By Tom Hartland 

Standing, mind reeling in front of wall to wall post-it notes, best describes my first month at Bromford. I’d joined the Lab and had a new tool to try out, customer journey maps - and they were going down a treat.

The principle is simple.

Start by summarising each stage a customer interacts with your product or service on a post-it note and plot the journey left to right. Build up the image with post-its for people they interacted with, systems encountered and attitudes and emotions the customers might feel at each stage.

Using this tool we’ve helped teams examine how a customer feels when interacting with nearly all Bromford’s offerings. There hasn’t been one session without a breakthrough moment. Granted, some felt like an uphill struggle to get there but others really fanned the fire for change from the start.

Now the heat has died down a little, we can say what worked and what didn’t.

It may sound obvious, but encouraging colleagues to think from a customer perspective is a real strength of using this way of thinking. Products and services can be developed with the best of intentions but over time more regulations, personalities or new systems requirements have influenced the way they are delivered, usually presenting a more complex route of engagement for customers. Journey maps, like other design thinking tools, can be the catalyst for stripping out unnecessary layers in a process, as we’ve seen in the on-going redesign of Bromford’s complaints process.

Quick hits are frequently uncovered when evaluating our services in this level of detail. These are the things that can be implemented quickly for minimal cost or disruption, yet cumulatively may improve customer experience dramatically.  For example, we used journey maps with the Opportunities Team to examine how customers attending our work clubs might feel. We stepped back and picked out particular pain-points, most of which linked to inconsistency and long waiting periods for customers. In lab sessions since we’ve developed a documented service offer, detailing a level of professionalism in the access and level of advice customers can expect. 

Requiring colleagues to empathise with customer’s attitudes and emotions is a mixed bag of tricks. Sometimes it was the focal point, other times we nearly missed it off completely (i.e. the same emotions prevailed across the service). Going forwards I’ll try structuring this as a graph, like I’ve seen in other versions. This way we can capture the main peaks and troughs in customer experience rather than list lots of text.   

It’s important to frame the context in which journey maps will be used as they prompt lots of discussion and can take a while to complete. Be sure that they’re the appropriate tool for the job; scope the issue beforehand as much as possible. Also, completing journey maps for so many areas of the business has allowed us to illustrate linkages between teams – a useful tool in designing the future of our services.

All in all the customer journey maps have been a very worthwhile exercise, kicking into gear both long and short term changes.  The challenge for us lab rats it to draft up test plans and strike while the iron is hot – especially for larger issues which need proper investigation and not just plastering over the cracks, but this is the next stage of our process and we’re still (for the most part) figuring it out.

We’ll be sure to let you know the next big breakthrough! 

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