UX Case Study: New Customer Onboarding Journey Map

My challenge: What types of support do new customers need in the first 90 days?

My client wanted to understand their new customers’ frustrations, moments of delight, and overall experience in order to improve product adoption and self-service.

My role in this project was lead researcher. The subsequent implementation phase was led by the client’s internal teams.

Pre-research activities:

  • Conduct workshops with subject matter experts to develop journey map hypotheses and identify knowledge gaps
  • Review existing customer research
  • Receive product demos from product owners

Customer research activities:

  • Conduct 3-month-long diary study with new customers, including multiple phone interviews with each participant
  • Communicate research findings to the project team throughout study
  • Analyze diaries and phone interview findings

Journey map activities:

  • Organize research insights into themes
  • Develop customer journey map, including key themes, opportunities, touchpoints, and customer sentiment
  • Socialize final journey map throughout organization
  • Consult on new customer communication strategy and tactical plans

During this project, I worked with a wide cross-section of the organization: sales representatives, customer service representatives, marketing communication specialists, product designers, product owners, marketing researchers, executive leadership, and other business stakeholders.

My primary client (and research partner) was the new customer marketing communication manager.

The entire planning, research, and mapping phase took approx. 10 months to complete.

Step 1: Discovery

Duration: 1 month

Prior to this project, I had a limited understanding of the current state customer onboarding experience.

My first step for this project was to learn everything the organization already knew. To do this, I assembled multiple workshops with customer-facing groups to create empathy maps (i.e., think, feel, do).

Next, I tracked down prior research and thinking to help me assemble a clearer picture of the current experience.

Step 2: Journey Map Draft

Duration: 2 months

To sort out everything I had gathered so far, I created a draft of the journey map. I did this prior to conducting any customer research because I wanted a visual to help me:

  • Identify knowledge gaps
  • Identify assumptions to evaluate

I socialized this early draft with key stakeholders to find more gaps and develop additional hypotheses.

Step 3: Diary Study

Duration: 4 months

In my customer research plan, I outlined my research approach, target audience, recruiting methodology, and overall research objectives.

Once the research plan was approved, next I created a screener and discussion guides. I recruited 26 new customers via an email invitation prior to them using the product the first time.

The diary study included 2 components:

  • Written diary
  • Phone interviews at key points in the journey (i.e., before using product the first time, while using product, study wrap-up)

I used Google Docs for the customer diaries, which allowed me to observe diary entries in real time and add questions or comments along the way.

Participants documented every time they used the product (what they did and when), their experience using it, and how each experience made them feel (sentiment).

To bring along business stakeholders and help them stay connected to the research, I led bi-weekly status meetings to share the raw findings.

Over the 3-month study, I collected more than 2,000 diary entries.

Step 4: Research Analysis

Duration: 2 months

At the conclusion of the study, I exported all diary entries into a spreadsheet.

I hand-coded each entry for:

  • Activity
  • Touchpoints
  • Sentiment (positive, neutral, negative)
  • Emotion (e.g., happy, frustrated)
  • Theme
  • Sub-theme
  • Journey stage (e.g., beginning, middle)

If more than half of the participants documented the same theme (e.g., frustration about a particular topic), I included it as a key finding for the journey map.

Step 5: Journey Map + Strategy

Duration: 2 months

In examining dozens of themes and emotions, very clear patterns emerged. I used a lot of sticky notes to help me see higher-level insights and relationships.

Next, I charted the participants’ emotions, key activities, and communications during each stage of their journey.

I used Visio to create the journey map.

The final journey map measured 48”H x 42”W (printed in full-color on poster paper), and included several visuals to reinforce the themes, sub-themes, and journey stages.

Next, my client partner and I boiled down the research into a single key insight (a North Star everyone could rally behind), and then collaboratively developed a 3-prong communication strategy to better support and engage new customers going forward.

Step 6: Knowledge Transfer

Duration: Ongoing

The final step was transferring the knowledge gained during the study to rest of the organization. In many cases, the journey map validated information client stakeholders had heard anecdotally. Other times, stakeholders were surprised by certain customer behaviors or attitudes.

Since the completion of the journey map, this client has made dozens of significant changes to the new customer experience, plus prioritized several new initiatives for the coming year.

An early business outcome was the significant improvement in email open-rates and click-through rates as the direct result of more relevant, useful communication.

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Author: Kristine Remer

Kristine Remer is a CX insights leader, UX researcher, and strategist in Minneapolis. She helps organizations drive significant business outcomes by finding and solving customer problems. She never misses the Minnesota State Fair and loves dark chocolate mochas, kayaking, escape rooms, and planning elaborate treasure hunts for her children.