Map Your Member Experience

network of member experiences such as shopping and homebuying
By Ryan Myers , Ryan Brogan

7 minutes

And then complete the journey to make measurable improvements.

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

That advice, attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, could be applied to the current rage for journey mapping. As detailed diagrams lining conference room walls bear out, mapping the customer experience is all about the journey. 

But for all the attention lavished on creating those maps, often this doesn’t translate into results. With all due respect to Mr. Emerson, journey mapping for credit unions is a waste of time unless it leads to better products, processes or services.  

In contrast, experience mapping emphasizes function over form; the process of organizing information is the means for making real, measurable improvements for members. Read on to see how a credit union’s experience mapping efforts can pay off.

Start With the Member 

Note the singular form. Experience mapping is not all things for all people, but a sharp focus on what matters to a target member or persona. A 20-something who works downtown and does everything on her phone is far different than the retired guy who stops by the branch twice a week to grab a free cup of coffee and say hey to his favorite teller.

The team leaders in this example, an operations manager and marketing specialist supporting a strategic initiative to expand membership among young people, develop a 20-something persona. They even give her a name, Sofia. 
With a clear vision of this persona, they identify Sofia’s most relevant banking experience. For many CU leaders, a great “member experience” means  friendly branch staff providing personal service. But for Sofia, it’s all about efficient, low-friction, digitally enabled access. 

Do the research

In advance of the experience mapping session, the team leaders gather input from across the CU and the industry about how the target member defines quality banking. What products and services top the must-have list? What are industry standards in those areas? What will it take to meet that member’s expectations and attract other consumers just like her?

Based on their initial information gathering, the team leaders identify the account-opening process as the experience that could have the most impact for Sofia and others like her. To guide the mapping exercise, they put together a survey of branch and call center employees who open accounts on a daily basis to glean useful insights about what works and doesn’t work in the current process and what problems members encounter when they try to do it on their own. 

Convene the Team 

For the mapping exercise, the team needs subject matter experts who routinely interact with members during the account-opening experience and those who know the systems and processes behind it. A couple of branch managers, two or three knowledgeable member service representatives who regularly open accounts at branches and through the call center, and the system administrator of the account-opening platform can all supply valuable input. 

This process benefits from having an executive sponsor. The executive may not—and oftentimes should not—attend the mapping session to encourage open dialogue throughout that process.  However, sponsorship is important for translating the takeaways from that exercise into implementation. In many cases, improving the member experience is a cross-functional endeavor, with input and action from member service, IT, training and development, risk management, marketing and other departments. A C-level sponsor working with his or her peers can help ensure that the necessary resources are allotted to move from map to execution.

For Team Sofia, the chief retail officer agrees to sponsor the account-opening project. Six to eight other participants sign on for the mapping session, which is estimated to take two to four hours. They are instructed to arrive with notes on how the process works and where members commonly run into problems along the way. It’s their job to convey the members’ perspectives, delve into what causes friction in the experience, and identify where inconsistencies pop up across branches, channels, systems and procedures. 

Journey mapping for credit unions is a waste of time unless it leads to better products, processes or services.

Map the Experience to Find the Pain Points 

The mapping exercise identifies all steps to open an account from beginning to end from the member’s perspective. The mapping also identifies the processes and roles behind the scenes that support each step. The mapping team is not trying to identify every special case and exception but should chart the experience for 80 to 90 percent of members who’ve tried it.

The team leaders know from their research that Sofia expects to be able to open an account via the mobile app in less than 15 minutes. Unfortunately, when the subject matter experts around the table tally up the time it takes to complete each step, it’s closer to 45 minutes, with several frustrating and unexpected requirements and seemingly unnecessary clicks along the way. Those are the pain points where many members stall out and end up having to phone the call center, stop by a branch—or, worst case, abandon the process in favor of searching for a new bank or credit union.

The goal is to list all of the pain points and then zero in on those for which the credit union can realize the biggest improvements with the smallest investment of effort. The team might find procedures that can be streamlined, system modules that will run more efficiently after they’re updated, and on-screen instructions that could be rewritten to guide members in simpler, clearer terminology or an easy-to-follow diagram.

A simple way to surface these pain points is to chart them in a two-by-two matrix from high to low impact on the vertical scale and from high to low complexity on the horizontal. The pain points that land in the low-complexity, high-impact quadrant are the low-hanging fruit that offer the promise of quick improvements.

It’s also worth identifying when in the process members truly solidify their opinion of the credit union within the experience. It might be when they are notified about a loan decision or, in Sophia’s case, when she receives her debit card after opening a new account. These “moments of truth” serve as guidance to executive sponsors when weighing the inevitable trade-offs, such as lower risk versus quicker speed and lower friction for the member.

Work Through the Fix-It List

Now that the mapping exercise is done, the real work begins. The team translates the rough draft of the takeaways identified in the process into action plans to achieve the easy wins—policy and procedural decisions the credit union can change in a day and short- to medium-term projects to fix system bugs and configurations. 

Executive sponsors assist with guidance on pursuing more complex opportunities, such as technology limitations that would likely require long-term negotiations with vendors. It’s extremely unlikely that each of the takeaways will result in a change, but there should be plenty of realistic improvements—everything from quick wins to larger, cross-functional projects. 

At this point, the team leaders tuck away the experience map and focus on the actions necessary to achieve the outcomes identified during the mapping process. The map itself is a compass that points in the direction of needed improvements rather than a diagram that serves as an ongoing reference. Ideally, the current map becomes obsolete quickly with the implementation of a handful of quick wins.

The process going forward is to make the nips and tucks that transform the member experience in relatively small but significant ways. The aim is to implement improvements that might reduce 10 steps to eight or simply make the same 10 steps go more quickly and efficiently. Some significant enhancements are made within weeks while a few others may take months. In the end, the account-opening process that once took 45 minutes now takes about 20, and far fewer members have to call for assistance.

Those are results that matter—for Sofia, for the existing and prospective members she represents and for the credit union in support of its strategic objectives. 

When a concept like journey mapping commands the spotlight as a profound business process, there’s a danger of mistaking the roadmap for an outcome. After spending many hours capturing every thread of members’ interactions with the credit union, the mappers stand back from their creation and wonder, “What’s next?” Conversely, the value in mapping the member experience is found in the improvements that lie ahead. Successful deployment of experience mapping reveals the pain points where practical gains are within easy reach and helps to guide the work of putting those fixes in place. 

Practical efforts that eschew flashy visuals and marketing jargon in favor of meaningful results are indeed a worthy destination.  

Ryan Myers and Ryan Brogan specialize in process improvement, strategy and customer relationship management systems at CUES Supplier member and strategic provider Cornerstone Advisors, Scottsdale, Ariz.

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