Design great customer experiences - customer journey for mass participation events -

A typical customer journey for mass participation events

80% of US executives said that their brand delivered superior customer experiences. But only 8% of their customers agreed. So why is customer experience so misunderstood? And how can we learn from this and design great customer experiences?

This Bain & Co research is slightly dated now but I believe the core issue still remains. Too many customer experiences make total sense to the organisation that created them. After all ‘it’s just the way we do things around here’. But these priorities and processes are usually far less compelling to the customers who have to endure them.


Because despite all the talk about customer insight and big data, and all the money spent on research and segmentation, the foundations of decision making haven’t evolved. The customer experience is still being looked at inside-out. Assumptions, silos and competing priorities are shaping the decisions.

So if we are to successfully transform how communities engage with sport and physical activity, we need to do something different. We need to start designing our processes, and hence making decisions, outside-in.

Outside-in design starts with conviction

“We should not underestimate the scale of the change that is needed across the sector, but we should also see this as an opportunity to do what we do well even better. It is the beginning of an exciting journey, but the transformation will not happen overnight.” 
Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Sport Tourism & Heritage

This week the government released the first annual report for their Sporting Future strategy. This strategy seeks to put the customer at the heart of government and organisational decision-making. But this shift isn’t easy, because it is both a strategic and operational challenge. The strategic challenge is that an organisation’s culture needs to be based on a strong conviction that customer-centricity is the right way to win. You can read more about the need for strong conviction here.

Once you have that conviction you can tackle the operational challenges of designing events, programmes and experiences from the customer’s perspective.

By way of introduction, consider this. Would a customer design a gym that is closed when they finish a long day or night at work? Gym Group didn’t think so and they now have nearly 80 gyms that use a 24-7 access model. Or would a customer design a booking process where they book a strange hotel somewhere in a strange city without asking other people for advice? TripAdvisor didn’t think so and now over 50% of travellers read hotel reviews before they book.

The customer journey

To keep the example simple, let’s use the linear customer journey for mass participation events. At the top level, all participants go through 4 stages.

1.Sign-up – customers look for, or hear about, potential events, review their options and then decide to register

2.Build up – once accepted they plan their training plan, buy kit, manage injuries and plan/book their travel

3.Race day – first they have to get to the start line (usually via the carpark and loos), complete the race and then find drinks, friends and their kit before heading home

4.Review – once the race is over there’s still time to share their experiences, decide if they like their race photos and then consider if they will return next time

Depending on the event, this journey can take several months or it can all happen in a weekend. But that’s not the point. All these components influence whether your customer will come back again and/or tell their friends to enter next year. As a result, the financial benefits of a high retention rate can hinge on experiences that have nothing to do with the race itself.

How to design great customer experiences outside-in 

So how do we take an outside-in approach and design great customer experiences? Sporting experiences that our customers will rave about?

4 tips to help you design great customer experiences

  1. Listen to your customers
  2. Map their customer journey
  3. Bring the customer journey map to life
  4. Complete the loop

Listen to your customers

The first step is to tune into what current and potential customers are already saying about their experiences. What are they saying in your surveys and on social media or review sites? What aspects of their journey are they talking about most, and is the sentiment of their comments positive or negative? If you have a small number of customers you may be able to collect and monitor this feedback manually. If it gets too much, automated solutions like MyCustomerLens can help you focus your time on taking action.

Map their customer journey

Once you understand what your customers are trying to do, and how they feel about it, you can start to map out their journey. For example:
how they actually discovering your event, facility or programme?
who do they talk to before making a decision?
how do they get there and what makes the journey easier or harder?
what impact do staff or volunteers have on their experience?

Using the 4 top level stages mentioned above, I get clients to map out the journey on a wall using post-it notes. Crucially, these notes must capture the customers actual words or actions. The risk here is that this becomes an internal process, with people defaulting to how you want or expect customers to behave. To reduce this risk, you can:
– invite real customers to be part of the session
– use an external facilitator who can challenge anything that isn’t supported by customer insight
– bring in an extra staff member who’s sole role is to be the ‘voice of the customer’

Bring the customer journey map to life

Completing a customer journey map can bring a sense of relief and excitement to the team. Relief that the head scratching and debate is over, and excitement that the resulting map immediately shows opportunities for improvement.

Bringing the map to life means sharing it around the team, and your wider ecosystem of partners, so that everyone can stay on the same page. Teams will start to see how small changes in processes, timing or communication can have a significant impact on the customer’s experience. Rather than firefighting to fix individual issues, they can focus on addressing the root causes of good and bad experiences.

As a result they become empowered to take actions that lead to you getting and keeping more customers. Retention and revenues go up, costs go down.

Complete the loop

Of course being customer-led is an on-going process. So you need to complete the loop by continuing to monitor and compare customer feedback. Do customers feel differently about their experiences now? Are there other issues that are still preventing them from becoming raving fans? How have the changes impacted on their loyalty and your outcomes?

If you’d like to discuss how you can automate how you collect and analyse customer feedback, or how you can run your own customer journey mapping sessions, please get in touch. You can use the contact form on this website or reach me through LinkedIn. I’m always happy to chat and bounce ideas around.