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Understanding the Customer Journey

What Planners Need to Know

A person wanting to put up a shed in their yard or an experienced developer working on a large project are both on a journey that starts with an idea. While the scope of their projects are quite different, a successful outcome in their mind is when they can start digging dirt or opening their doors for business. Everything in between is mostly involuntary; nobody voluntarily signs up for zoning.

Regardless of the scale of a project, there are three parts to the journey: gathering information, designing the project, and getting approvals.

In each and every step along the way, there are points of friction. Development standards in the zoning regulations may affect how a project is designed and may alter the original idea in subtle or significant ways.

​From the first steps to the last, there are varying degrees of uncertainty for the developer. It is especially pronounced at the start of the discovery process. That’s when basic zoning parameters are considered. As the scope of project takes shape, a person or a group is tasked with designing the project taking into account the needs and wants of the developer and the many requirements built into the zoning code. Details in the zoning code continue to affect and shape the project during the design phase.

​A Typical Customer Journey

  • Almost everything is involuntary.

  • There are many decision points.

  • There are many interactions between the staff and developer and, potentially, neighbors.

  • There are many potential points of friction.

  • It takes time.

  • It involves varying levels of unknowns (risk).

Once the project plans are finalized, they are submitted for review which starts the last leg of the journey. In some instances, the review is handled administratively and can conclude

in a few days or weeks. For other project types, one or more public reviews may be required which can span one or more months and potentially involve neighbors.

Recognizing that zoning is an involuntary endeavor for both developer and neighbors, the municipality needs to make the journey as easy as possible.

A zoning code that is well organized and written will go along way to minimize points of friction and uncertainty in the land development process. The developer’s discovery process can be shortened with easy-to-find zoning details. Standards in the code need to be right sized and only impinge on important design considerations. Development review procedures must be designed to minimize risks and associated review costs.

Whether creating an entire code or amending an existing code, the municipality must be very mindful of the customer journey and what that looks like to those who are actually using the code (because they have to).

What Does the Journey Look Like for Your Constituents?

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