Why you need to map the customer's ecosystem

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Most companies only look at their interactions with the customer, but the customer interacts with many other actors to get the resources they need to get their jobs done.

21st Jul 2021
Associate Director Optima Partners
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Mapping customer ecosystems

The customer sits at the centre of their own ecosystem of providers. You need to map it to identify the best service experience opportunities.

Most companies only look at their interactions with the customer; at what I called 'company pathways' in an earlier post. They use this understanding to improve the interactions in the pathway from their own perspective. They think that is how the customer sees things.

But that isn't how the customer sees things at all. In addition to the interactions with the company, the customer interacts with many other actors to get the resources they need to get their jobs done. The customer looks at all the interactions in their journey and the different actors involved; at the ecosystem. This is a very different perspective.

How do you map a customer ecosystem?

There area number of ways you can map the customer ecosystem.

The technique I have used for the past ten years is Value Network Mapping, which maps the relationships between the different actors in the customer ecosystem and what resources flow between them.

The best Value Network Mapping approach I have seen, and the one I use, is the one Elke den Ouden describes in Chapters 8 & 9 of Advanced Design Methods and in her book, 'Innovation Design: Creating Value for People, Organisations and Society'

Once you understand the bigger picture, you can dive into the bits that interest you the most.

A real example of mapping a customer ecosystem

Let's look at a real example.

A few years ago, as part of a programme for a Bank client, my team analysed the journey associated with the customer job of 'Finance my Home'. The Bank was actually interested in the 'Sell a Mortgage' pathway and how it could better sell mortgages. Although they sound similar, they are actually quite different.

Much to the Bank's surprise, of the 100 key interactions in the customer's Finance my Home journey, the Bank's Sell a Mortgage pathway only accounted for around 30% of them. The majority of interactions were with a dozen other actors in the customer's ecosystem, including a number whose interests were not aligned with the Bank's, e.g. mortgage brokers who provide independent mortgage advice and comparison platforms who allow customers to easily compare different mortgages.

Of the interactions that were not with the bank, the team identified that an additional 10% easily could have been with the Bank if it looked at the journey through the customer's eyes, rather than at the pathway through its own. It also identified that an an additional 30% were with actors that the Bank could potentially have partnered with; that would have been beneficial to the Bank, the partners and to their mutual customers. And finally, that the Bank could have assisted customers with the final 30%, e.g. by providing them with guides, checklists, etc.

The Bank could have increased its engagement with customers from 30% of the interactions during their journey, to 40%, 70%, or even 100%, just by taking a less myopic perspective. Alas, it was only interested in selling mortgages.

Takeaways

  1. Identify all the actors in the customer's ecosystem using Value Network Mapping.
  2. Identify the actors, other than the customer and yourself, that are key to the customer getting their job done. Focus on these.
  3. Identify actors that you would like to replace, that might make potential partners for you, or that you can help the customer with. These provide you with new possibilities.

What do you think? Have you mapped your customer's ecosystem?

This article adapted from an original post on LinkedIn.

 

Replies (8)

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
21st Jul 2021 17:59

Further Reading:
I wrote about the difference between customer journeys and company pathways in an earlier post on...
SHOULD WE MAP CUSTOMER JOURNEYS OR COMPANY PATHWAYS?
https://www.linkedin.com/posts/grahamhill_cx-servicedesign-journeymap-ac...

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
21st Jul 2021 18:00

More Further Reading:
There area number of ways you can map the customer ecosystem. The technique I have used for the past ten years is Value Network Mapping, which maps the relationships between the different actors in the customer ecosystem and what resources flow between them. The best Value Network Mapping approach I have seen, and the one I use, is the one Elke den Ouden describes in Chapters 8 & 9 of Advanced Design Methods (https://www.linkedin.com/posts/grahamhill_cx-servicedesign-journeymap-ac...) and in her book, 'Innovation Design: Creating Value for People, Organisations and Society' (https://elkedenouden.com/).
Once you understand the bigger picture, you can dive into the bits that interest you the most.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Simon Trippier
22nd Jul 2021 14:11

Thank you Dr. Hill.
This post makes so much sense to me, but the thought of doing what you suggest is daunting. Finding out the myriad external factors that lead to a customer interacting with your business can require a huge amount of qualitative and quantitative research that many businsses won't have the patience for. Journey mapping is still very en vogue but it rarely ever looks outside of the touchpoints the customer hits within your business. I would love to see the entire 'ecosystem' being mapped as standard - this is where the value of the information gathered really lies.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Simon Trippier:
Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
04th Aug 2021 15:37

Hi Simon
Although it looks daunting, it isn't.
It can be as easy as sitting down with a sheet of flip chart at your desk, drawing the customer journey and listing all the other actors the customer or you interact with during the journey. The list doesn't have to be long and definitive. It can be just the key actors. You are going to have to choose which ones to exclude in further analysis anyway, so you lose little by keeping the list short. Once you have the list of other actors and the interactions where they may play a role, you can start to identify what it each actor provides the customer or you.
Before you realise it, you will have created an initial value flow map as the foundation for your customer ecosystem.
My advice is just to get started.
You can always ask for help if you get stuck.
Best regards Graham

Thanks (1)
Replying to GrahamHill:
avatar
By Simon Trippier
12th Aug 2021 13:21

Thanks Graham! Certainly something tobe said for pulling out the whiteboard and some highlighter pens. I've enjoyed the drawings youve provided as examples in this article series. Brings to life the ideas and questions you pose .

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Replying to GrahamHill:
avatar
By Simon Trippier
12th Aug 2021 13:21

Thanks Graham! Certainly something tobe said for pulling out the whiteboard and some highlighter pens. I've enjoyed the drawings youve provided as examples in this article series. Brings to life the ideas and questions you pose .

Thanks (0)
Replying to ashleylose07:
Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
04th Aug 2021 15:38

Hi Ashley
You are welcome.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Best regards, Graham

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