mapping is something that falls into two different areas.

And this is one of them. This is a future state journey map that Lego developed a number of years ago to analyse travelling through an airport, and getting on and off the plane, and reclaiming your luggage, and carrying on with your journey.

It's a map of the journey stages, touchpoints and actions that we want and expect our audiences to follow. It details the potential paths that they can take, tasks that they can complete, and how the different touchpoints join together and can then be developed further on in time. So, it's an ideal point of view; it's a vision for how a particular journey is going to be developed and designed.

These kinds of journey map can be really useful for setting a product or service vision of how different technologies or customer interaction can be tied together into a single ecosystem that is then carved up and developed as individual elements. They're incredibly useful for developing and communicating brand strategy, complex user experience concepts, and visualising potential product roadmaps, but can be wholly assumptive, without the research to back them up.

The other type of journey map that most people are familiar with is this. This is a current state map. And the aim with this map is to analyse the end-to-end journey, normally focused around a single point of interaction or a single product or service that is part of the whole end-to-end customer journey.

It includes its key stages, includes a detailed understanding of the things its users are doing, and the different touch points they interact with along the way. This is then followed by a brief overview of what they're thinking and feeling at each of those key stages, so the opportunities and gaps can be quickly identified and considered as part of the eventual solution.

Current state maps tend to focus on a particular aspect or experience within a business, as I've just mentioned, which can sometimes be way too micro for our needs. But the way it quickly illustrates all of the different aspects of the journey at a glance is a really useful artefact.

There's a lot of research that can go into developing a journey map. It invariably involves going out and talking to customers on the road, doing a lot of internal business analysis to look at how each of these stages are joined together. But one of the definite benefits of doing it this way is that it really analyses and begins to focus in on some of the key areas of opportunity and the problems that occur for both the business itself and also the customers trying to interact with its product or service.

For us, the real benefit of friction mapping, the way that we've designed it, comes from a blend of different approaches. So, apart from the journey mapping component that we've already talked about, that sits in the middle of the process, the other two parts of our formula are the customer research behind the mapping, and then the rapid ideation we do afterwards to make sense of all of our findings and translate it into potential solutions.

What we're going to do now is look at those two other areas. I want to talk a little bit about the customer research that we do to fuel our friction mapping, but then how that quickly translates into opportunity mapping and rapid ideation.

This is where we fall back upon a few tried and tested methods that you might already have heard of. These frameworks both come with their own issues, so what we tend to do is take the basics of how these work really, really well and then re-engineer them to suit our own purposes.

On the left-hand side, we've got jobs to be done, the main research methodology that we fall back on time and again to go and talk to customers and understand what problems they're facing, but also where they're facing them.

On the other side, when we're talking about rapid ideation and translating opportunity into new products and services, everyone should be relatively familiar with the idea of "sprint". The sprint framework is about rapid ideation over four or five days that lets you get to a testable prototype.

These two frameworks are incredibly powerful on their own, and to roll them into journey mapping as they stand, on their own, could potentially make the whole process fairly unwieldy.

As I've already mentioned, one thing that we like to do is try each of these things out and learn from them all of the different aspects and the small methods that are relatively effective, that we can skim off the surface and then join together into our own joined up process.

That being said, it's fairly easy to understand the inherent issues with both of those. To quickly walk you through them….

The problem with customer research, or traditional customer research, is that it can take a long time to gather and require a lot of effort. It can also be focused on very narrow bands of customer segmentation, and because of the amount of time that it takes to do, it can also be a bit of a chore to get to the end before you see the benefit or the results.

The problem with things like the sprint process is that while they help you get to a testable MVP in a relatively short amount of time - four or five days - it can feel incredibly compressed in that time, and the solution is invariably built upon assumptions. There's no critical customer research or insight that's been used to develop that product.

Educated guesses aren't enough, and I think being able to roll user research into something like this really gives an advantage to being able to get to the right results as quickly as possible.

Let's move on to what friction mapping looks like, then, and how we've blended all of these different things together.

This is a friction map. This is one that we put together for Nuffield Health a few years ago, and there's a lot to look at, but it essentially gives us a view of three things:

  • It gives us a macro view of the business itself, and the different silos that make up its end-to-end products or services;
  • It gives us a view from the user's perspective as well, so, approaching the task from a point of empathy to really understand the goals of the user at each critical stage of the journey and how big each of those problems are;
  • And then it allows us a view of those challenges and frictions, to quickly be able to see not only where the crunch points are for the business, but also where they sit for the audience, and how the different themes and challenges group together into clusters, and how those clusters might then compare to where the empathy levels are relatively high to get a better understanding of where to prioritise any solution for the business going forwards.

So, what are the benefits of friction mapping?

It's about having a clear view of the different audience jobs at each stage of their journey, and also what the relevant channels are that they're trying to interact with with the business, and then having visibility of how frequent those frictions are popping up and in which of the business channels that they're occurring, along with how they cluster together and what kind of patterns they're creating across the end-to-end journey.

And then, we really want to be able to understand the different levels of empathy and anxiety people are facing across each of the customer experience stages. So, uncovering all of the different levels of anxiety alongside the key frictions and patterns that we're beginning to uncover so that we're able to really understand the impact of the customer problems alongside the jobs that they're trying to get done.

And then, by comparing the levels of friction and looking at where those patterns and themes and clusters occur, it's about being able to understand how they work together so that we can then better prioritise where to create new products and solutions, so that they make the most impact on that customer journey, or tackling those major frictions for the business itself.

