21st century technologies have brought customer service standards to unprecedented levels. With the advent of services like one-click ordering and instant customer support, modern consumers have come to expect an efficient, user-friendly shopping experience.
In contrast, government services have traditionally been designed for internal convenience, resulting in customer experiences that are frustrating or inaccessible. However, forward-thinking governments are beginning to shift this paradigm–emphasizing government services designed specifically with their constituents in mind.
So how can one better understand the customer experience in order to make improvements? The private sector has long sought to answer this question, and they do so by combining data, process improvements, and technology. This same mentality is now manifesting in the public sector, with governments adopting simple strategies and technologies to gain deeper understanding of their communities’ needs and how best to meet them.
One effective technique is customer journey mapping. Previously confined to sales departments exploring a potential buyer’s experience, governments are now using customer journey mapping to simplify once-convoluted citizen services. In doing so, these public bodies are able to operate less like bureaucratic behemoths and more like efficient, customer-friendly storefronts.
What is a Customer Journey Map?
So how does it work? The key is to imagine what it’s like to be in your customer’s shoes, mapping every step of their experience interacting with you for any particular process. In the case of local government, for example, that ‘customer’ could be someone applying for a new license or permit. In this instance, a customer journey map would track every step of an applicant’s experience, from finding application information to issuance of the permit.
For many governments, a process like permitting still puts all the onus on the applicant to decipher complex forms, figure out exact requirements, and navigate unintuitive procedures with minimal – if any – guidance. The frequent result? A frustrated development community or frantic (and largely avoidable) phone calls from confused applicants chasing progress on unnecessarily complicated service requests. Customer-friendly? Hardly.
By visually mapping every step of a customer’s route as they interact with services, you gain much deeper insight into their needs. A customer journey map enables you to design services based on the customer’s experience rather than just departments’ convenience, vastly improving both efficiency and accessibility as a result.
How to Create your Customer Journey Map
Among the public bodies pioneering customer journey mapping is USA.gov – a customer-facing web portal for the federal government – which began by creating specific personas (common customer ‘types’, e.g. someone who wants to apply for a passport) to help improve their web design, content, and contact-center services.
Using a Customer Experience Journey Mapping Toolkit, they mapped persona behavior lines by examining the following data:
- USA.gov web analytics, including demographics, devices, common paths, popular pages, outbound links, and onsite searches
- Web analytics specifically related to the relevant process
- USA.gov customer-satisfaction survey data
- Searches on Google that led customers to USA.gov
- Contact-center content usage
- Web analytics for other government websites available through the Digital Analytics Program
- General search trends on Google
The next step was to print out each of those steps on a piece of paper and tape them to the wall. For example, the journey of a customer persona trying to apply for a passport on USA.gov might include the following steps:
- Internet search to find USA.gov
- Website research to find passport application information
- Filling out the passport application
- Paying for and submitting the passport application
- Checking the status of their application
- Receiving their passport
- Receiving follow up information on renewing or providing feedback
The team then walked itself through a series of exercises to explore the journey they had just mapped, paying particular attention to the following:
- Employees and systems the customer interacts with personally
- Behind-the-scenes employees and systems that support those direct interactions
- Customer’s attitudes, emotions, and needs
- The highs and lows of the journey
Through this process the USA.gov team was able to redesign their website any many of their services to be more streamlined and customer-friendly. For example, the USA.gov homepage features the most common services and questions sought by new visitors.
For our local government examining their permitting and licensing process, a customer journey map might reveal customer pain points like:
- Confusing application information that differs across different departments
- Inability to come to City Hall during open office hours while working a full-time job
- Inability to see into their application’s progress and make plans accordingly
- Lack of online information and ability to submit applications online
- Difficulty scheduling inspections and having an accurate inspection window estimate
Through this process, governments can identify the greatest pain points in a customer’s journey, brainstorm ways to improve them, and then implement those ideas. Many of our customers have found that implementing technology such as online permitting software addresses these pain points while also improving internal operations.
As governments compete with modern technologies in the private sector, customer-service standards will only become increasingly important. But the beauty of these process improvements is that they make life easier and more efficient for all involved: both governments and their customers.