Nick Lockey
Product Strategist & UX Researcher

Mapping customer frictions for an automotive client

The research phase of a multi-part innovation project.

This is part one of a two-part case study. Learn more about the ideation and design sprint phase in part two.

The brief

The client

The captive finance division for a globally recognised automotive group. With over 20 million customers and nearly 17,000 employees, the company serves a wide variety of finance products and automotive brands.

The challenge

To keep stakeholders, staff and products aligned, the client wanted to see exactly where frictions were happening across the customer journey, and how the business may be contributing to these.

The audience

In terms of the end-user, we focussed on customers for two different finance products. We also put the company’s internal users in the spotlight, including front-line and support staff.

Customer experience mapping for an automotive client

My role 

I operated as both the Strategist and UX Research lead within a small cross-disciplinary team, working closely with colleagues from design, project management and client services.

My role encompassed:

  • Workshop facilitation

  • Research

  • Synthesis

  • Design sprint facilitation

  • Report writing

  • Client playback

Approach and objectives

Our approach

This was a multi-stage project with two distinct phases:

Phase 1: Friction mapping

The first phase looked at identifying and documenting the main user goals and frictions from across the customer journey for our two key customer segments. We also needed to explore the internal culture, business goals, corporate infrastructure and marketplace activity to see how these shaped the customer experience.

Phase 2: Ideation and design sprint

The second phase was to turn the frictions we'd identified into concrete actions. Here we took the client through our 'rapid prototyping' workflow consisting of prioritisation workshops, creative ideation sessions, and, ultimately a 5-day design sprint to rapidly turn our frictions into verified solutions for the customers. You can find details of this phase in part 2 of this case study.

Phase 1: Friction mapping

Understand the business goals

What were the strategic objectives for the client and the key stakeholders? What challenges were they trying to overcome? What had they tried before, what channels were being used, what wasn't working, and why?

Understand the marketplace

How did the product fit into the wider competitive landscape? How were competitors approaching similar challenges? Where could we find inspiration outside of the client's immediate industry?

Understand the user experience

What were people actually trying to achieve by using the product? What were their goals and expectations? What was their customer journey like and, crucially, where was it failing, causing them frustration?

Understand the internal factors

How was the organization currently delivering the customer experience? What cultural, technological and human factors were getting in the way of delivering the best possible experience?

Research phase
Customer experience mapping for an automotive client

Leading the immersion workshop

Immersion workshop

An intensive, one-day workshop with nine key client stakeholders to explore the brief, gather requirements and build a top-level view of the current experience.

Here I led the participants through a detailed requirements-gathering exercise and explored key business processes. I then worked with my team to create an initial journey map of the current customer experience.

Customer experience mapping for an automotive client

Stakeholder interviews at the client's HQ

Stakeholder interviews

I participated in 9 x 60-minute interviews with key client stakeholders at their UK headquarters, alternating between lead interviewer and notetaker roles.

This enabled us to:

  • Get the inside track on the business from key players within the organisation (including the COO).

  • Flush out detailed frictions and strategic goals, aligned to specific departments and teams.

  • Identify areas of misalignment within the business that hadn’t come to light in the initial group workshop.

Customer experience mapping for an automotive client

Collaborating with our designer on the desk research

Desk research 

I conducted three days of desk research, synthesising existing business data provided by the client, and conducting self-directed online research.

This included looking at:

  • Internal business reports

  • Existing customer survey data

  • Industry reports, whitepapers and blogs

  • Customer service logs and transcripts

  • Competitor analysis (including UX reviews and ‘wild card’ research with indirect competitors.)

Customer experience mapping for an automotive client

Field observation at a call centre

Field research

We undertook three days of on-location field research, conducting job shadowing and call listening in two different call centres. We also conducted field observations and interviews with front-line staff at two car dealerships. Finally, we also interviewed senior managers and team leaders in these locations to gain a 'big picture' view of customer interactions.

This enabled us to:

  • Witness first-hand what it was like to interact with customers as a member of staff.

  • Gain insight into the wide variety of customer goals they deal with, and the typical frustrations that users encounter.

  • Highlight core frustrations, tech headaches and misaligned KPIs that were impacting the performance of the call handlers.

Customer experience mapping for an automotive client

A customer interview, conducted in their home

Customer interviews and surveys

Here I conducted 30 x 60 minute customer interviews, made up of a mix of remote video interviews and in-person interviews conducted within their homes. Again, I alternated between lead interviewer and notetaker roles.

The interviews focussed on existing, lapsed and renewed customers across our two key demographics, allowing us to get a fully rounded view of the existing user journeys. We followed the ‘Jobs to be Done’ methodology, exploring the broader context of the customer's choices, decisions and experiences.

These were then supported by 100 additional customer surveys, adding breadth to the in-depth qualitative insights we’d gained from the interviews.

Synthesis and map design

Project synthesis

With the research phase complete, I lead the project team in an in-depth, multi-day synthesis session, bringing together the key findings from the research and turning them into actionable insights for the client.

This involved large-scale 'affinity mapping' and 'experience mapping' exercises which involved building up patterns from across all stages of the research. We then aligned these to key nuggets of evidence to support our findings and mapped these across the key customer journey stages.

The final 'friction maps' 

Here I worked with our designer to translate our findings into three highly detailed 'friction maps' for the client. These consisted of a dedicated map for each of our two specific customer types, and then a third 'unified' version bringing all of the observations together. This what the maps covered:

Journey and frictions

We outlined the entire end-to-end customer journey, stage by stage, and then highlighted the key frictions at the points they occurred.

Anxiety levels

We also then charted the anxiety levels across the journey, showing the peaks and troughs of the user's frustrations as they moved through the experience.

Clarity and focus

Taken together, the density of the frictions and the peaks of anxiety helped the client to quickly identify key areas of focus for the business.

Summary report

The map artifacts were accompanied by an in-depth findings and recommendations report. This was in the form of a Keynote deck, designed to be an interactive companion to the friction maps. This enabled the client to:

  • Understand how to read and navigate the maps.

  • Access an executive summary outlining key frictions and their root causes across the journey.

  • Delve into detailed findings for each customer journey phase, arranged into themed chapters and supported by underlying data.

  • Access direct quotes from customers and staff, supported by audio and video evidence.

  • Explore a prioritised list of recommendations and next steps, all based on robust insights.


These insights were presented and explored along with the maps in a 3-hour playback workshop with the client, in which I took the lead presenter role.


Some of the key insights we delivered...

Customer frictions
Key areas of focus prioritised for the business
Unique map design
artifacts created
Phase 2: ideation and design sprint

With the initial research phase of the project complete, we then moved into the 'rapid prototyping' phase where we sought to turn those insights into concrete actions for the client.

You can read about that in part two of this case study.