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  1. Government Computing
February 16, 2010

Customer journey mapping: a route to insights

A route to insights

Customer journey mapping is giving some public bodies a deeper understanding of what their customers need, writes Tracey Caldwell

Customer journey mapping (CJM) is not just a ‘nice to have’; it is essential if public bodies are to meet central government requirements for them to understand their citizens.

Local authorities need to obtain a deeper insight into citizen interaction than has been uncovered by traditional market research, and Cabinet Office guidance on CJM in Customer Journey Mapping: An introduction, comments: “Understanding the customer in this way is a relatively new challenge for the public sector. Customer journey mapping is a key strategic tool that can help to meet this challenge.”

Some authorities are looking at CJM as a way of addressing National Indicator 14, one of 198 against which local government will be assessed, to reduce ‘avoidable contact’ such as calls from people to chase progress on service requests.

CJM maps the route people take as they interact with services, taking quantitative measures such as number of contacts made and the time taken to access a service. What distinguishes it from data that might be gleaned from customer relationship management systems is its equal focus on emotional insights about the citizen’s experience. The goal is to mix quantitative approaches with qualitative, experiential data, providing a dispassionate analysis of the issues.

The lessons learned from customer journey mapping are crucial to ICT systems planning. CJM helps identify siloed systems and to plan ta more efficient experience by reducing duplication and shortening the length of processes. Once local authorities have a deep understanding of the customer experience, it becomes possible to set meaningful performance indicators and standards and allow them to track and measure progress.

Will Haywood, performance and business improvement office for the City of Stoke-on-Trent, predicts, “2010 is set to be a big year for CJM”. The council began using CJM to better understand the data that was being collected for NI14 and how to deliver improvements. It soon became apparent that this technique could be used in a much wider context.

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“CJM enables us to gain more detailed understanding and insight of our customers. This allows services to be designed based on demand,” says Haywood.

“We are currently running an exercise within our housing repairs service, mapping the journeys of tenants in real time as repairs are reported through to completion. It is also being used in this area to gain a greater understanding of how the city council interacts with a strategic partner that is responsible for the delivery of housing repairs.”

Currently, Stoke does do not have the capability to map citizens as they touch each service electronically or the resource to analyse the results. However, as interest in CJM grows “it is certainly an area that we would like to move into'”, says Haywood.

He adds: “The requirement for ICT systems for CJM really does depend upon the scale of the exercise; the more maps, the higher the call for automation. This may grow from its current form into a database to store results more securely, and again into an interface for direct customer input and analysis as demand grows.”

Lisa Cowl, who introduced CJM at Chelmsford BC, says it takes account of the whole customer experience, from a customer realising that they need a service right to the point at which it has been fully delivered.

“It also picks up on every stage on the customer experience, and so picks up detail that can get lost when customers are just asked to rate their overall experience in a satisfaction survey,” she says.

At Chelmsford, customer journey mapping was piloted in three key service areas: housing, revenues and benefits. Journeys that were limited to one of these services were mapped, such as applying for single person council tax discount, but it concentrated in particular on those that went through more than one.

“A feasibility study was being conducted at the time into how these three services might offer customers a more joined up service, and we wanted to find out what kind of difficulties the current structure caused customers,” Cowl says.

In some cases, the process of undertaking the mapping was as valuable as the results.

“(Some managers) have commented that it has really helped their staff to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and understand how they might feel about the way the service is provided. It has been an important exercise for reminding everyone that customers don’t think in terms of the structure of the council and individual services, and so it has helped us to assess how we can offer customers a more joined up service that better meets their needs.

“We were able to identify some duplication of processes (e.g. repeated scanning and indexing of evidence) and this has been eliminated by better data sharing protocols and improved systems between service areas.”

The techniques have also been used on a national scale north of the border. Ben Plouviez, head of information systems in the Scottish Government, is using its electronic data records management (EDRM) system to map customer journeys as citizens use different web systems to apply for grants related to the Scottish Rural Development Programme, which provides European grant payments to land managers in Scotland.

“What they won’t see is that is feeding straight into our records management system, and we are therefore creating an auditable secure record of that transaction directly within our overall records system. We are not creating yet another system, yet another repository to be managed in different ways, we are integrating front and back,” Plouviez says.

There are eight different bodies in Scotland that interface with land managers, and the aim is to create single records while maintaining different roles. Now it is possible to track citizens’ interactions with the different bodies, although this has to be approached with care.

“The risks of navigating customer information across different agencies and different responsibilities, and where you move from being helpful and analytical to being intrusive and invasive, is a very fine line, and we have done a lot of work around information protocols,” Plouviez says. “It is crucial to have trust in this system.

“I am sure we will look for the analytical benefits taking data in an anonymous form. We need to be a bit careful because Scotland is a small country so data sets can be hard to anonymise in a robust way.

“I should say we are not building a CRM here. We looked at effectively building a CRM but the data protection issues were too great not purely the legal blocker but issues of trusts and privacy and whether people want the Forestry Commission to know they have applied for a grant from Scottish National Heritage.”

According to Plouviez, the project is being watched by housing and regeneration and business support, which are closely linked in Scotland.

Despite its great potential, CJM still has its limitations, according to organisation and development adviser Jon Harvey. In a blog post he has stated: “There is much discussion and indeed mission statements in the public sector about the need to focus on customers. However, I don’t think the public services have customers in the same way that say Pizza Hut has customers.

“I think the public services are there to serve and engage citizens whilst being accountable – through politicians – to taxpayers/citizens. This makes the whole relationship a far more complex one.”

Consultant Wayne Brown of AT Kearney has worked with a number of high profile UK public sector bodies on CJM, notably where the prison service and NHS overlap. “You need to try and identify motives as well as paths,” he says.

The ‘touchy feely’ aspects of CJM set it apart from the systems development methodologies of the past, but there is increasing evidence that it can best identify areas that need most attention if the whole system is to achieve the highest efficiencies and service levels.

Brown points to pilots such as Total Place, which are looking at government services for example, in tackling drug abuse – provided by different providers.

“Results are due out and it is likely to demonstrate that CJM has identified that there are a lot of touch points going on that are unnecessary and that as a consequence of identifying that, some massive efficiency savings can be identified,” he says.

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