Discovery Research Case Study:

Moving Forward: How 1–800-PACK-RAT Used Journey Maps to Start a Customer Experience Transformation

A top moving company interviews customers to understand their journeys — and collaborates to identify big innovations and small wins.



How Do You Achieve a Best-in-Class User Experience?

As the Covid-19 pandemic ignited the U.S. housing market, it added fuel to the already-hot moving and storage container space. 1–800-PACK-RAT is one of the largest players in this industry, landing on the Inc. 5000’s list of fastest-growing companies 7 times in the last 8 years. In late 2020, the North Carolina-based company secured $160 million in financing from The Carlyle Group and PNC Bank to help it increase its market share. With strong competition from PODS®, U-Haul, and others, 1–800-PACK-RAT was eager to find ways to differentiate its service.

In early 2021, 1–800-PACK-RAT’s marketing and technology teams began work on a transformation of the customer experience. This initiative included an overhaul of pricing, order management, and all other backend systems as well as a complete website redesign. To guide this transformation, the teams wanted a concrete, multi-year vision and plan to achieve a best-in-class user experience. Since technology work was underway, this plan would need to include both long-term innovations as well as short-term changes.

1–800-PACK-RAT partnered with Marketade to build the foundation for a customer experience vision based on qualitative discovery research. To get there, our teams collaborated throughout a series of steps over 2 main phases: discovery research followed by journey mapping workshops

Phase 1: Qualitative Discovery Research


Kickoff & Planning

In this initial step, we learned what we needed to plan the project, recruit the right participants, and design the research and outputs to be as impactful as possible. Our steps included:

Excerpts from our discussion guide for interviews with 1–800-PACK-RAT sales agents

Based on what we learned from these discussions, we wrote a plan for our qualitative user research, including detailed recruitment strategies, recruitment screener surveys, and interview discussion guides.


We recruited 10 participants for research interviews. We used a few sources to recruit candidates, including an email to recent 1–800-PACK-RAT customers. To narrow down our pool of candidates and select 10 high-quality, representative participants, we relied on a written questionnaire followed by a phone screen interview.

While our phone screens primarily focused on selecting the best candidates, they also served as mini-research sessions; by the time we finished these interviews, we knew much more about the audience and product and were better prepared to conduct in-depth interviews.

Excerpts of researchers’ notes from recruitment screening interviews

Based on audience criteria defined during the discovery phase, we recruited:

After scheduling the participants, we were ready to dive into the research phase.

Customer Interviews

We conducted all customer interviews via Zoom. Sessions lasted about 1 hour and followed this general structure:

A researcher interviews a recent moving service customer about his journey.

The interview portion of the session included questions to help understand:

Here are examples of interview questions we asked participants:

During the observation section, we asked the participants to screen share while they took us through a re-creation of their research and booking process. In many cases, customers were able to pull up their actual confirmation emails and recall both delights and pain points that arose during the process.

A participant thinks aloud while demonstrating their storage container reservation process.

Once the research was wrapped up, we were ready for the most important step: workshops for collaborative analysis, journey mapping, and solution ideation.

Phase 2: Journey Mapping Workshops

Over 3 days, 10 stakeholders from 1–800-PACK-RAT collaborated via Zoom and Miro to analyze the research, map customer journeys, and prioritize opportunities. The workshop participants represented a diverse set of teams, roles, and seniority levels, including:

Pre-Work & Research Recaps

Prior to the workshops, each team member watched 4–6 research session recordings that we had assigned to them. While observing, they took structured notes based on guidelines that we provided. This homework produced a set of direct research-based observations that set the foundation for our workshop activities.

Each team member watched 4–6 research session recordings prior to the workshops.

To kick off the first day, each team member presented a summary of 1 of their assigned interviews while their colleagues jotted down additional observations.

Workshop participants recap the research sessions they watched.

Customer Needs Analysis

Team members posted their top research observations on a Miro whiteboard. They worked together to sort the notes into groups based on common themes.

