Modern Service Management - The importance of the Customer Journey

A businesswoman in discussion with clients

ITIL® 4 brought many modern concepts and approaches to Service Management. Many of those were previously thought to be exclusive to other areas like marketing and customer service.

In this blog post, Airan Romero Savinon, Chief Operating Officer at Openser will cover the concept of consumer and the customer journey and how it can be applied to a very popular IT function: Service Desk.

The concept of consumer

One of the most important additions to ITIL 4 is the concept of value co-creation. In previous publications, value creation was expressed as an exclusive activity for the Service Provider. In practice Service Management professionals always knew that true value creation also required the participation of the organization receiving the service.

Establishing that relationship requires to look deeper into the definition of the types of consumer within an organization: Customer, User and Sponsor.

  • The Customer is the person responsible for defining the service requirements and for the outcomes of consuming the service.
  • The User is the person that will use the service.  
  • Finally, the Sponsor is the person that authorizes budget for service consumption or provides financial or non-financial support for an initiative.  

Each of these roles will have different perspectives and priorities regarding how the service should be delivered. The Sponsor might be entirely focused on how many resources will be invested while the Customer could be entirely focused on whether the service delivers the expected outcomes. Lastly, the User’s expectations could be as simple as the service being easy to use.

Service providers need to manage those expectations and priorities in order to be truly effective in the delivery of value.

The Customer Journey

The customer journey essentially covers the whole experience consumers have throughout the consumption of a service. We must keep in mind that this is relevant to all the three consumer types. Therefore, we could have three separate customer journeys. This is key for the service to become a successful endeavor.

Another point to keep in mind is that when consumers experience a service, they will most likely get in touch with more than one Service Provider, each one of them responsible for a different section of the overall service. This presents a very particular challenge that often requires cooperation among all the Service Providers involved with the guidance of the Customer role (as a service orchestrator) to provide a cohesive experience to the end user. For example, in the case of a Service Desk, common service providers involved in the delivery of the service are tool vendors and training providers. In a CX-focused Service Desk, it would be expected (and probably required) that the tool supports customer experience best practices and that the training provider is capable of training agents with the same philosophy. A disconnection in any of these elements could lead to an inconsistent or misaligned service that does not fulfill the expectations of the Customer.

The customer journey should be mapped so both, providers and consumers, can fully understand it and find opportunities to improve.

Touchpoints and Service Interactions

This mapping approach uses two main concepts to help understand the customer experience: Touchpoints and service interactions. The first one describes any event where a consumer might get in contact with the service provider through the service. The second one is used to define actions where value is co-created between the consumer and the service provider.

The key distinction between Touchpoints and Service interactions is the capability of the consumer to interact directly with the service provider. This could be a simple conversation between both parts all the way to an actual transfer of goods.

Examples for touchpoints could be:

  • Service provider’s website
  • Service provider’s incident management web portal
  • The IVR system

Examples for service interaction could be:

  • Phone calls
  • Automated and non-automated e-mail communication
  • Incident closure notification (automated and non-automated)
  • Satisfaction survey

Customer Experience concepts and the Service Desk

To fully understand the customer experience, the service provider needs to identify every single situation where the consumer is exposed to its service, product or brand. Taking the Service Desk as an example, a service provider could identify all the User’s touch points and service interactions to guide it’s continual Improvement efforts and then focus those on the customer experience.

Identifying these and their place within the Service Management practices can help focus the efforts to where they matter the most and customize the experience to the way customer wants and needs it. This approach also reduces the risk of overlooking important details from the perspective of the customer and allows value expression in the ways they expect it.

It is essential that the customer journey is a cohesive experience for the end user and the Service Desk often acts as the first and last service interaction point. Therefore, the Service Desk is an excellent starting point for organizations to start implementing a customer experience approach to its services.

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