How do you identify, measure, and resolve pain points and difficulties that your customers experience when they are trying to do some job with your products?

I’m a huge advocate of journey maps as a tool to help you walk in your customers’ shoes in order to better understand the steps they go through to do some job or to achieve some task with your organization. So I was interested to learn more when I stumbled upon an article about hassle maps. Maybe I’m late to the game on this topic, but I thought what I read was an interesting take and perspective on how to understand customer needs and improve jobs to be done.

What are hassle maps? How do they differ from journey maps? And how can you use them to improve the experience?

“Hassle map” is a term/concept coined by Adrian Slywotzky. In an Inc. interview, he defined hassle maps as follows.

Whether you’re talking about a consumer or a corporation, a hassle map defines all of the actual steps that characterize the negative experiences of the customer. Think about these questions: Where are the emotional hot spots, the irritations, the frustrations, the time wasted, the delay? Where are the economic hot spots? And then think about this: What are the ways that businesses can radically improve the hassle map for both the customer and themselves?

Upon initial research, it seemed like hassle maps weren’t as rooted in redesigning customer interactions, per se, as customer journey maps are. They seemed centered more around product innovation and demand creation. In other words, they take jobs to be done and make them simpler through product design and innovation.

What do I mean?

Consider the example of renting videos from Blockbuster and the subsequent evolution to Netflix and OnDemand (or any other video streaming service). Hassle maps visualize the pain of driving to the video store, finding the right video, waiting in line to check out, and then remembering to return the video without incurring late fees! They bring the pain of the experience to life and help paint the picture to support finding a better product solution, one that goes from the more complex to the simpler. These maps are all about solving problems and making life easier for customers through product evolution.

And yet, Netflix isn’t just a product; it’s an experience redesign. So perhaps hassle maps and journey maps are members of the same family – more similar than different.

Not that journey maps don’t solve problems and help simplify the customer experience, but they tend to encompass various aspects of the experience (product, service, and other interactions), not just products, product innovation, and demand creation. (This reminds me of a debate on CustomerThink last year, where several people weighed in on Bob Thompson’s question about whether customer experience is only about interactions or also includes product and price. I do believe product and pricing are simply two other types of interactions customers have with an organization and clearly fall under the customer experience umbrella.) And journey maps focus on more than just the negative experiences.

After reading more about hassle maps, perhaps there’s a broader application of “hassle map thinking,” as Adrian puts it, for other aspects of the customer experience. That’s definitely something to consider. Adrian writes in “The Art of Hassle Map Thinking:”

Each extra step, wasted moment, avoidable risk, needless complication, less-than-optimal solution, awkward compromise, and disappointing outcome is a friction point on the hassle map. And each represents an opportunity for a creative organization to create new demand by eliminating the friction or even reversing it, turning hassle into delight.

Hassle maps reveal the gap between what customers buy and what they really want and need – based on what jobs they are trying to do or tasks they are trying to complete. Adrian notes that that gap is where the opportunity for demand creation lies. But I believe that gap is also where the opportunity for experience (re)design lies.

Adrian writes that there are other types of hassle maps: (1) those that take you through the steps of the process a customer goes through to do something; (2) those that also chart backstage and front-stage people, tools, and systems; and a third one (3) that graphs desirable yet mutually-exclusive customer needs, e.g., price vs. quality, convenience vs. variety, etc. (1) and (2) sound to me like a couple of different approaches to journey mapping. And yet, I feel like hassle maps are a slightly different flavor. I’m conflicted on this, though like I mentioned, they focus on negative experiences and demand creation, whereas journey maps are used for all experiences and process/experience redesign. Both are valuable customer experience tools.

To develop a hassle map, you start by thinking about needs, pain points, and desired outcomes. We absolutely want to think about these things as we design a great customer experience. But, as Adrian outlines in a Fast Company article, Hassle Maps: The Genesis of Demand, hassle maps can be mental constructs (journey maps are not) or literal maps. He states that these maps determine your engineering, design, marketing, partners, and competitors.

There’s no right way to create hassle maps, but he suggests…

  • Look at different personas, as different customer types have different problems, pain points, and desired outcomes. Understand your customers and what drives them crazy about your products.
  • Start by asking what customers hate and what makes them furious. Watching customers is an even better approach. What jobs are they trying to do? What pain points are they experiencing? What problems are they trying to solve?
  • Identify what it’s like to use your products. Consider strengths and weaknesses.
  • Look to other industries and other game changers for inspiring solutions.
  • Then quantify the economics (dollars spent, time wasted, steps required, etc.) for the customer and for the business; what saves money for both?
  • And like journey maps, hassle maps are also not static. Update the maps as technologies and needs evolve.

What’s critical to success here? Understanding customers. T
alking to customers. Listening to customers. Observing customers. Characterizing customers. Empathizing with customers.

Much of what’s written about hassle maps is about how these maps are critical to demand creation and new product development. Like journey maps, the objective and desired outcome of hassle maps is to simplify and to improve the customer experience. In addition, hassle maps have a grander objective: to develop products that make customers’ lives easier.

Is it time for you to walk in your customers’ shoes as they use your products, identify the painpoints and the frustrations, and develop the next iPod (figuratively speaking)?

I’ll borrow today’s closing quote from “The Art of Hassle Map Thinking”…

When you discover a problem, you discover a business. – Henk Kwakman, CEO, Nestle (Nespresso)