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Bridging the Gap Between Service and Customer Experience

By | September 13, 2016 in Service Desk

Customer journey mapping (CJM)

“Customer experience” you say. What the heck is that?

If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. You see we’re big evangelists of the customer experience and believe that it’s something that every organization should have the opportunity to wrap their head around and to introduce into their business.

Why? Take a look at organizations such as Apple, Disney, Virgin, and Tesla. What’s the one thing that these companies all have in common? Other than being some of the biggest names in the world of customer service (as well as all being valued at over a billion dollars or more), they all understand the importance of the customer experience, and have “gone above and beyond” to ensure that their organizations are finely-tuned customer experience machines.

Yet, What They’re Doing is Nothing New

In fact, the entire idea of customer experience is nothing new. A quick bit of Googling and you will discover that the UK department store John Lewis has been crafting its customer experience for more than a 100 years.

What is new, however, is that more and more organizations are taking customer experience on as a means to improve their competitive advantage through wowing their customers.

So What Does this Have to Do with ITSM?

In IT, and in IT service management (ITSM) roles in particular, we strive to provide great IT services but many of us have yet to make the leap to providing a great service experience. But who can blame people? It hasn’t been on the IT or ITSM radar until recently. For instance, ITIL, an ITSM best practice framework, offers advice on how to create and deliver great IT services but it doesn’t outline how to offer a great customer or service experience.

“But why is it on the IT and ITSM radar?” I hear you cry.

The simplest answer is: consumerization. Not the consumerization of IT but the consumerization of service. Just as the consumerization of IT has been about the rising employee expectations of corporate hardware based on what they have in their personal lives, the consumerization of service is the rising employee expectations of corporate service providers based on personal-life experiences of service and support.

So while many IT organizations might be focused on delivering better customer service, employees empowered by their consumer-world experiences are now expecting a better customer experience.

Is Customer Service Miles Apart from Customer Experience?

Service and experience are similar but they are not the same.

Customer experience is the interaction between the customer and the service. However, it doesn’t just reflect an outcome but also the emotional feelings a customer has towards the service (and service provider) too. And these feelings are based on a number of variables, especially touchpoints such as ordering, paying, and how issues are dealt with. It’s every touchpoint in the customers’ journey, every part of your service, affecting their experience.

A more formal customer experience definition is:

“The process of strategically managing a customer's entire experience with a product or company.”~ Bernd Schmitt

And to really understand the customer’s entire experience, you need to see the service from their point of view.

Step into Your Customers’ Shoes – Look at Their Customer Experience with Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping (CJM) tells the story of the customers’ experience, from their first contact to their last, all the way through. It’s a useful exercise to help service providers to identify the touchpoints in a service and where the customer experience can be improved.

Whether you’re using a customer journey map to look at a specific part of the customer journey, or the journey as a whole, you’ll quickly be able to identify:

  • The key interactions that your customers have with your service
  • How the interactions make the customers feel
  • What the customers really want from you as their service provider, and
  • Where the gaps are, that you need to fill to make the customer experience even better

What Does This Look Like in Practice?

Imagine the corporate self-service password reset service as an example. Normally when we think about something as “simple” as this, it’s easy to assume that the route to a successful outcome is equally as simple.

Without first mapping the customer journey out, it would be all too easy to assume that the journey might look like this:

  1. User logs into the self-service portal
  2. Searches for the password reset facility
  3. Resets password and returns to working

However, through the use of CJM we can start to uncover the additional steps that often go unaccounted for; and with it, the gaps or issues that are disrupting the customer experience.

So with the help of CJM we might discover that self-service password reset actually looks something like:

  1. User can’t log into their machine
  2. Tries multiple times to log in with no success; is convinced that it’s an IT issue
  3. First tries calling the service desk but can’t get through and gives up
  4. Resorts to self-service portal even though they don’t like using it
  5. Discovers the search facility in the self-service portal
  6. Types in “password not working”
  7. The search facility doesn’t show any related results (as the search facility hasn’t been “tuned” for different variations of “password reset”)
  8. Eventually stumbles on the password reset facility as they definitely don’t want to queue in the service desk’s telephone channel again
  9. Starts process to reset password
  10. Asked to check email to set a new password, but can’t access email because they are locked out of their machine and don’t have webmail or access via their mobile phone
  11. Tries to call service desk again ...

As you can imagine, the experience for the end user is far from a positive one. In fact, from an emotional perspective it’s probably extremely frustrating and another reason for IT’s name (and reputation) to be dragged through the mud. But without the process of CJM, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever become aware of all the additional steps that your user has to go through to get the resolution they’re searching for.

What’s more, a successful journey map might initially leave you with more questions than answers, as well as the desired outline of where you need to improve. Here’s an example of some of the questions that might be raised re the previous scenario:

  • Why did the user try calling the service desk before trying the self-service portal?
  • Why couldn’t the user get through to the service desk via the phone?
  • Has the user ever been properly educated in using the self-service function?
  • How easy is it to discover and use the search function when you don’t use “IT’s language”?
  • Was there plenty of up-to-date and relevant documentation to help make the password reset process easier?
  • Has anyone from the service desk used the self-service password reset themselves to test for any use-case scenario “bugs”?

It’s this kind of investigation that will force you to start thinking differently about your current service and makes looking for issues and gaps a much easier experience.

In the earlier password reset example, the IT departments is offering a poor customer experience even though it might think it’s offering good customer service through the provision of such automated capabilities.

Connecting the Dots Between Customer Experience and Customer Service

That’s a lot of theory, so how do you apply it practically? Luckily for you, creating a seamless customer journey doesn’t need lots of tools and investment and it can be kicked off with just a group workshop, a flip chart, and a whiteboard. Here’s the steps:

  1. Gather together your service desk team members and brainstorm each element of your service.
  2. Create a stakeholder map including their influence.
  3. Create a customer persona based on one person or a segment of customers.
  4. Focus on a customer outcome, interviewing and observing customers at different stages of the customer journey.
  5. List the actions (touchpoints) a customer would take to reach that outcome horizontally, step-by-step, for example “initial contact” or “ticket submission.”
  6. Then list all of the relevant channels that customers connect with while using your service vertically, such as website, email, face-to-face, or telephone.
  7. Make sure that you capture the customer touchpoints.
  8. Each touchpoint needs to then be assigned an owner, whether that be the service desk manager, incident manager, problem manager, or someone else.
  9. Jot down how the touchpoint impacts the customer experience including the needs, perceptions, emotions felt at each stage, and what a successful customer experience looks like.
  10. Now repeat the process for your ideal customer journey. This can be used to compare the actual to the ideal, to identify gaps in the customer journey.
  11. Where gaps in customer experience are uncovered, brainstorm improvements and set priority actions.

You can find more detail via Google where a search will bring back “how to” information such as “How to create a customer journey map.”

Use CJM for the Service Desk or IT Service Delivery

So while ITIL has moved corporate IT departments from a technology-centric world to a service-centric one, more steps are needed if the departments wish to be more customer-centric.

CJM can be a great input to this, getting all team members “on the same page” and encouraging them to think about how to improve the customer experience not just customer service.

Have you tried customer journey mapping and, if so, how was it for you?

Sarah Lahav

About Sarah Lahav

As the company’s 1st employee, Sarah has remained the vital link between SysAid Technologies and its customers since 2003. Current CEO, former VP Customer Relations. Always passionate about customer service! Mother of three adorable children – she juggles work, family, and zumba classes with ease.

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