BPM and Lean: Let’s go on a Customer Journey

We all understand the power of process-thinking and Business Process Management (BPM). Our process flow diagrams describe 'what is done', and support us in designing, improving and controlling our processes. The results of processes should be of value for customers. But how do our customers experience our processes?

A very powerful technique, aimed at customer experience, is the Customer Journey. This technique, including some very powerful lessons, must be part of your BPM/Lean toolkit!

Service organizations are different

Traditional manufacturing organizations create products for customers. For these organizations this directly implies that the customer is only in scope at the start of the process (product order) and the end of the process (product delivery). During the execution of the process the customer is out of sight, which is usually really handy: we can optimize the process flow without customer interruptions. Quality and customer value is mainly determined by the product that is created and delivered.

Service organizations are different. While executing the process we are simultaneously serving the customer. The customer is directly involved in (parts of) the process. This requires a different perspective on quality and customer value. It is not only the result, delivered by the last process step, that counts. Value is also 'created' by the experiences of the customer in the process.

Experience is everything

In today's world 'experience' is getting more and more important. If you want to build an interesting business, you need to offer something special. Travel agents can't distinguish themselves selling normal city trips. But a city trip with a special experience, for example with local guidance, is something different. Everybody is looking for experiences!

There is something interesting with experiences. To stick with the holiday example: imagine your greatest vacation. I am sure you can recall great activities, beautiful views, amazing culture, outstanding hotels and/or great food. However, I am quite sure there is also some contrast in your experiences. During the same trip you might be delayed, miss a flight, get stuck in a terrible hotel or be sea-sick on the boat. It is the combination of bad experiences (four days of rain) and pleasure experiences (and then it broke open and we had the perfect view on the mountain range) that together make a great experience.

Will satisfied customers come back?

Organizations strive to deliver value to customers. If they deliver good value, customers will be satisfied and will come back. This way the organization will stay in business. It is that simple right? The important question here is: 'Are satisfied customers more loyal than non-satisfied customers?' We would tend to say 'yes', but in today's volatile world the answer is 'no'. Just doing a 'good job' and making customers 'satisfied' won't be any guarantee for customers to come back. To really develop customers to promoters, organizations need to deliver an experience. It is all about the customer journey.

The Customer Journey

The Customer Journey technique illustrates and analyzes the experiences of customers in the process. It works with touch points, where interaction takes place with customers. By connecting the touch points we create insight into the journey that customers travel. We can map this journey in a process flow diagram as depicted below.

Figure: Customer Journey [BiZZdesign Enterprise Studio tooling]


Figure: Customer Journey [BiZZdesign Enterprise Studio tooling]

To analyze and improve the customer journey there are some important lessons:

  • Don't go for the average customer journey. An average journey will create satisfied customers, but this is not good enough. You need high peaks in the journey for customers to become promoters. So, optimize the touch points that will make a difference.
  • Don't worry about some less satisfying touch points. Contrast in the customer journey will improve the experience. We call this a Pain-Pleasure-Gap (PPG).
  • Avoid 'horrible' experiences, these can't be compensated in the rest of the process. Add satisfying touch points in between series of less satisfying interactions. You don't want to lose customers here.
  • Always end with a peak! The final experience is key for the overall experience. This experience needs to be great.

The Customer Journey technique is used by large organizations like IKEA. They are masters in managing your experience. From parking, to decoration, the 'round tour', product quality, self-service, the canteen, self-service pick stock, pricing and check out. We can see the contrast (very satisfying quality vs. annoying self-service pick stock). And of course they end with a peak: the ice-cream/ hot-dog after check-out!

But maybe your organization can be even better than IKEA. The Customer Journey provides techniques and lessons that can be applied on all (service) processes. I know from my practice that a few small and smart process improvements can dramatically improve the customer experience.

Good luck improving the customer journey in your organization!

Peter Matthijssen

Peter Matthijssen

Peter Matthijssen, MSc, CMC, LSS Black belt, is managing consultant and trainer at BiZZdesign. As a Lean Six Sigma black belt and Business Process Management (BPM) expert, he build change capabilities in organizations around the globe. With his Master degree in Industrial Engineering & Management (University of Twente) and over 15 years of experience in the field, he helps organizations in private and public sector to work smarter and get better results from their processes. Peter is the author of numerous books and publications on BPM and Lean management, for example 'Thinking in processes' [2011], 'Working with Lean' [2013] and 'Portfolio Management - Better information, smarter decisions, stronger investments' [2015]. He speaks on a regular basis on international conferences on business design and change like IRM–UK and Building Business Capability.
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