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Partnering with Make-A-Wish to Design Experiences that Deliver Hope and Strength

When asked whether she would recommend customer journey mapping to other nonprofit organizations, Dina Thachet said, “Absolutely!”

Dina, the Medical Case Manager at Make-A-Wish Illinois, continued, “The customer journey mapping process gave us the ability to visually see the work that we do and to validate the things that we know, believe, or assume to be true. The ability to take a step back and look at where we do well and where we have room for improvement was invaluable and re-energizing.”

Like many nonprofit organizations, Make-A-Wish Illinois wanted to create a bigger impact for the people they serve — but the 35-year-old organization felt stuck. In order to grant more life-changing wishes for critically ill children and their families, they needed to re-examine their wish granting process.

When Make-A-Wish met Highland’s Customer Experience team, they knew they had found the right partner to help them design a more impactful wish experience.

With an ambitious and important goal of increasing the medical and emotional impact of a wish experience, Highland and Make-A-Wish decided to create a customer journey map. These maps show the path of a customer in relation to the organization. In the case of Make-A-Wish, their “customer” is wish kids and their families.

The Customer Journey Mapping Process

David Whited, Highland’s CX Practice Lead, says that, “The true gift of journey mapping is distributed cognition.” He continued, “Getting what’s in everybody’s head and in everyone’s computer out into the real world feels so good. It gets critical information out of the organizational silos and into the open so you can see it.”

Make-A-Wish’s customer journey mapping project took about six weeks to complete. During this time, Make-A-Wish and Highland worked together on the following milestones:

  • Kick-Off Meeting: An initial meeting between all members of the project team to clarify who the customer segment is that we want to understand and what the point of view of the map should be.

  • Developing a Research Packet: An overview of data provided by Make-A-Wish that would help create an inclusive, effective map; we needed to narrow down many pages of data to produce one succinct research packet that everyone on the team could study prior to the actual mapping exercise.

  • Customer Interviews: Interviews with 8–12 constituents (in this case, wish kids and families) to understand their unique customer journeys.

  • Journey Mapping Workshop: A multi-day workshop to identify the stages in the customer journey and understand the customer’s thoughts, feelings, and touch points along the way.

  • Strategy Session: A follow-up session to the Journey Mapping Workshop, in which Highland and Make-A-Wish worked together to clarify the insights that came out of the journey mapping process and what actions to prioritize; together, we co-created a timeline and a plan for rolling out the most critical next steps.

Through the customer journey mapping process, Make-A-Wish identified opportunities for improving the wish experience that they couldn’t have seen otherwise.

David shared, “The most powerful moment for me was recognizing the critical differences between a high impact wish and a low impact wish. The most powerful wish granters form these amazing bonds with wish kids; that relationship became the springboard for increasing the wish kid’s health and resiliency.”

After the customer journey mapping process, Dina shared:

““We walked away with many new opportunities to focus on areas we haven’t or didn’t even realize we should to truly build resilience and promote psychosocial healing. As an organization that values progress, we have even stronger evidence of what we are doing well that we can share with staff and wish granters to validate their hard work and inspire them to continue.””

The Impact

Armed with powerful evidence and a clear path forward, Make-A-Wish will be making changes to their wish granting process that they anticipate will have a positive impact on the medical and emotional healing for wish kids. A physical customer journey map now lives in the Make-A-Wish Illinois office in downtown Chicago, where it reminds staff to consider the holistic experience of wish families and provides guidance on how best to serve them depending on where they are in the process.

For Highland, this experience demonstrated the true flexibility of the customer journey mapping process. Having led CX workshops in a number of business and revenue-focused settings, we learned that this practice is powerful enough to support the profoundly complex and deeply emotional journey like that of wish families.

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