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A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Perspectives on Customer Journey Mapping: Part 2

The Omni-Brand Customer Journey

Omni-channel customer journeys of the type laid out in Part 1 of this blog entry dominate much of the  e-commerce thought leadership conversation these days.  As we have developed customer journey mapping methodologies within our own practice, however, we have discovered that omni-brand customer journeys occur more and more frequently.  The omni-brand customer journey represents a different problem-solving paradigm for most brand teams.   As a result, omni-brand mapping delivers insights (and typically some nasty surprises) that the brand teams  never even suspected.

This journey, for example, engaged six major brands at multiple touch points across multiple channels.  The quality and smoothness of the journey varies significantly from one brand or one touch point to another.  Here is a top-level view of the omni-brand journey, identifying the various touch points and indicating via color the effect on a brand’s affinity for that single encounter.

omnigraphic blog imbed


The experience raises a host of yet-to-be-answered questions for brands involved in this type of experience.  Brands must ask:

  1. Whose customer, exactly, is this consumer?
  2. How do we get an authentic view of the end-to-end experience?
  3. How do we work together to eliminate points of friction?
  4. How do we measure the efficacy of the overall experience?
  5. Do we even care about the overall experience?

Brands should certainly care about this kaleidoscopic experience, since positive and negative experiences with one brand have a carry-over effect on others.  Amazon, for example, might be incurring expense because Samsung’s out-of-the box experience drives returns.  AT&T’s retail website experience harms Apple’s handset sales.  Amazon’s website experience drives AT&T’s customer retention.  Without an omni-brand journey map, many of these cause-and-effect relationships remain invisible.

From a consumer’s perspective, the overall experience could be greatly improved by better coordination. The greatest points of friction lie within the individual brand experiences as often as they do in the transitional points.  Mega brands will certainly find it easier to focus on their own knitting before venturing out into the world of inter-brand improvement initiatives.  Yet this kind of omni-brand experience leaves a consumer with several puzzling questions:

  • How is it that Amazon can access and present AT&T’s account information and upgrade options so much more simply and effectively than can AT&T itself?
  • Who designed (and evidently blessed) the out-of-box experience for Samsung’s S5?
  • How many customers have been victims of the fatal “lapsed ID” flaw in Apple’s eco-system?

To help the brands understand the issues, we lay out the detailed narrative for the journey.  It explains from the persona’s viewpoint  how satisfaction with the experience oscillates by touch point.

Touch 1/ AT&T: This journey starts with an email from AT&T informing me that I am eligible for an upgrade. The email contains a large yellow button saying Upgrade Now.  I click it.

Touch 2/ AT&T: I arrive at att.com.  Even though I have clicked directly through from a personalized marketing email, there is nothing on the landing page that relates to the Upgrade offer or indicates in any way that it knows who I am or why I am there.  It invites me to log in.  I do so.  Still nothing related to the email offer.

I wander around the site and eventually find banner ads for Next, AT&T’s upgrade program.

I find the new iPhones and click into one of them to investigate the upgrade information.

It asks for my phone number. I enter it.  The site tells me I cannot upgrade over the web, I must go to a store.  Seriously?  But of course it’s AT&T, and thanks for wasting my time. Again.

Touch 3.i/AT&T: A few days later, I go to the store with my daughter, who is also on my plan and wants a new phone for Christmas.

We are greeted and logged in.  There are 17 people ahead of us and the greeter can give me no indication of the wait time.  I ask if she can text me when my name is close to the top.  She says she will and does so a little over an hour later.

Touch 3.ii/ AT&T: We drive back to the store.  A young man introduces himself as Josh and asks how he can help.

From this point, the store experience is all a consumer could ask for.  Josh is knowledgeable and has  his own idea of service (which from my experience AT&T could never have taught him). This guy goes way beyond the call of duty.  We buy my daughter a phone, but I do not re-up because my iPhone4 insists on using an old gmail account as my Apple ID.  iTunes recognizes it, but always wants a password.  Since the account no longers exists, there is no password.

Josh acknowledges my dilemma, but tells me I’ll need to call Apple’s Customer Service to get it resolved.  There is no point in upgrading my phone when its capabilities are limited by my inability to download new apps or update existing ones.  So I walk out of the store without having purchased a new phone for me.

Touches 4-5/ Apple: Apple’s customer service (as delivered via 45 minutes of online chat) is unable to resolve the invalid ID problem. It is a (fatal) system flaw, they conclude.  It ends my love-hate relationship with Apple, since I can no longer download updates or use iCloud or be a full-functioning citizen of the Appleverse.

