“Cus­tomer jour­neys” have be­come a pop­u­lar method to in­crease cus­tomer fo­cus and im­prove ser­vice qual­ity in many branches of in­dus­try. But re­search shows that the method doesn’t al­ways work as ex­pected – and con­fu­sion sur­rounds the mean­ing of the con­cept i

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

“We are all big-time con­sumers of dig­i­tal ser­vices. We are our own travel agency, we sub­mit our in­come tax forms by PC, and we com­mu­ni­cate with the doc­tor by mo­bile tele­phones. Some­times this works per­fectly well. But in many cases, we find that the ser­vices we use are not very user-friendly, and that the tran­si­tions be­tween web sites, emails and let­ters are not al­ways log­i­cal,” said Ragn­hild Halvorsrud, re­searcher at Nor­way’s SINTEF, one of Europe’s largest in­de­pen­dent re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions.

A cus­tomer jour­ney should ex­am­ine the process from A to Z, and in this way help to im­prove dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ences of this sort – from the per­spec­tive of the user. And this can be use­ful; Bri­tish con­sumers waste an av­er­age of more than an hour a day be­ing dis­sat­is­fied with their dig­i­tal ser­vices.

“Our re­search also shows that many com­pa­nies do not have suf­fi­cient aware­ness of what their clients ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Halvorsrud. In fact, none of the com­pa­nies we stud­ied were fa­mil­iar with the to­tal end-to-end cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

Now, SINTEF and Te­lenor, one of the world’s largest mo­bile telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies with op­er­a­tions in Scan­di­navia, East­ern Europe and Asia, have de­vel­oped a new an­a­lyt­i­cal model of cus­tomer jour­neys that should en­sure that the method ac­tu­ally un­cov­ers un­for­tu­nate cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences, log­i­cal short­com­ings and er­rors.

Re­search on cus­tomer jour­neys be­gan as far back as ten years ago, when many of Te­lenor’s clients found the com­pany’s dig­i­tal ser­vices con­fus­ing, and put pres­sure on its cus­tomer ser­vice op­er­a­tions.

“What we found when we be­gan to study cus­tomer jour­neys was that there was a lack both of pre­cise ter­mi­nol­ogy and of an­a­lyt­i­cal meth­ods for eval­u­at­ing cus­tomer’s ex­pe­ri­ences across chan­nels,” said the SINTEF re­searcher.

A cus­tomer jour­ney can be com­plex, and may com­prise many el­e­ments; for ex­am­ple, or­der­ing a prod­uct over the In­ter­net, re­ceiv­ing an email as a re­ceipt for the or­der or a link to track the or­der and fi­nally re­ceiv­ing a no­tice on your mo­bile to pick it up, in or­der to have it de­liv­ered to your door.

The re­searchers con­cluded that both in­dus­try and academia find it dif­fi­cult to pre­cisely de­scribe both the con­cept “cus­tomer jour­ney” and the rel­e­vant method­ol­ogy.

“We might say that many peo­ple use the con­cept as a metaphor rather than as a well-de­fined con­cept,” added Halvorsrud.

Their find­ings led Halvorsrud and her re­search col­league Knut Kvale of Te­lenor to de­velop a tool­box that helps com­pa­nies sys­tem­at­i­cally pro­duce good dig­i­tal ser­vices.

The tool­box was given the name “The Cus­tomer Jour­ney Frame­work”, and their work was re­cently pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Ser­vice The­ory and Prac­tice. Their ef­forts ended up with the pres­ti­gious “Out­stand­ing Pa­per of the Year” award.

“This just goes to show that we hit the nail on the head when we started to do re­search on what cus­tomer jour­neys re­ally are, how they are used, and whether they re­ally work,” said the SINTEF re­searcher.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­searchers, the essence of the cus­tomer jour­ney work is to dis­tin­guish be­tween plans and what ac­tu­ally hap­pens in real life. With more and more dig­i­tal chan­nels com­ing into use, a planned cus­tomer jour­ney can be car­ried out in a num­ber of ways; from a PC, mo­bile phone, tablet or via SMS. This turns the pro­vi­sion of good in­for­ma­tion with log­i­cal tran­si­tions into a ma­jor chal­lenge for a com­pany. On top of this, it is essen­tial to bal­ance the ob­jec­tive fac­tors in the ser­vice such as who, what and where, against the in­di­vid­ual user’s ex­pe­ri­ence of each in­di­vid­ual step; i.e. all the way from when a cus­tomer logs in to a web­site to when the ser­vice has been sup­plied and tested by her.

“Our ex­pe­ri­ence is that most cus­tomers ex­pe­ri­ences de­vi­a­tions in their cus­tomer jour­neys. None of the com­pa­nies that we stud­ied had a com­plete over­view of their client jour­neys. Many of them were fa­mil­iar with most of the process, but de­tailed in­sight into all of the stages that their clients might en­counter was lack­ing,” said Halvorsrud.

In the course of sev­eral projects, the re­searchers col­lab­o­rated with con­sul­tants and pub­lic- and pri­vate-sec­tor ser­vice providers, as well as with other re­searchers. They also stud­ied the rel­e­vant sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture in depth.

“There is not a great deal of pre­vi­ous re­search on cus­tomer jour­neys, but there ex­ists quite a lot of rel­e­vant re­search in re­lated fields. We have built up a solid cat­a­logue of data de­rived from prac­ti­cal case stud­ies with Te­lenor and other com­pa­nies,” added Halvorsrud. Some of the find­ings of the project were that: - None of the com­pa­nies were fa­mil­iar with the en­tire cus­tomer jour­ney from A to Z. Knowl­edge was spread among sev­eral de­part­ments, none of which had the whole pic­ture. (Known as the “silo ef­fect”.)

- All real-life cus­tomer jour­neys de­vi­ated from the jour­ney as planned by the com­pany. Most of them had sev­eral de­vi­a­tions; for ex­am­ple, a cus­tomer would need to con­tact the cus­tomer ser­vice de­part­ment, or a let­ter con­tain­ing crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion did not reach the cus­tomer in time.

- There was of­ten a pat­tern in the de­vi­a­tions, such as that things hap­pened in the wrong or­der, or that a par­tic­u­lar stage in the process cre­ated con­fu­sion.

- There were sev­eral il­log­i­cal tran­si­tions or han­dovers in the course of the jour­ney, for ex­am­ple a lack of con­sis­tency be­tween a web-site and a let­ter that a cus­tomer re­ceived from the com­pany.

The re­searchers de­cided to es­tab­lish a “best prac­tice” and a method for qual­ity-as­sur­ing cus­tomer jour­neys. The method was given the name of Cus­tomer Jour­ney Anal­y­sis.

“Our aims is to “dissect” the planned cus­tomer jour­ney and map the cus­tomer’s ex­pe­ri­ence at in­di­vid­ual level. This will make it a sim­ple mat­ter to re­veal weak­nesses, so that they can be cor­rected,” ex­plained Halvorsrud.

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