When Harriet Wakelam was a child, her industrial designer father used to line up eight kettles on the bench in the morning. Wakelam would be asked to choose one kettle to make a cup of tea.

“It was a prototyping household,” says Wakelam, who has gone on to shape customer experience design for organisations including Telstra, Sensis, Medibank, NAB, Australia Post and now insurance giant IAG.

Her products-designer father would demand to know: “What was it that made you choose that one? Was it the colour? Was it how it made you feel? Is it well balanced or not? What’s the point of having a teapot if you can’t easily make it pour …”

Wakelam, Director Human Centred Design at IAG, learnt some critical lessons from this experience – including the need to ask simple but great questions: How do people do things? Why do they do them? How do you design great customer experiences?

She also learnt that great transformations come from collaboration with a variety of people – especially potential customers. “Real people create real ideas,” she says.

Forward-looking companies such as IAG are reinventing the way they operate by putting the customer at the centre of their service design.

And now so are universities – in their case by putting new focus on the student experience.

Deeply understanding the student experience helps them to tackle and solve some big problems, providing critical insights to prevent student churn and increase satisfaction and advocacy.

There are various contemporary strategy and management techniques that are extremely powerful and used to effect such change but they are often shrouded in a sea of buzz-words and phrases: agile, lean, UXD (User Experience Design), CXD (Customer Experience Design), human-centred design and so on.

Standing out from the pack is one simple but powerful tool that universities can readily apply – Customer Journey Mapping, based on the notion that the map should be a brilliant way of communicating information that can be easily understood.

It is a technique that has been used with great success in the university sector by award-winning agency Komosion – now a 2017 national finalist in the Australian Marketing Institute Awards for Consumer Insights, thanks to its recent Customer Journey Mapping work with Victoria University.

By spending time understanding the wants and needs of key student cohorts – including their pain points and positive experiences – Komosion uncovered simple yet profound insights and related opportunities, informing projects that saw an $8 million reduction in student churn.

The great news is that any university can use the methodology – with potential for cost reductions amounting to millions of dollars.

An acknowledged industry leader in this sphere, Wakelam has more to say about Customer Journey Mapping.

“A customer journey map is a benchmarking tool,” says Wakelam.

“It helps us to understand drivers and where we might move and where we might apply effort. It’s a prioritisation tool and, even more importantly, it’s a tool to help bring a strategy to life from a customer perspective.”

Wakelam sees the opportunity to combine such journey mapping with data (to confirm priorities) and design (to help communicate and facilitate change) as the essential of disciplines of modern strategic management.

“Strategy needs to be experiential. How do we use design to frame problems and turn them into things people can understand?

“For me, the very first thing is to use data to help an organisation understand where to focus.

“A journey map is a tool that shows us what is a priority for customers … it shows us the world as it is, the world as it could be and maps a pathway to get there.

“But we need to work with the data to understand what, then, is the value to the business and model how big is the opportunity and where to put our focus.”

John O’Neill, Komosion’s Managing Director interviews thought leaders within Customer Experience design and digital solutions. Among other things Komosion publishes a monthly podcast: “Customers Matter,” which helps its audience better know and serve their customers, meet the challenge of digital disruption and innovate to stay ahead.

Wakelam is featured in Komosion’s next podcast due for release this month.


Komosion consults to universities, corporations and government agencies on Customer Experience Design and Digital Innovation Projects. If you have a problem or an opportunity, we’d love to help you meet it.


John O’Neill
Managing Director

[email protected]
+61 2 9302 0200


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