Identifying the Right Customers and Context

Building the Foundation for a Customer Scenario

July 24, 2003

Before you begin a Customer Scenario® Mapping exercise, you should capture the context of the scenario. This report explains the five key elements to capture: customer, scenario, desired outcome, conditions of satisfaction, and customer context.


Clients have now been using our Customer Scenario® Mapping methodology, in its various incarnations, for over a dozen years. Customer scenarios have consistently been instrumental in identifying and capturing how customers want to do business with organizations, as well as in prioritizing the new offerings and IT projects required to support these customer scenarios.

Clients often ask, “How do you get your Customer Scenario Mapping session off to the right start?” As a refresher for those of you who have trained in this method, and as an introduction for those of you who have not yet experienced Customer Scenario Mapping, here are the five elements that must be captured before the actual mapping begins: 1) the Customer, 2) the Scenario, 3) the Desired Outcome, 4) the Conditions of Satisfaction, and 5) the Customer Context. If you effectively flesh out these elements, the mapping exercise not only goes much better, but the results are immeasurably more valuable--and more actionable!

Start with the Customer

The customer that you identify for the purpose of Scenario mapping should be representative of a group or segment of customers who have common goals, common motivations, and common behaviors.

For example, telecommunications managers might all be interested in an “I want to implement a wireless network” scenario. When a mapping team specifies the unique customer to map, the team members(1) are taking the commonalities that all customers in that role might share and then personalizing them into a single entity. For example, all telecom managers are computer-savvy. They are all working people, perhaps in mid- to large-size companies. They have, by definition, management responsibilities. Understanding the key customer segment for whom the scenario being mapped is vital to making it easy to define a realistic representative named customer.

Scenarios are always mapped from a single customer’s point of view. The customer is given a name and context (see below), and his or her path through the scenario (see below) is followed faithfully. Often, mapping participants ask why we are so adamant that the customer be individualized. Simple--if you attempt to follow all possible routes, you’ll never reach your destination. Over the years, we have found that it is much more valuable to think about the scenario from a single point of view instead of trying to accommodate all the different steps that different customers might want to go through. For example, in a consumer scenario, customers might want to log onto a Web Site, or call a contact center, or email an order. An individual will typically choose one of these methods.

It is also important to create a customer that, realistically, can achieve the goal of the scenario. Several mapping teams in our history have chosen to represent the most contrary, impossible-to-please, stubborn customers in a segment. Attempting to figure out what steps this customer would actually be willing to take was an exercise in frustration. It’s always best to start out with the idea that you actually can succeed!

Finally, one of the most effective uses of Customer Scenario maps is the ongoing storytelling that occurs after the actual mapping session. Over and over, we have heard mapping participants, weeks after the actual workshop, saying things like, “Well, we were planning to design a new way to do ‘x,’ but we realized that Ted [the customer that had been mapped] really wouldn’t care about that. So, instead, we’re giving Ted the 24x7 access that he really wants.” Be sure to define a customer that will be an engaging and worthy hero in his or her ongoing story.

Tips for Identifying the Customer:

  • Start with a key customer segment--one that is strategic to your business.
  • Determine the commonalities all or most customers in that segment share.
  • Pick an identity that is representative of the customers in that segment, easy to remember, and that offers opportunities to realistically achieve the scenario’s goal.

Identify the Scenario

A Customer Scenario® is a set of tasks that a particular group of customers wants to do in order to accomplish their desired outcome. Deciding which scenarios to map is based on the target customer segment for whom you have created a representative customer. What are this segment’s chief areas of pain when doing business with your company? Where are there the biggest opportunities for improvement and for offering a better Quality of Customer Experience (QCESM)?

What’s the right granularity for a scenario? The right scope of a scenario is larger than a use case (e.g., placing an order), but smaller than a strategic plan (e.g., retiring in 20 years). Think of a scenario as a project--planning for retirement; moving your company to a new location; selecting and installing new systems; buying a new car. Good examples of customer scenarios include:

  • I want to buy a refrigerator
  • I want to upgrade my company’s software licenses
  • I want to implement a wireless network
  • I want to exchange the gas grill I received as a gift

Note that each scenario begins with “I want.” And no customer “wants” to…

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