To encourage a user-centered approach, the team labeled each group with an “I need” or “I want” statement, such as “I want to know where my container is.” The team then voted for the groupings they felt were most important to address during journey mapping.

Next, the team built out the groupings into 9 full customer need statements using the format of “I want/need _____, so that I can _____.” For example: “I want … to know where my container is so that I can … plan my move-in date at my destination.” For each need statement, the team used their research observations to generate 4 to 8 “so that I can” benefits, reaching over 50 benefits in total.

Workshop participants collaborate to create customer need statements based on research observations.

These statements summarized customers’ goals and motivations and helped the 1–800-PACK-RAT team start to see what it needs to achieve a best-in-class user experience.

They were now ready to start mapping the existing customer journeys.

Current Customer Journeys

To start the journey mapping process, we worked together as a full team to:

We then broke into small groups to build the journey maps. Each group took a customer segment (e.g. long-distance mover) and completed the following steps for each of the 5 journey stages:

A team maps steps within one stage of an existing customer journey. The most frustrating steps appear at the bottom of the map, the most delightful or frictionless steps at the top.

Ideal Customer Journeys

Once they’d built their existing customer journey, each group created an ideal customer journey for their segment by following these steps that we’ve adapted from Jared Spool’s approach:

Conceptual maps to guide teams during their ideal journey creation.

Innovation Ideation & Solution Prioritization

Groups presented their existing and ideal journey maps to the rest of the team. During each presentation, team members identified the biggest opportunities to transform the customer experience.

The final journey maps for one customer segment. For each of the customer’s 5 journey stages, the team captured: 1. Goals, 2. Touchpoints, 3. Thoughts, 4. Feelings, 5. Current Steps, 6. Pain Points, 7. Opportunities, and 8. Ideal Steps.

The last 2 workshop exercises helped the team turn their journey maps into actionable solutions. First, we facilitated a “bang/buck” activity where team members . One by one, we discussed the innovation opportunities that rose to the top in the journey mapping presentations. The team plotted each opportunity on an impact/effort matrix. By the end of the activity, the team had organized the opportunities by relative impact and effort, making the prioritization of efforts easier and more objective; e.g. “let’s prioritize high impact/low effort opportunities over low impact/high effort ones.”

The team organizes innovation ideas based on relative impact and effort. The result helps the team prioritize work and distinguish between short-term wins and long-term ventures.

Finally, we led a session to brainstorm new content ideas for short-term wins. The team generated over 40 specific ideas for new content on the website or to be pushed through communication channels; for example, a content piece on “how to pack your container.”

These final exercises helped the team convert their journey maps into actionable solutions.

The team sorted the ideas into the 5 journey stages to show where customers would most benefit from that content. They then voted on the content ideas based on estimated impact to help prioritize the next steps.

Content brainstorming, organized by journey stage
Content brainstorming, with votes

Summary Report

After the workshops, we wrote a report that summarized the project’s process and outputs. The report captured digital versions of the journey maps, the opportunity matrix, and content brainstorming — and explained how the team arrived at these outputs.

Contents of the summary report we delivered after the workshop.

By itself, the report would have done little to drive change at 1–800-PACK-RAT. But it provided a useful reference point for a team that participated actively in the workshops and throughout the project.

Outcome: Alignment & Actionable Insights

In a little over a month, Marketade and 1–800-PACK-RAT had conducted in-depth customer research and used that research to generate a series of actionable outputs:

How did the 1–800-PACK-RAT team describe the outcomes and benefits of the project after it was complete?

After the project, the 1–800-PACK-RAT team would use the need statements and journey maps as the foundation for a multi-year customer experience vision. And they would begin their efforts to transform the experience by implementing the product innovations and content ideas that they had agreed on and prioritized in the workshops.

About the Project

  • Industry: Consumer services; moving and storage
  • Platform: Website
  • Audience type: Consumers
  • Specific audiences: Recent moving and storage customers
  • Methods: User interviews
  • Length: 2 months
  • Stakeholders: Marketing team; technology team
  • Company size: 275 employees
  • Company location: Wake Forest, NC

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