Authors: Ariel Ellis and Claire Chow

The benefits of Human Centred Design (HCD) and Customer Experience (CX) approaches in the design of government services are increasingly well understood. It makes services better for the people who use them and identifies potential design flaws earlier in the process.

As we’ve observed before, commissioning and the work of government is about humans - their hopes and dreams and new and old ways of viewing the world and its possibilities.

This equally applies when contracting for service delivery. But we know it can sometimes be a challenge to ensure that service providers incorporate good practices from HCD and CX. This requires building these practices into service agreements and contracts.

What does this look like in practice?

Transport for NSW is widely recognised for placing the customer at the centre of everything they do. The first question often asked by the Leadership Team is,

“What does this mean for our customers?”

TfNSW and Commissioning NSW have worked together on a number of projects. We are currently partnering on the next generation of bus services contracts, which TfNSW are looking to drive improved services.

As part of this process, TfNSW’s Customer Strategy & Experience (CSE) team have used customer journey mapping to inform the design of those next generation of services contracts.

The CSE team develops the base journey then leads workshops with planners, designers, operations and commercial experts. It is crucial that knowledgeable and diverse voices are contributing to the process, not only to ensure different perspectives are captured, but also to achieve buy-in into the process. This collaborative approach enables an integrated design of the customer experience and ensures that all teams have the opportunity to see their future state strategies reflected in the journey.

Decorative infographic

The group maps the detailed customer journey “door-to-door-to-door” using different customer personas. For each stage in the journey, the group identifies:

  • Pain points that will be solved by the contract (and those that won’t be solved by the contract)
  • The CX uplifts from the contract
  • How the customer journey will be different at the end of the contract term – what will be the progressive innovations enabled by the contract?

At the conclusion of the process, there is a product that bridges the customer and commercial domains that can be used by members of the project team, governance groups and other senior stakeholders to support decision making.

Customer personas used by TfNSW are developed from a synthesis of qualitative and quantitative data sets, particularly those that tell us something about customers from the study area. TfNSW has an attitudinal segmentation that defines the people of NSW according to their attitudes towards public transport and their barriers to adoption. The segments range from car loyalists to public transport enthusiasts. The mix of these segments differs somewhat between metropolitan, intercity and regional NSW. Customer satisfaction scores and verbatims and customer feedback related to the study area are also included. TfNSW has vast library of customer operational data and primary customer research to also draw upon and on occasion additional research is conducted to further enhance our understanding of customers and inform the personas.

What have we been learning?

The CSE team has previously used this approach in the development of the Parramatta Light Rail contract and the articulation of the Newcastle Light Rail contract to demonstrate what the customer experience would be on Day One of launch. Customer journey maps have also been used to demonstrate benefits for Sydney Harbour Ferry commuters.

From these experiences, TfNSW have gained the following insights:

  • Understanding the customer journey early in the development of the contract allows for visions to be captured via contractual mechanisms including KPIs and risk allocation. This helps ensure that service providers are appropriately incentivised to deliver on desired customer outcomes.
  • Understanding the customer journey later in the process, that is after the contract is drafted and commercial decisions made, can still bring value by helping people articulate the benefits for customers and understanding what the organisation needs to do in conjunction with the service provider to bring it to fruition.
  • There is a need for ongoing capability to ensure customer uplift is maintained throughout the life of service agreements. This should also include ensuring there is sufficient HCD / CX capability with the organisations that we contract with. This can be assessed as part of proposal evaluation.
  • Having contracts aligned with customer journeys is also useful as a validation and approval tool. It gives you a very structured way to go back and check if you missed anything along the way. It is also a great way to explain the customer outcomes to senior stakeholders without having to take them through all the tender documents and contracts. This is especially useful for large procurements that evolve over a long period of time, and where it becomes tricky to crystallise many months’ worth of work.

It’s been great to observe how customer journey maps are being used to better inform the design of transport service contracts, but we think the approach can also bring value to any other service that is commissioned.

Whether its complex services delivered to the most vulnerable in our communities, or more transactional services relied upon by people and business every day, as commissioners we should always be able to demonstrate how service design translates into service agreements that result in better outcomes for people and communities.

If you’re aware of a similar approach being used in other contexts, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to get in touch with us, at [email protected] or [email protected].