The customer journey matters as well as the destination

21st March 2022

The customer journey matters as well as the destination:

 

Why Business Analysis contributes to better services

 

Increasingly, smart organisations are focusing on understanding real customer needs.  Whether it’s through focus groups or customer research, there is an increasing appreciation that successful product development relies on understanding the problems that customers have in their lives and the jobs that they need to get done.  Developing a product or feature for its own sake is unlikely to be successful, and in some cases might actually make things worse.  We have probably all used products—particularly software products—that are crammed full of far too many confusing features, meaning that navigating even the simplest task is hard going. 

When understanding customers’ needs, it’s important to spread the net wide and understand what they are actually buying. Customers are typically buying a product or using a service as a way of fulfilling a need, ‘scratching an itch’ or getting some sort of job done, but the outcome that they are aiming for is not always apparent.  In many cases the way the product or service is delivered, from the very first contact right through to when the customer no longer has contact with the organisation, is crucially important too.  Having the best product in the world might not be enough if the support services around it cause customers grief. 

Let’s take a seemingly unrelated example. Imagine the difference between an excellent restaurant, and a similar restaurant that is acceptable but that you’d rate as ‘just OK’.  The core product itself (the food) might be virtually identical, however the attentiveness of the services might differ with the excellent restaurant striking that tricky balance between over and under-attentive waiting staff.  An excellent restaurant is likely to get the tangible factors right (such as the food), as well as understanding the importance of the less tangible factors like ambience.  The excellent restaurant probably makes booking easy too, and its website probably provides all the information you need in advance. After all, the experience starts long before you set foot in the restaurant itself… 

The same is true of just about every other industry too.  You might work for an insurance company which offers policies that are broadly similar to others in the market.  Yet one key differentiating factor might be the way those policies are delivered.  Sadly. few people get excited about insurance (and I say this having started my career in the industry!), so a slicker, easier process is probably what many people want (and they might even pay a little bit more for convenience).  Most people don’t want to spend time sorting their insurance, they just want to know they’re adequately covered so they can get on with their lives.  

 

Understanding Customer Journeys 

One area where business analysts can help organisations greatly is to understand the outcomes customers are really trying to achieve (perhaps partially modelled via a set of personas).  This can be supplemented with a set of desired experience maps or customer journey maps that will help describe how customers can effectively and efficiently achieve their goals.  It is possible to map an end-to-end customer lifecycle too, through phases such as on-boarding, using the product, raising a query right through to the point where they are no longer a customer.  Understanding what the key touchpoints will be and what information the customer will need at each point (and in what format/or on what ‘channel’) is useful.  Many organisations are quite poor at providing the right information at the right time, meaning the poor customer is forever stuck making phone calls or gets stuck on endless webchats. 

Different types of journey map can be produced: 

  • As is: Represents how the organisation thinks the journey currently happens 
  • To be: A desired future state 
  • As evidenced:  Examples of how customers report the journey actually works 

This last category ‘as evidenced’ is an interesting and sometimes controversial one.  Often organisations genuinely believe their journeys are smooth and efficient, but customers get stuck between departments and fall between gaps.  They get cut off and passed from pillar to post, having to navigate the complexities of the organisation unaided. A great place to look for some insight here is in complaints logs—after all, clients that complain often give specific insight that points towards significant improvement opportunities. 

 

Conclusion: It’s about the customer journey. Keep your BAs close! 

In essence, this type of end-to-end thinking encourages a close empathy with the customer and other relevant stakeholders too.  It puts the facts on the table for the team to see—warts and all—so that informed decisions can be made.  It shows that the journey matters just as much as the destination: A great product/service delivered poorly is little use to anyone!  Techniques such as journey mapping (and many others) can help, and having experienced business analysts and user/customer experience professionals will help a great deal! 

by Adrian Reed, Business Analysis Expert