My Rock, My Story: Building a Customer Journey Map from Scratch at the Smithsonian

My Rock, My Story: Building a Customer Journey Map from Scratch at the Smithsonian

The following post is an excerpt from my book: Chief Customer Officer 2.0. Below, I share a “My Rock, My Story” snippet – which is one of many featured throughout the book. These stories come from CCOs who have faced numerous challenges, yet persevered in pushing their metaphorical “rock up the hill” by uniting their leadership teams, working through challenges, and ultimately achieving success in doing so.

In this “My Rock, My Story,” Samir Bitar, Director of the Office of Visitor Services at the Smithsonian Institution, shares how he and his team built the organization’s first customer journey map in order to create a unified understanding of the visitor experience across its many museums and affiliates around the world.

In addition to illuminating the visitor experience, the process of creating the journey map through a workshop allowed leaders and staff across the Smithsonian Institution to understand the importance of Samir’s role, and why focusing on the individual visitor’s experience is key to growth and improvement. As you read, think about what journey mapping might look like in your organization.

I actually interviewed Samir Bitar on my podcast, The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show, and we talked about his individual journey in this CCO-like role. He shared a lot of great advice and practical takeaways; I encourage you to listen!

Samir Bitar is responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of the Smithsonian’s inaugural visitor experience strategy, which addresses all visitor touch points across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, galleries, and a national zoo.

Build a Customer Journey Map to Make CX Tangible to Leadership and Staff

Samir: The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, nine research centers, and affiliates around the world. Each year we welcome over 30 million visits across our museums. To grasp the totality of the experiences as well as catch important nuances, and begin to build a case for support, I needed to visually depict the experiences of our visitors at our museums. I needed a visitor journey map.

We got started by having a two-day journey-mapping workshop wherein we recorded the end-to-end experiences of Smithsonian visitors. Through the workshop we produced a deceptively simple map that illustrates the before, during, and after visit to the Smithsonian campus and unites us in delivering a “one Smithsonian” experience. As part of this work we established four personas so we could story-tell how the experience of visiting would be different for different types of visitors. These stories make the work we are doing real and personal. The four personas we created are a Spanish-speaking family, a European empty nester couple, a millennial male visiting from New York City, and 12-year-old Elaine on a school trip.

Use Your Customer Journey Map to Clarify the CCO Role and Drive Improvement

Out of this workshop we created a first draft of our visitor journey. It was the first time many of my colleagues had ever seen anything like it. It was mind opening. Journey mapping has organically defined and helped people see what my job is, the role and relevance of my office across the Smithsonian, and offers a punch list of specific tasks that need to be addressed in order to improve the visitor’s experience.

Journey mapping has organically defined and helped people see what my job is, the role and relevance of my office across the organization. It offers a punch list of specific tasks that need to be addressed in order to improve the #CX. Click To Tweet

With the journey map I now have a powerful tool that helps visualize the visitor experience. With the visitor perspective in hand my next step was to understand the perspectives of internal stakeholders, including museum executives, department directors, and front-line staff, including volunteers. Over the course of four months I worked to understand what is unique about the visitor experience at each of the 19 museums and the National Zoo. Out of this, we began building a list of what works and what does not at each location and are now putting into place our fist batch of improvements.

With Samir’s experience in mind, think about the relevance and need for a customer journey map at your organization. Many of the experts I speak with share that developing or improving the customer journey became a large bulk of their CX work. Ultimately, it becomes one of their main tools for understanding how everyone’s work affects one another, what the customer pain points are, and how that can be assuaged. Maybe it’s time to reassess your current customer journey; there’s always improvements to be made.

So, let’s tie journey mapping back to the heart of the 2nd competency in my 5 Core Competency framework, ‘Align Around Experience.’ By putting the customer’s experience at the center of all decision-making, we earn the right to continue serving our customers and to grow our businesses in turn.

When you’re ready to start journey mapping, here are some tips for success:

When it’s done well, journey mapping is an enlightening, game-changing process. Tell me about your journey mapping experience in the comments! What kinds of changes has journey mapping sparked in your company?

Are you in a CCO-related role? Download the pdf below to cross-reference your job description to ensure you’re doing the most you can to earn customer-driven growth!

The Chief Customer Officer Job Description


Additional Reading:

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