It’s time for another case study from our operational excellence sherpa, Peter Evans.
This time we look into a case of improving customer experience through customer journey mapping in the telecommunications industry. It’s a great case, so let’s set the scene with some background information.
What is customer journey mapping?
Customer journey mapping is a strategic tool used by operational excellence professionals to understand and analyze the entire experience of a customer as they interact with a company, its products, or services. The method involves identifying and outlining each touchpoint or interaction a customer has with the company, from initial awareness to purchase, and even post-purchase support.
The main objective of customer journey mapping is to gain insights into the customer's perspective, needs, and expectations at each stage of their interaction with the company. By understanding these aspects, businesses can identify pain points, optimize processes and ensure customer experience stays consistently at a high level to retain and win more customers.
Customer journey mapping is simple in theory but difficult in execution. We’ll soon see why.
What is customer experience a key challenge in the telecommunications industry?
Telecommunications is famous for being a competitive, cut-throat industry. Not only is there fierce competition for new customers, telecoms companies consistently have some of the lowest net promoter scores (NPS) of any major services.1 When the service is buried in cables or as invisible as a wireless network, it’s the customer experience that defines your brand.
A few reasons why customer experience is especially difficult to manage in the telecoms industry:
- Market saturation: In many regions, the telecommunications market has already reached saturation, with adoption rates and limited potential for new customer acquisitions. This scenario drives telecom companies to compete more aggressively to retain existing customers and attract new ones from competitors.
- High demands from consumers: As they are spoiled for choice, customers demand better network coverage, faster internet speeds, and seamless connectivity. This pushes telecom companies to continually improve their services to meet these expectations, fueling competition in the process.
- Price sensitivity: In many markets around the world, price is a significant factor affecting customers' choice of telecom service providers. Telecom companies often compete on price, offering various plans, promotions, and discounts to attract and retain customers. As we’ll see, this push also has some drawbacks.
Revisiting the Case of the “Join Journey” in Onboarding New Customers
This is where we get into exploring a real case of transforming customer experience from Peter Evan’s experience as a transformation leader in the telecommunications industry.
In the 2010s the telecommunications industry in the United Kingdom was full of challenges. Since the privatization of British Telecoms in the 1980s, the United Kingdom had pursued a policy of active liberalization in telecommunications services. After the sector had been opened up for competition, over 140 companies were issued licenses for cable telecoms services across the country.
Ultimately, fierce competition in the UK telecoms sector led to a number of mergers and acquisitions, and today there are considerably less players in the market. This is the background where Peter was brought in by a major contender to align the journey of new customer onboarding for the different services they had brought together under one brand.
Aligning different entities with a common “join journey”
The “join journey” was an internal term to describe the customer on-boarding process in one of the major cable telecommunications companies in the United Kingdom. It included key sales processes including telesales. From there, this key journey continued to sign-up, installation and past the first bill or invoice. Essentially, this included all the first key milestones of new customers joining the service.
The need for a consistent join journey was clear. The company had grown out of a merger of up to 40 different companies, each with their own headquarters, operations and on-boarding processes. Peter was brought in as a Six Sigma professional to bring consistency across these different operations across the country.
Around 2014 Peter had seen early versions of process mining tools but they were not mature enough to fit his needs in this project. Instead, “a couple guys basically took over a meeting room in one of our offices up in the Midlands, and started to build the map for the join journey.”
“Our company was built out of a merger of 40 companies. We started looking into 40 different systems. The processes were a mess. In the start, we didn’t understand the processes. We didn’t understand anything. So, we went through a period of fixing key areas. Making performance measurement visual. Understanding and drawing processes. Finding the best way of doing things and moving our way through the business.”
“We saw lots of brown paper, lots of post-its. People coming in and out of the room looking at sections of processes, drawing the map. Think of a big picture right from the point of telesales and the success and failure rates there. You could track and measure all kinds of detailed call center type stats right from sale up to the first bill.”
According to Peter, there were already some process maps and definitions of how processes should look like in the business. “Nobody really understood it, and it was just thousands of boxes that no one wanted to look at. So we had to kind of re-describe the business from the point of view from the customer join journey.”
