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.
- In 2021, a leader in the moving and storage container space was eager to transform its customer experience.
- After observing in-depth customer research, their team used journey mapping workshops to brainstorm ideal experiences.
- The team walked away with the foundation for a multi-year vision and concrete ideas for large and small innovations.
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:
- A Zoom kickoff meeting with 4 members of the 1–800-PACK-RAT team
- 1:1 interviews with 3 executive stakeholders to understand their short-term and long-term goals for the company and its customer experience
- 1:1 interviews with 3 sales reps to better understand key personas, customer flows, and known/assumed pain points
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.
Based on audience criteria defined during the discovery phase, we recruited:
- A mix of recent 1–800-PACK-RAT customers and those of similar services
- A mix of long-distance move customers and storage customers
- A mix of desktop and mobile users
After scheduling the participants, we were ready to dive into the research phase.
We conducted all customer interviews via Zoom. Sessions lasted about 1 hour and followed this general structure:
- Introduction to the study and session
- Interview about their recent moving/storage needs and experience, including the digital experience
- Observation of participants demonstrating steps in their flow, summarizing relevant information, and completing key tasks
The interview portion of the session included questions to help understand:
- What prompted their need for a container
- What types of competitive research they did
- How they completed and managed their booking
- What touchpoints they interacted with (website, phone call, email, etc.)
- The continuity of their overall experience
Here are examples of interview questions we asked participants:
- Could you tell me the story of your move/storage needs, and how [1–800-PACK-RAT] fit into that?
- How did moving/storing with [1–800-PACK-RAT] compare to other moving or storage solutions you have used previously?
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.
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:
- Chief Digital & Technology Officer
- SVP of Pricing & Revenue Management
- SVP of Sales & Marketing
- Senior Sales Supervisor
- Director of Ecommerce/Customer Experience
- Ecommerce Product Owner
- User Experience/Brand Designer.
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.
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.
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:
- Define the 5 main stages in the containerized moving/storage process
- List 1–800-PACK-RAT’s internal goals for each stage
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:
- List the specific steps the user took.
- Define the customer’s goals and touchpoints.
- Identify the customer’s thoughts and emotions.
- Note friction points and pain points.
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:
- Brainstormed ways to remove instances of frustration
- Explored ways to add delight
- Individually sketched detailed solutions
- Discussed and combined their solution ideas to build a new journey
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 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.”
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.
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.
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:
- 9 customer need statements that summarized customers’ top goals and motivations when interacting with the service.
- 3 current journey maps of the containerized moving and storage experience for key customer segments.
- 2 ideal journey maps that turned current frustrations into future instances of delight.
- 15 innovation opportunities generated from the ideal journeys, prioritized by relative effort and impact.
- 40+ content ideas to improve the short-term customer experience, all mapped to journey stages and informed by user interviews.
How did the 1–800-PACK-RAT team describe the outcomes and benefits of the project after it was complete?
- A brand/UX designer remarked how the project “produced curated ideas and helped the team align on a vision.”
- A C-suite officer appreciated how the project “gave us a breakdown of actionable experiences for each journey phase.”
- And an e-commerce manager called the project “hands down amazing [at producing] clear feedback, unbiased discussion and action items.”
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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