Touch 6/ Amazon:  Serendipitously, I get an email from Amazon a couple of weeks later.

It lays out holiday offers, one of which is the Samsung Galaxy S5.  This is what my daughter had bought, and she liked the way it worked.

By signing her up for another 2-year contract with AT&T, we had paid “only” $199 for her phone.

I am an Amazon Prime member, however, and Amazon was offering the AT&T-contracted S5 for $49.  How could I say No?  I click through to the website.

Touch 7/ Amazon: I select the $49 option, then the type of plan (Individual, Family, or No plan).

Then I select “Upgrade phone with an existing plan”.

The page asks me to input my phone number so that it can check eligibility with AT&T.  I do so.  It does so.  (Strange how AT&T would not allow me to upgrade over the web, but I can upgrade from within Amazon.com.)

Amazon then presents me with the features of my AT&T plan, and I opt to increase my data allocation.

Then it asks me if I want any of the accessories presented.  I look at several of the cases and add one to the cart.

I click on the checkout button, confirm my order and viola, simple.

Touch 8/ Amazon: Moments after placing my order, I get a pair of emails from Amazon with confirmation, shipment tracking, and set-up/activation instructions.  (Amazon may frequently be criticized for its labor policies, but its customer experience is breathtakingly efficient.)

Touch 9/ UPS: I click on the Track Order link in the Amazon email several times over the next 48 hours and track my shipment’s progress on the UPS site.

Touch 10/ UPS: Two days later (free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime), my S5 arrives on time and undamaged.

Touch 11/ Amazon: Amazon has shipped the product, so the packaging is secure and stable and the I am glad to see the contents of the box all damage-free.  (I hate the hassle of returns.)

Touch 12/ Samsung: The out-of-the-box experience belongs to Samsung and is less than optimal.  I am as far from an engineer as it is possible to get, so any assumption made by the out-of-box experience team about basic skills/knowledge are likely invalid for someone like me.  I represent the lowest level of aptitude and should therefore be the target user for out-of-box experience design.

I get the product out and manage to plug it into my computer to charge.  No light flickers and nothing buzzes, however, so I suspect I have screwed up.  Indeed, I dig into the box and find a battery I should have installed.  There is a quick-start guide in the box, but it includes no instruction on how to install the battery.

Touch 13/ Google: I have to run a Google search in order to find the online version of the owner’s manual for the S5 and then look up battery installation instructions within that document.

Touch 14/ AT&T: The search results list a link to a PDF on the AT&T site and (surprisingly to me) it is the correct document.

Touch 15.i/ Samsung: I have great difficulty opening the back of the phone, since my fingernails are filed flat.  I have no leverage and am afraid to pry too hard for fear of breaking the back of the phone completely.  I persevere and eventually get it in.  I see there is also a slot for the new AT&T SIM card that came with the phone.  The owner’s manual indicates a slot to accommodate the card.  I look at the device itself and see that there are two tiny flanges that appear to be the guides for sliding in the SIM.  I try half a dozen times to insert it with no luck.  I can’t believe I have the only misaligned SIM slot ever created, so I keep trying to understand where I am going wrong.  Eventually, I try inserting the card below rather than above the slot and lo and behold it slides right in!  That, certainly, could have been much better illustrated and explained for the idiots among us.

Touch 15.ii/ Samsung: I am now able to charge the phone and I plug it in and wait for it to charge.  This takes several hours, and I resume the set-up process the next day.  For someone who has been traumatized by life as a customer of Apple/AT&T for the last decade, I am amazed at the smoothness and ease of getting the S5 operational.  The app installation process is a breeze.

Touch 16/ Apple: My only struggle comes in trying to copy my contact information from the iCould.  Apple has effectively banished me from its eco-system.  So I am forced to manually load my contact information into the S5.  This takes time, but I do it incrementally as I need to, and it’s no big hassle.

Touch 17 – 18/ Samsung: My delight (relief) and no longer being subjected to Apple’s archaic iTunes/iCould/iWorld is so great that I would willingly have spent a week entering contacts into the S5.  So the Samsung on-boarding process makes up for its out-of-the-box laziness and I am thrilled with the product experience.  Learning the Android world has been both interesting and enjoyable.  It has been (and will continue to be for a long while) a journey of discovery.  The phone itself is a wonder and the battery life is, compared to the iPhone, astounding.

Touch 19 – 20/ Amazon: Amazon follows up with an email inviting me to provide feedback on the delivery/packaging.  I go to a survey and record my satisfaction.

-Roger Beynon, CSO, Usability Sciences


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