How the Leaky Pipe Diagram Turned from Problem to Solution
Shifting the focus of process mapping to the customer journey was controversial. One insight that they identified is that the company was signing up 2 million new customers a year only to lose 2 million customers in the same time period. The massive picture developed by Peter’s team became known as the “leaky pipe diagram.” And with this catchy name they had a clear mission.
The leaky pipe diagram gave an overview of where customers were lost along the join journey. Peter’s team looked into key challenges and did deeper research to understand where the leaks came from. One insight was that customer experience started from the moment of sales. If the customer experience didn’t live up to expectations, these customers would bail out. Peter’s team could map and diagnose those failure points.
Another point of interest from customer feedback was the complexity of the bill. At the time, customers didn’t easily understand what they were charged for. This could be another source of contention as customers had an easy option to switch over to another service provider.
The leaky pipe diagram allowed Peter’s team to identify points of failure and develop improvement opportunities. That’s where another key element of measuring customer satisfaction came in in the form of NPS.
What exactly is Net Promoter Score?
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a widely used metric for measuring customer loyalty and satisfaction by evaluating the likelihood of a customer recommending a company, product, or service to others.
NPS was developed by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix in 2003 and is based on a single question: "On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend [company/product/service] to a friend or colleague?"
Customers are then categorized into three groups: Promoters (9-10), Passives (7-8), and Detractors (0-6). The NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters, resulting in a score ranging from -100 to 100.
The simplicity, ease of implementation, and ability to gauge customer sentiment have contributed to the widespread adoption of NPS as a valuable tool for businesses to measure and improve customer experience.
Using NPS as the Leading Indicator
In Peter’s business NPS was a common measurable goal that had a clear correlation with customer retention across the organization. By breaking down NPS across different parts of the customer journey Peter could identify leaks in the process.
Peter’s team worked hard on fixing the leaky pipe of new customer onboarding, breaking customer journey steps down to items that had a measurable impact on NPS. His team would regularly meet in groups of 20 or 30 people to diagnose and discuss how NPS could be improved across different areas.
As a starting point, the overall NPS for the organization was -19, so they had more detractors than promoters in their customer base. Within a year and a half, the team was able to drive NPS up to zero. The scope of improvement was unseen in the telecommunications industry, where retention and advocacy of happy customers is key.
Along the customer journey Peter’s team improved their visibility and could see NPS per transaction, by sale or by bill. It became clear where the failures were. While NPS didn’t replace the importance of customer voice fully, it gave Peter’s team a clear understanding of where real value could be unlocked through process re-design or incremental improvements.
Importance of customer journey mapping
Flash forward to the present day. Today, many companies use process intelligence software to diagnose the as-is state of their processes. Nevertheless, the need for customer journey mapping remains.
Customer journey mapping remains a valuable tool for operational excellence within telecommunications and many other industries. Here are six key reasons where customer journey mapping is important:
- Enhancing customer experience: Customer journey mapping helps you tailor services to meet customer expectations better. By understanding the customer's perspective at each touchpoint, businesses can offer personalized and relevant services, which leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Identifying pain points: By mapping the customer journey, you can identify areas where customers face challenges, such as network connectivity issues, billing discrepancies, or difficulties with customer support. This enables them to address these pain points, improving the overall customer experience.
- Reducing churn: A clear understanding of the customer journey helps proactively address issues that may cause customers to leave. By solving these issues, companies can reduce churn and maintain a stable customer base.
- Aligning internal processes: Customer journey mapping enables you to identify areas where their internal processes can be optimized. By streamlining these processes, companies can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver a better customer experience.
- Improving communication and collaboration: Mapping the customer journey encourages different departments to work together, fostering a customer-centric culture. This collaboration leads to more effective problem-solving and a unified approach to enhancing the customer experience.
In this case we’ve revisited with Peter Evans the value of customer journey mapping in the telecommunications industry. We saw how a focus on the key onboarding process could be measured by Net Promoter Score and saw how a meticulous mapping of the customer journey enabled the business with the help of Peter’s team to fix a leaky pipe of new customer acquisitions and improve key elements of the customer join journey resulting in a significant improvement in NPS and customer retention.´