Local authorities need to obtain a deeper insight into citizen interaction through customer journey mapping (CJM), says a new Cabinet Office report.
"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," says the report: Customer Journey Mapping: An introduction.
Local 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, says a report on Kable.
The lessons learned from customer journey mapping are crucial to IT systems planning. CJM helps identify siloed systems and to plan a 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 Stoke city council 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.
"CJM enables us to gain more detailed understanding and insight of our customers. This allows services to be designed based on demand," he says. says Haywood.
Lisa Cowl, who introduced CJM at Chelmsford borough council, 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 details 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."
In some cases, the process of undertaking the mapping was as valuable as the results, she claims.
"(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.
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.