How Customer Journey Maps help PMs
+ How an arcade game helped me understand Impostor Syndrome
Here’s an outline of this edition of Behind Product Lines:
How Customer Journey Maps help Product Managers
Few ideas on countering Impostor Syndrome
This week’s poll
Customer Journey Maps
Customer Journey Maps help Product Managers visualize the customer journey as a "human experience" as opposed to a mere software flow or "set of screens".
At one point, I used to think it was a fluff artefact to serve as visual eye-candy.
But while participating in a planning workshop during my time at Bayt.com, I realized how transformative it can be, especially when you're re-designing your service footprint from the ground up.
So what are customer journey maps (CJM)?
A CJM is a visualization (typically represented as a swim lane diagram or table) that helps organizations understand how a customer goes from discovering your product to achieving a goal with value.
Image Credit: Columbia Road
But why not just use a wireframe?
Because CJM helps capture both online & offline milestones. (among other reasons).
Ex: a property buyer's interaction with a real estate portal will include touchpoints like:
Find an ad on facebook.
View property ad in detail.
Read online blogs for neighborhood reviews.
Talk to a property agency, schedule a time.
Visit the location. Take pictures.
Consult with friends & family.
Negotiate with agency & purchase.
Additionally, a CJM also captures intended emotions (what should the user feel) & pain points (reservations) in taking a desired step.
So, how do you make a CJM?
1) Plot your existing experience by interviewing users + their emotional trace along the way. Inquire about what actions they carried out at every step.
2) Also, talk to internal stakeholders - from business development to support to customer success - about the journey. What actions does the team take today & what are potential gaps they have seen in their observation?
3) For the in-app experience, use a tool like MixPanel to highlight common user flows & use data as a guiding tool. What features are under-utilized? What help resources are used the most? Where are people hitting dead ends?
Tip: Work with customers to ideate a 7-star experience. Explore how the CJM could be modified to get closer to that. e.g. we explored how right after a recruiter posts a job, we could instantly backfill their applicant list with relevant prospects.
How does it help?
CJMs are like movie scripts.
Just like the sound, video, costume & camera crews on a movie set know their role in a movie scene, a Product Manager uses the layers in the CJM to engage different team members:
👉 The sequence of steps in the CJM serves as a functional footprint for development.
👉The customer pain points help product teams to architect solutions & user education flows.
👉The emotional layer help guide design & content teams craft the right visuals & messaging.
👉 The mixture of offline & online touchpoints helps customer support plan better.
Not only did the CJM help us frame better experiences, it also helped us identify who we needed to hire to get there.
The eye-opening thing was how it helps you zero in on weak links & churn points e.g. we discovered that we had to strengthen the journey for recruiters who received lower than average applicants in the first 48 hours.
One tip that helped us a lot: collective dogfooding i.e. walk through the journey as a team & debate what can be improved.
Image Credit: Columbia Road
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Tackling Impostor Syndrome
Several years ago, I went to a gaming arcade where I played a title called "Marvel vs Capcom".
I picked Wolverine.
Mind you, I had never played the game before, so I did what any sane kid in my position would do:
Mash buttons at random.
As I went deeper into this frenzy, I started landing some serious moves, some of which were represented via epic cinematic sequences.
The game would suddenly pause, the screen would darken, Wolverine would go airborne and unleash an electrifying move with his adamantium claws.
I began noticing the pattern & sequence of buttons.
Eventually, I was able to reproduce the moves far more predictably. And believe it or not, I actually won a couple of games.
After a few battles, I decide to switch my character to Cyclops.
Now, I had no clue about Cyclops' move set. But I proceeded to do what I did the first time around: mashed some buttons.
I didn't feel scared or intimidated that I'd fail or didn't know enough about the character's niceties.
I just knew that I would need to try a few things, learn quickly and eventually, I'd figure it out.
Product Managers tend to drown in Impostor Syndrome, especially when they take up the reins of a new product.
This is an acute case of self-doubt which elicits questions like:
Were my previous achievements a fluke?
I didn't contribute anything meaningful to the success of the project
I don't have all the answers. Presented with a new problem, I might blank out. I'll be exposed
To counter this negativity, I personally look back at my arcade experience:
Shift the focus to inputs
It's true that, at the end of the day, outcomes matter. But if you worry about the outcome indefinitely, you'll probably won't do justice to the inputs you need to inject.
Every job has a warm-up period where you need to get used to the jargon, team dynamics & processes. Start pacing yourself on the jog-wheel for a bit.
Remember: We study hard for the exam first, not obsess about the potential result.
So, do the basics right. Conduct discovery. Understand pain points. Write emails. Coordinate. Follow up. Attend rituals.
The outcomes will eventually follow.
Lesson: Mash Buttons.
Concentrate on knowledge accumulation & pattern recognition
It's acceptable not to know the answers at first. Nobody has everything sorted out. There will be plenty of things that your peers will also not know.
Part of impostor syndrome is worrying too much about your “image”. Having a strong opinion about every topic should never be the goal; rather a thirst for understanding the fundamentals is important. Respect the knowledge others have, spend time talking to them, accumulate facts & then start forming evidence-backed opinions with an open mind.
If you’re the first PM on the team, there will naturally be gaps in the business, product & process that no one has really focused on. That puts you on an even keel with everyone else. Those are areas where you have an equal opportunity to guide others.
Knowledge accumulation deflates the pressure. Capture information from your team members, product data, customer feedback & by spectating conversations around you.
As you go along, you'll find some things make more sense than others.
You’ll also find incorrect beliefs that other team members hold. For example, there was a product I worked on where people thought customer discovery was a waste of time due to the diversity of audience we had. These things take time to turn around.
Lesson: Recognize the pattern of buttons that trigger the special moves.
Be optimistic & enjoy the game
Reflect back to your past experiences.
When did you last climb out of the “impostor” hole? When was the time you felt you became an integral part of the team?
So, you made it then.
Then, what makes you think you won’t make it now?
Back yourself that you'll figure it out over time. Derive energy from the challenge and relish the fulfillment you acquire from learning new things.
Lesson: You did well with Wolverine. Cyclops doesn't have to be different.