So, what kind of opportunities do we see that they create?

Relieving pains is about what really drives the customer experience into the business. Being able to understand where and why these problems exist, along with what people are trying to get done, is critical to knowing how to improve it in the first place.

It's then about reconnecting the business. Mapping helps us provide a macro view of how each of those different service areas of the business are operating together and where the gaps might be, and then help to prioritise those.

With large businesses, making decisions based on assumptions is incredibly risky. Friction mapping helps us provide a quick key and insight into what their customers are thinking and feeling, what they're trying to get done, how their business is operating at each of those different key stages, and where the biggest gaps are, so that we know the biggest opportunities to get started, and then we're more able to prioritise and give focus to a set of initial ideas.

Let me break it down for you in terms of the key aspects of how a friction map works.

The benefit of a friction map is being able to take a step back and look at all the different customer journey stages, look at all of the different customer journey channels, the different jobs that people are trying to get done as part of their day-to-day lives, the frictions that they've experienced along the way, how those frictions have joined together into key themes, but then ultimately how the customers felt, what their anxiety levels were across those key stages, so that we can compare them to where the biggest clusters are.

Being able to mine the research and understand all of these different things allows us to then go away and develop a series of ideas and solutions that can sit across various different stages and channels of the business.

And because we're able to go in and analyse key themes for each of these friction areas and look at the levels of anxiety we're able to provide a primary theme for each of these key stages, so then we're able to go and develop a series of ideas and solutions that sit across all of these different customer stages and all of these key themes

Rather than just focusing on one idea in one single stage of the customer journey, we're able to think of a number of different things that would work together holistically, potentially span a number of key stages, but form a suite of things that can then sit on a roadmap and be developed for this client for the next few years running.

While we might have large clusters of frictions in one specific area of a business, like onboarding, for example, it's not until we look at the areas of anxiety we can tell that some of the biggest challenges for the customer are really in the discovery stage.

So, stepping back from friction maps to really think about why they're important.

Fiction maps are helping us to collect together a holistic view of the jobs people are trying to get done, along with their frictions and associated anxiety levels at every stage of their journey and then they're helping us to visualise the clusters, patterns and common themes across the business, all in a single view.

That helps us to quickly move on to the next stage of the rapid prototyping journey where we can begin to develop those solutions.

Because friction mapping is about trying to get to actionable insight as quickly as possible and understand the minimum requirements to get there it also means that we can leverage this framework in a number of different ways.

Friction mapping itself can take anywhere from a one-hour workshop to get very rough ideas based upon your own business insight; it could take a week, as a sprint, where you're actually able to go out and talk to people within the business and then go and talk to customers relatively quickly to formulate a fairly small but still insight driven view of what the frictions are and the level of anxiety, to then potentially go and then turn into a rapid insight sprint for us to be developing ideas based on those insights; or it could take anywhere up to a month, where we've got fairly heavy-duty challenges that we need to look at within a business where there's a lot of change required or a lot of internal development, as well as customer facing tools and services that needs us to go out there and spend a lot of time talking to a lot of different customers, as well as business departments themselves, to really get to the bottom of what those challenges are and how those frictions group together.

It's a really flexible framework. It's built upon a number of different variables, but it just allows you to go and get to a point where you can start developing ideas from anywhere from an hour up to a month.

However we operate friction mapping there are some key takeouts to bear in mind.

And those are getting the client involved as much as possible. So, having the client by your side, as you all collaborate through the process and each of the different tasks is is critical really, because it's it's as much as their hard work as it is yours, and if they're with you every step of the journey, they're hearing the customer insights and they're listening to all of the different frictions that the customers are facing and they're witnessing all of these problems firsthand.

By helping you craft the friction map and run the research hand-in-hand, you get much more meaningful solutions. But it also means you get much better buy-in from your customers and your clients. And it means then any solutions that you develop together and that you collaborate on are much more meaningful, but it also means you're getting to the root of those challenges much quicker and are able to get those solutions into the hands of their customers much, much faster and test them much more effectively.

It's not meant to really be on rails, as well. While there's a framework, there's a set of components and there's some actors in the process, beyond that it's whatever you need to do to get actionable insights, because getting caught up in too much detail is a trap. So, again, going back to the example we gave for our customer research framework, we use jobs to be done a lot for the way that we talk to customers and understand the problems that they're facing, where they're facing them and how big those problems are. But jobs to be done is a massive framework and it works really, really well for people who are dedicated to that framework itself, but rather than follow it as a rule book - and again the same can be said for the Sprint framework - it can be really easy just to practice each of those individual tasks verbatim.

We have to remember that the focus for friction mapping is getting to that actionable insight. It's about figuring out where those frictions are being felt, how big those frictions are, and then mapping them so we understand how they cluster together and how they present opportunities for us to develop new solutions.

It's not a cul-de-sac. The work really starts when the map is finished. It's not about the humongous poster or the artefacts that you'll print out and stick on the wall and step back from and admire. It's really a starter for ten. It's about creating a jumping-off point for both yourself and your customers to understand what problems everybody is facing so that we can then start designing those solutions around it.

And this is why it's a wonderful part of the rapid ideation framework that we've put together, because it really helps us get to key insights relatively quickly, not get distracted by too much detail, so that we can really understand what those problems are relatively quickly, so that we can then design those solutions and then test them relatively quickly as well.

Hopefully that's giving you a quick insight into what friction mapping is and how we run it, and what some of the key stages are, and the benefits that it might give to your business.

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