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Customer Experience and Service Management; meeting along the Customer Journey

customer journey

The Customer Journey is an important common denominator between the CX and Service Management frameworks. Although their approaches may differ, both share the common goal of realising a great customer experience.

By gaining a better understanding of these two frameworks we will see how together they are a great example of the whole having a greater potential than the sum of their parts.

Service Management

To begin with it is important to understand what is meant with ‘service management’. Although as a generic term is has a broader scope, in this digital age enabled by information technology running on IT systems basically means doing ITSM which is an acronym for IT Service Management. IT Service Management0 is a process-based IT management framework intended to align the delivery of IT services with the needs of our customers and enabling the organization to maximize business value from the use of information technology.

Its focus is on the delivery of end-to-end services using best practice process models1. The world’s most widely used collection of best practices is known as ITIL2 which helps define the direction of the service provider with a clear operating model and aligns services to the business strategy and customer needs.

Its certificates provide a common language for businesses and professionals using IT-enabled services. The Service Manager focuses on the lifecycle of specific services to ensure that the business solution aligns with the organization while meeting with the customer service needs.

"The Customer Journey is an important common denominator between the CX and Service Management frameworks. Although their approaches may differ, both share the common goal of realising a great customer experience."

Customer Experience

Customer Experience however lacks a similar common framework shared by practitioners. Many organisations have joined the certification fray in an attempt to set the standard but the playing field is still a bit of a wild west show. Several (especially US) universities have started offering CX certification and degree programs (like the Kellogg School of Management3, University of Richmond4 or The George Washington University School of Business5 to name a few).

A number of consultancies like McKinsey6 and Bain&Company7 offer services to firms aiming to link their strategy to delivering new and differentiated customer experiences. Some like Forrester8 have taken the next step by turning their industry research and analysis methodology into a certification program*.

The industry has also witnessed the rise of professional associations offering certification (like the professional certification offered by The CX Academy9). Finally, customer feedback management platform providers like Medallia10 and Qualtrics11 are also offering certification courses these days.

Despite the plethora of CX methodologies out there, most if not all are trending in the same direction and share the Customer Journey paradigm.

Although the wording may differ, in essence it can be defined as the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with a company and brand. Using slightly different language ITIL4 talks about the service value stream12 as a series of steps an organization undertakes to create and deliver products and services to consumers.

Both perspectives offer a view of the same process, with CX representing the looking in from the outside perspective (customer consuming the service) and Service Management seeing it from the inside out (the organisation providing the service).

Although the language may differ, the Customer Journey represents a crucial common understanding shared by both the CX and Service Management practitioners.

Cross-functional approach

Traditionally firms have organised themselves into business units, departments, front and back offices with each function working in its own siloed way. Operating in silos means working in isolation to one another, not sharing information, goals, tools, priorities and even processes with other departments within the business. Fragmented internal processes often lead to a fragmented customer experience.

Back offices are normally not in touch with the customer. Individual departments may not have the necessary information about a customer or group of customers to make informed decisions and judgements. By mapping the customer journeys however, one sees how all departments within the organization work together to meet the customer needs.

Done well these maps craft an all-encompassing view of every customer interaction which allows one to build detailed customer profiles, based on a mix of engagements across channels.

This approach continues post-purchase enabling the organisation to maintain engagement and deepen the relationship with further purchases.

The empathetic difference

A very effective way for organisations to refresh their business processes and realise the crucial organizational cultural change is to adopt cross functional ways of working.

Starting with the customer in mind and working one’s way back into the organisation not only radically improves the customer experience but also realises great benefits for the company by focussing employee effort and eliminating wasteful practices.

By breaking down internal silos and considering the end-to-end process better customer outcomes are realised. With their service lifecycle thinking and end-to-end service value chain approach the Service Manager is ideally placed to help map, maintain and continually improve the customer journey.

A Bain study13 found that a compelling experience is one of the surest means to delight customers.

But many companies struggle to deliver even on a basic customer experience because of the gap between what the companies think they deliver and what customers expect to get. So this is more than a delivery gap, it is a customer empathy gap.

The moment a client makes the purchase it’s no longer the target customer with the all too often dip in care and attention. It is more important than ever to understand customer emotions.

Most brands today compete on value, not price. Providing exceptional experiences ensures one to stand out.

Starting with this empathetic insight and incorporating the customer experience into the design, delivery and support phases of the customer journey Service Management helps ensure an optimal match between the initial promise and the subsequent experience.

By stepping into their shoes a customer journey map enables a better understanding of how the customer thinks and feels at key points along the entire journey.

Journey maps can help pinpoint moments of truth and create a more enjoyable experience for customers.

And speaking of empathy, although customer satisfaction surveys, the plethora of business process KPIs, data analytics, NPS14 and other methods and systems to gauge, measure and action the customer experience are beneficial, they lack that deep human touch.

Which is where the trained Service Manager plays a pivotal role. To begin with as the ideal customer ambassador representing the VOC15 into the business.

Working on the company’s coal face as the 2-way conduit between the organisation and the customer, with their human and empathetic abilities the Service Manager is ideally positioned to understand, represent and improve the customer’s experience.

Conclusion

The Customer Journey represents the common ground between the two worlds of CX and Service Management practitioners. To understand their perspectives, it is important to review the key concepts of service management and the customer experience.

In this digital age with IT systems playing an increasingly vital role in providing service to the customer, the common definition of Service Management is currently determined by the international ITIL standard. CX on the other hand is less well defined as evidenced by the various services and certifications offered by a diverse set of organisations.

Both frameworks however share the Customer Journey approach with CX representing the outside-in perspective and Service Management taking the inside-out view.

The cross-functional approach of the Customer Journey considers the end-to-end process in how taken together they produce the Customer Experience.

Done well by breaking down silos an organisation not only realises benefits by focussing effort and eliminating wasteful practices but crucially improves customer outcomes realising a win-win situation.

The Service Manager is ideally placed to actualise the potential synergies of Customer Journey and Service Management and plays a crucial role in managing and improving the Customer Experience.

Footnotes:

  1. What is IT service management? | ITIL | AXELOS
  2. https://technology.berkeley.edu/ITSM
  3. https://www.axelos.com/best-practice-solutions/itil
  4. https://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/executive-education/individual-programs/executive-programs/focus.aspx
  5. https://www.cxrichmond.com/
  6. https://zs.business.gwu.edu/customer-experience-certificate.html
  7. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/prediction-the-future-of-cx
  8. https://www.bain.com/consulting-services/customer-strategy-and-marketing/customer-experience-transformation/
  9. https://go.forrester.com/certification/cx-certification/

* note – the author is a certified Forrester CX professional

  1. https://thecxacademy.org/courses/professional-certificate-in-customer-experience/
  2. https://www.medallia.com/resource/customer-experience-certification/
  3. https://www.qualtrics.com/training/certification/
  4. ITIL 4: Service Value Chain and Value Streams (Connecting the Key Concepts Part 4) – YouTube
  5. The Five Disciplines of Customer Experience Leaders | Bain & Company
  6. The History of the Net Promoter Score℠ | Bain & Company (netpromotersystem.com)
  7. The Voice of the Customer (mit.edu)

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Steve Belgraver

Senior ICT Manager: Service Operations, Customer Excellence, Business Improvement | ITIL NPS CX PRINCE2 SAFe |