Adaptive Path’s Brandon Schauer, who pioneered experience maps, defines them as “visual diagrams that illuminate the holistic customer experience, demonstrating the highs and lows people feel while interacting with your product or service.”
We at mStoner believe that experience maps are a great addition to any higher ed marketing strategy. They help us understand how audiences’ expectations, emotions, and thinking ebb and flow through a major phase of their relationships with our clients. For example, an experience map could illustrate the enrollment process of prospective students, or the process graduating students go through to become employed alumni.
As part of a higher ed website strategy, experience maps identify what information is most important to your visitors at different points in time, as well as the best mix of media and message that will present information most effectively. This leads to useful and relevant content, both where and when visitors expect it. At mStoner, we’ve used experience maps to improve web experiences, but their value extends much further.
By the time students graduate from a college or university, they’ve likely had thousands of touchpoints with their alma mater. Some of those happen on the web, but many happen in person, in print, via email, and on the phone. Similarly, the communication processes governing how individuals get things done with an institution span all channels — a prospective student may read a print viewbook, apply online, and then attend an information session in person.
Using experience maps can help you understand what the conversation with your customers looks like more holistically, beyond the specific communications pieces and channels you are directly responsible for. For example, an experience map can help print designers, web strategists, and campus tour guides get a clearer view of how their efforts to encourage students to register for and attend a campus tour are interdependent, and how to optimize their communications and process for the best possible visitor experience.
You are only as good as your weakest link, and you may not realize what that weak link is. Experience maps can help reveal the biggest pain points and gaps in your audience’s experience.
Are students frequently arriving in your office agitated from an earlier interaction with another department? Is your beautiful new website making visitors happy, only to ship them off to a painful legacy system that wipes that smile away? Is your email campaign design winning awards but ultimately stymied because of poorly executed landing pages?
Experience maps can help uncover and illustrate where the quality of people’s experiences dip — and prioritize the improvements that will have the most impact.
Everyone agrees that silos need breaking and that communication should be better, but rarely do we move beyond consensus to action. Experience maps take these abstract ideas and put them through their paces by visually identifying where the divides exist, how they affect your customers’ satisfaction, and who is empowered to make positive change. They help you move your internal dialogue from “we need to do a better job communicating” to “the student affairs and alumni teams will address these specific experience pain points involving graduation.”
‘Find Your Way Through Experience Mapping’ by Voltaire Santos Miran
‘Improving the Virtual Experience for Prospective Students’ by Doug Gapinski
‘Introducing Experience Maps’ webinar by Voltaire Santos Miran
‘Map It Out: The Path to Better Digital Engagement with Prospects’ webinar by Shannon Lanus