Leading organisational transformation through customer experience design

City-makers like David Murphy (City Planning Manager) and Dave Charnley (Urban Designer) at Palmerston North are being challenged to transform their organisation and deliver more value to citizens and customers (with limited resources).

Like many city-makers, the Palmerston North City Council where they work is in a process of transformation and certain customer segments are a high priority. For example, large property development companies and professional service agents are a priority because of the large contribution they make to the city’s development, jobs (salaries), and local economy.

Yet, it’s hard for busy professionals like Dave to find the time to improve customer experience when they are working full-time delivering services. In addition, if a business wants to delight their customers they need to look after their employees’ experience too (and avoid burnout). The overall goal is to make improvements that benefit customers and employees.

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The Project

David and Dave created a platform to improve the customer experience for developers and agents in their city. With Urban Kin, David and the Project Team created and innovation strategy informed by customer research, mapping the customer journey and business model, and looking at how the operating environment is changing. The innovation strategy led to a plan to improve the customer experience which they are now implementing.

The challenge to become customer-centred meant that the Project team needed to focus on the customer’s goals they want to achieve. The experience customers have while achieving their goal is best understood as a ‘journey’.

The first step to improving customer experience is to understand who your customers are. That means empathising with them, observing them, and talking to them and finding out what they’re trying to achieve. Through these methods, we create a profile of each customer segment. At this stage the Project Team also had to decide which Customer Segments it would prioritise, and those which could wait.

Customer segments each need to be profiled because each gets different value from interacting with the PNCCs services. We mapped two customer segment’s journeys so that we could understand their motivations, the pains they experience, and what helps them as they try to achieve their goal.

The next step was to understand the Business Model that PNCC uses to deliver the customer journey. A design tool, the Business Model Canvas (BMC), helped to create a shared understanding within the Project Team and stakeholders of how PNCC delivers value to developers and agents. The model then allowed the Project team and Stakeholders to understand how their day-to-day activities helps to create an impact.

City governments are mission-driven organisations. So, the nine elements in the Business Model Canvas are adapted to make sense for an organisation which aims to create specific impacts rather than profit.

After the business model was mapped, the Project Team examined their operating environment and used the insights to spark new ideas.  The combination of the customer profiles, customer journey maps, environmental scanning, and the business model canvas allowed the organisation to make plans to systematically improve the customer experience.

The work on customer experience involves risk. This is caused by the assumptions made about the elements in the customer profiles, customer journey, and business model. Together with the project team, we created an Implementation Plan that includes ‘roadmaps’ for each touchpoint. The next step is to build the development community and begin running experiments with customers. Experiments are needed to turn the project team’s riskiest assumptions into facts. Now, the main goal for the project team is to learn in the real world with customers what works and what doesn’t and stay flexible.



The customer journey and business model canvas created a focal point for future work. David, Dave and the project team now use language from the business model canvas to understand what they are working on and to quickly identify where new ideas fit or if they are outside scope.


The Implementation Plan and Roadmaps provide a solid foundation for testing ideas with customers. Because of the disciplined approach to preparation up front and identification of the riskiest assumptions, the team now has the freedom to innovate on the customer journey and work to improve each touchpoint.

Network power

The customer journey and business model have become the source of story-telling to gain stakeholder buy-in to the project. For example, a new Transformation Team has been formed in the Council which the project team now collaborate with. The Implementation Plan allowed the Project Team to articulate how it was taking a customer focus and what resources it needs to develop and test the business model.

Geoff Wilkinson