Customer journeys – the value of relationships

Services must always be designed with the customer in mind, writes Alistair Sharpe-Neal, associate consultant, Campbell Tickell.

Transactions, interactions and touchpoints have long been the currency of service provision. They are easy to organise around and hardwire into business processes.

Yet this is often only simple in terms of managing throughput efficiency and to an even lesser extent, customer experience. Services are also predominantly designed from the inside looking out.

For example, many public service websites resemble a service catalogue, with no cognisance of what an individual approaching a service is trying to achieve or their relative starting point.
The panacea that is digital shift often only compounds problems, addressing symptoms at a lower cost base, while not tackling the root causes of difficulties, or adding new dimensions of insight, additional value or innovation.

Building self-sufficiency

In an operating environment characterised by increasingly complex needs and unsustainable levels of demand, there is a need to rethink access pathways to services to reduce cliff-edge interventions.

One solution is early intervention, to build self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on core services. However, in attempting to transform services at a transactional level, service providers – whether local authority, health, care, housing or educational – can generally do no better than run to stand still.

Organisations are increasingly taking a step back and fundamentally reshaping their service offers, access pathways and delivery models by placing the customer relationship at the heart.

This recognises the value of customer insight and relationship-building, delivering outcomes well beyond the reach of day-today transaction and interaction management.

The importance of the customer journey

A way to unlock this value is by concentrating on the customer journey, with proactive intervention built on insight and a personalised response. This should be focused on outcomes, for instance: establishing a tenancy; supporting a young person to live independently; providing the most appropriate form of support; reducing the frequency of episodes of negative behaviour; etc.

Customer journey thinking is not new, but is often undertaken in isolation as a technical, bottom-up exercise that may optimise an individual process, but rarely fundamentally changes the way in which an organisation serves its customers.

What is required is a whole-system approach, driven by a clear customer vision and a set of overarching principles that shape a blueprint for delivering services that really add value to the customer experience. The access pathway for most services is, or will be, digital.

These pathways must be intuitive, tailored to the circumstances of an individual and guide the user through to the desired outcome. ‘Onboarding’ is a tool developed by banks to enable customers to explore and sign up for products and services. It has the potential to support digital access pathways for many advice-based services, while promoting community-based alternatives.

Delivery processes must be broken out from often siloed contact centre and specialist team response models. Delivering them as end-to-end journeys, with a service hub at the heart, supporting high levels of digital completion at first contact, oversight and real-time intervention, will help drive continuous learning and adaptation to the changing operating environment.

Ultimately, the real value of a customer journey-based approach is that the level of insight built up over time helps to future-proof services. Organisations become better placed to anticipate and react to the operating environment, creating evidence-based responses that reduce demand, potential dependency, and cost.

Alistair Sharpe-Neal
Associate consultant, Campbell Tickell


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