The first time I watched this video of Kurt Vonnegut drawing out the shape of Cinderella and other classic stories, I burst out laughing.

Now, anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m pretty reserved. I don’t laugh out loud very often. Who knew that Mr. Vonnegut was so charismatic? But beyond his performance in the video, the substance of what he’s demonstrating relates to how any and every customer experience-obsessed businesses should be looking at their service offerings.

Experience = story

Every experience tells a story. That goes for customer experiences too; every interaction your customer has with your business is a little story unto itself. So knowing stories can be visualized as specific shapes means we can mold the stories we tell in tune with our audience’s—our customers’—feelings.

The story 'Cinderella' drawn out as a series of good and bad events over a period of time

Map out how they should feel

Good stories make us empathize—feel for—the protagonist. Back in the video, Vonnegut calls out ‘good fortune’ and ‘bad fortune’, but these are just externalized ‘good feelings’ and ‘bad feelings’. So the story-shapes map out the protagonist’s narrative and the audience’s experience listening to the story.

Customer journey maps

Customer journey maps, or customer experience maps, do very much the same thing. They represent the different touchpoints a customer interacts with over the course of their service experience. And they help you, as a business, see things from the customer perspective. Your customer is the protagonist whose ‘fortune’ is mapped out over time, and you are the audience member who empathizes with their plight.

The customer experience story, as a series of good and bad events over the course of time.

Audience at the helm

The key difference here is that you also control that plight, and can use your power over the experience and empathy with your customer to create a minimally-painful but still compelling experience story.

Kind of like—if you’ll excuse my half-baked metaphor, here—an open world video game. The protagonist’s fate is in your hands. With customer experience maps, you are both storyteller and audience member.

How copywriters can use an experience map

For writers, understanding the customer journey will help to write copy that is more contextually appropriate. That really understands the customer needs and wants right now.

You prepare the customer for what’s to come, show understanding for any trouble or frustration they might be experiencing (hopefully not caused by your service experience!), answer questions before they show up, and really, just engage with them—talk with them—like a thoughtful, understanding human being.

Mapping out your long game

For a lot of smaller businesses, more traditional medium-sized businesses, this level of depth in service planning can feel like overkill. Or just be too expensive. Or take too long.

So I haven’t worked much with journey maps (yet). But I genuinely think there is such a fantastic opportunity to use tools like this to differentiate.  To develop a thoughtful, intentional, service experience. Set yourself apart—especially if everyone in your industry is currently offering more or less the same service experience. If you believe in what you do, isn’t the long game worth it?

And as a customer yourself, don’t you want those great service experiences too?


These folks know what they’re talking about when it comes to experience mapping. If you’d like more information on how to research and develop your customer journey map, please dig in to some of this fine content:

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