How I helped customers get a seat at the digital service design table

  • Customer experience strategy
  • Project management framework review
  • Human Centered Design capacity building, training and mentoring
  • Change management

Timing: March 2014 – December 2016

The Challenge

Image of a page with lots of sticky notes clustered as a customer journey map
Outputs of one of the customer journey mapping workshops I led to support development of a new customer account portal

SA Water had been South Australia’s monopoly water and waste water manager for over 160 years. It was a traditional organisation that mainly delivered service through a phone-based contact centre where the onus was placed on the customer to get in touch when something went wrong. While significant investment had been made in community engagement around infrastructure projects, ICT projects were still internally focussed and often delivered without input from end users. In 2014, I was tasked with developing SA Water’s first digital transformation strategy – I knew that for it to be a success the organisation had to fundamentally change the way it delivered technology projects so that customers had a voice in the process. This needed to be done quickly as there were a number of significant digital projects already in train.

My role and approach

My first step was to initiate and co-author, with my then manager Kristen Pellew, SA Water’s first Customer Experience Strategy. This was a critical piece of work to provide the overarching framework for SA Water’s transition to a more customer-centric way of working. From there, coupled with the Digital Strategy I had authored, I developed a new framework for Customer Centric Service Design that was linked to, and could be embedded in, the existing project management framework that governed the delivery of ICT projects at SA Water.

I worked with a large number of senior stakeholders across the business to achieve this as a joint initiative. This included reviewing, with senior IT teams, the existing project management framework and rewriting it so that CX or Human Centred Design could be embedded at key stages. I developed a number of templates that could easily be used by project teams and then played a leading role in building capacity across digital and service delivery teams to use design thinking and human centered design tools as part of project delivery. This includes leading workshops to teach teams how to map journeys, conduct UX research and useability testing and review existing insights.

Impact and value

Images shows four people looking at butcher's paper stuck to wall in a workshop
Facilitating a design workshop to identify design principles for a new fault notification service

The Customer Experience strategy I co-authored was extremely well received by SA Water’s Senior Management Group and galvanised the business around the simple vision “to deliver a great customer experience’.

CX design principles became a key, embedded part of digital project delivery – no digital service project is completed at SA Water now without customer input. By the time I left SA Water in 2016, it was often cited as one of the leading examples within the South Australian government in terms of its commitment to customer-led design and became one of the first agencies with a dedicated Customer Experience team soon after I left.


What I learnt

In designing both the new Customer Experience Strategy and CX framework I saw how critical it was to present staff across the business with steps that were easy to understand and follow. Visual design played an important part of this as did the language we used to communicate what needed to change. Both the CX Strategy and Service Design Methodology were complex communication pieces but I made sure both could be communicated on a single page. The other key success factor what quickly getting cross-functional teams from the business working with customers so they could see the benefits first hand – I was able to build advocates across the business really quickly.

CX Design Process Summary

Download PDF of the Customer Service Design Framework