Journey Mapping: A Process to Re-Imagine Customer Service in Government

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To improve how government delivers customer service, agencies must understand how customer experiences work, what moments matter for customers, how expectations are set and delivered, and how experiences are perceived and remembered.

GovLoop, in partnership with Oracle, recently held a design thinking training session. The goal of design thinking is to learn about the customer experience and then use that information to develop an improved system for how services are delivered. While describing journey mapping, an Oracle representative stated:

“You need a storyline composed of actions, then mapping the people, things and attitudes involved all shape your perception of the customer experience. More importantly, journey mapping takes it a step further and requires you to step inside of your consumers shoes. Think like them, talk like them, what is the experience like?”

The training session was a hands-on event, and was created in partnership with the Institute of Design at Stanford University. Over 50 government employees took part in the exercise called “journey mapping,” which briefly can be described as a “design thinking centered process which is used to help define the relationships with customers and how to best streamline and improve customer service.” The exercise is designed to help agencies take a customer-centric approach to reforming how services are delivered.

“Journey Mapping” Training Description

During the training, participants were divided into small groups and lead through the journey mapping exercise. The exercise centered around a customer who had a negative car sharing experience. The customer, who was named Jen during the exercise, was asked to be the Maid of Honor in a wedding. Living in New York City, Jen had decided to get rid of her car, and opted to sign up for a car sharing service. The facilitator for the event, John Kembel, did a great job outlining Jen’s situation. Jen did her homework, researching the best car sharing services, signed up online, rented her car via the mobile app. When she went to pick up the car, she found the car to be dirty, upset, she decided to take the car to the cleaner. Jenn had a great time at the wedding, but while driving home, the car broke down, Jenn subsequently had challenges having receiving her refund.

After John described the exercise, participants were broken out into teams of 10, each focusing on a certain area of the customer experience. Participants were asked to “map” out the customer experience. Facilitators advised participants to “channel their inner Jen (the customer)” in an authentic way.

Participants used sticky-notes, whiteboards, and other hands on activities to stimulate engagement while working small groups, mapping out the experience and find creative solutions to the complex customer service challenges from Jen’s experience.

By mapping out the customer journey, participants were forced to think of all the contact points between the customer and the organization. As participants did the journey mapping exercise, participants realize that there are contact points that are easily seen and others happening behind the scenes. Being cognizant of both the “on-stage” and “off-stage” elements is critical. An important lesson learned is that “on-stage” and “back-stage” associations are not mutually exlcusive, it takes the entirety of the customer journey to learn and identify strategies to improve the experience for the customer.

This became evidently clear when participants shared their findings. Some groups identified that there needed to be improvements to the CRM systems, others the mobile app, and others identified changes that could happen in call centers. Improving customer service is not just A or B, to truly improve customer service, the totality of the customer journey must be understood, and at each contact point, strategies can be identified to improve customer service. Journey mapping facilitates this process, by stripping down customer service to its core, segmenting contact points, and at the end, facilitating cross-functional collaboration for organizations.

Be sure to view photos from the event:

Why Journey Mapping Is Important for Government

I am entirely fascinated with how public sector institutions operate. From the human capital challenges to the enormous challenges of tackling public debt, and extending to how government can transform to provide a 21st style of governance and services. Public sector entitites have their hands full. Although the challenges exist, new and emerging technology has been developed to help grasp the complexity of public sector challenges. Regardless of the technology employed, in many ways government is in desperate need of innovative and creative solutions to complex problems.

This is why journey mapping is part of the solution. Journey mapping breaks down a problem to its core, stripes away preconceived notions, and forces participants to think critically and openly about programs.

The five steps of journey mapping help to identify why this is an important tool for government employees:

Map and Evaluate

In this stage, government employees are challenged to “map a journey from a customers perspective.” One the challenges for government is first defining who customers are. This will force an agency to identify customers (internal/external or map how they are interrelated) and then proceed through the process. This step also requires agencies to think about their customer service “ecosystem.” Here, agencies are identifying the people, the process and the technology that plays a part in delivering customer service. With the complexity of customer service, and the myriad of actors involved in delivering services, this process is absolutely critical to produce the level of customer service that Americans deserve.

Identify Problem and Opportunity Areas, Prioritize

The most productive dissection of journey mapping is when you deconstruct the member process or storyline and “Focus on the moments that matter.” – Facilitator at GovLoop/Oracle Journey Mapping Event

Once the customer map is laid out, and the process is well defined, government agencies can start to address the challenges faced by the customer throughout the journey. Simply, agencies will find challenges and identify problems within the customer journey. Along the map, agencies will see dozens of challenges for citizens. At this point, agencies need to prioritize and identify the problems they want to solve.

Understand and Empathize

One the strongest indicators (to me) of a leader is the ability to not just empathize, but to truly observe and detail emotions, and then develop strategic actions to reform, motivated or re-energize an employee. This trait extends to customer service and organizations. The organizations ability to be passionate about improving a service and truly connecting with customers is critical. In doing so, agencies will have new insights and views on problems and issues for the customer. This step allows organizations to identify challenges of a customer, that may not be readily apparent to an organization.

Reframe the Problem

Critical to this stage, is viewing the problem from the user point of view, continuing to gain insights and identifying the true need of the consumer. Here the organization can see the challenges behind the scenes (internal perspective) and from the customers perspective. By understanding and reframe the problem, agencies can craft solutions to provide a higher level of service to customers.

Redesign the Experience

Lastly, the journey mapping process allows agencies to redesign the customer experience. The importance of step number five is that it reminds organizations that journey mapping is an iterative process, there are always times to restart the cycle, learn new strategies and continually improve how services are delivered. While redesigning the experience, collaboration plays a critical role. Journey mapping segments out challenges and issues, solving specific and tactical problems, but in order to improve customer service deliverables, agencies will need to collaborate to share resources, implement solutions and work towards a shared customer service vision.

Journey mapping arms participants with a new way of thinking. Participants from the event will have the opportunity to discuss how this process can be applied to their agency, and be able to bring journey mapping back to their agency, bringing new, fresh and innovative ideas on how to improve customer service delivery. The intentions of the event is to train people on a process, and provide a new way to think through customer service or operational challenges.

The core benefits of journey mapping is that journey mapping:

  • Maps to understand and diagnose experience issues
  • Reframe and reimagine experience
  • Influence and changes attitudes
  • Connect and collaborate across teams

To truly leverage the success of journey mapping, agencies will have to work across teams and have dynamic leadership to implement solutions. During the event, there was a great question about if customers should be involved in the process. The answer is that many organizations have done this in the past, and have had great success by having customers participate in the journey mapping process. Although they can participate, it is still critical for the agency to show empathy and see customer challenges, as if they were not present.

With the increasing complexity of the public sector, journey mapping provides a solution to cut to the core of customer service challenges. Journey mapping also supports collaboration across an agency to achieve a common vision of improving customer service.

Please be sure to check out all of the great customer service resources that GovLoop provides.

Oracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems that helps organizations overcome complexity and unleash innovation.. Check out their Optimize with Oracle group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.