Focus on Your Touchpoints, But Don't Miss the Whole Customer Journey

Strolling through the ever-expanding body of published work on customer experience, I’ve recently come across a few articles that appear to be making a case for not measuring customer touchpoints. If you’ve seen these too, I have one thing to say: don’t be misled.

The framework for the argument is basically this: “…analysis reveals that the entire customer journey - the series of interactions with a brand - is more important than any single touchpoint experience.” Well, duh. Of course, I couldn’t agree more with the core premise of this statement, which is that the entire customer journey is more important than any single touchpoint.

At issue appears to be the question of whether or not you should be measuring individual touchpoints. Fact is, there’s no issue. To improve customer experience, you must perform at a level that (ideally) meets customer expectations at each individual point of interaction – your touchpoints. And you need to do so in the context of the customer’s journey.

The Touchpoints Encountered Across a Customer Journey Drive the Experience

In our decade plus of research and consulting on customer experience, we’ve seen that those companies who are most effective at managing customer experience do so through multiple lenses, across multiple channels. This means understanding which touchpoints meet expectations, and which don’t.

It also means understanding which journey the customer is on, when interacting with those touchpoints. And measuring both.

After all, it often only takes a single “bad” touchpoint experience to taint the entire journey. Which is why the process of optimizing customer journeys often means that individual touchpoints are added, removed or improved.

Recently, McKinsey published an article titled “From moments to journeys: A paradigm shift in customer experience excellence.”  Whether you’re a consultant or corporate exec, anyone who has spent time understanding and improving customer relationships through the lens of experience knows that there is no “paradigm shift” from moments to journeys.

Those who successfully monitor and improve experience have always looked at both moments (touchpoints) and journeys, and, we expect, always will. Not to say there aren’t many other ways to make the experience better, but these foundational concepts drive most related improvement activities.

It’s About Context: How Does a Given Touchpoint Affect the Overall Journey?
And How do Both Affect the Experience?

drillWhat is your customer trying to accomplish? What do they need? Consider the customer journey – and the touchpoints encountered along the way – through the lens of Clayton Christensen’s “job to be done” framework. Looking at customer experience through this lens, each customer journey is the result of them trying to do a “job.”

In the context of a bank, for example, this might mean opening an account, getting ready access to their funds, or applying for – and funding – a loan.

Pulling a quote from the above referenced article, Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt said, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!" As customer experience consultants and executives, our job is to understand what customers actually need – the “job” the customers want to get done – then make the journey and the interactions along the way easier, more effective and more enjoyable.

Consider our work with a leading software and services firm, trying to drive increased engagement by improving the experience for certified users of its products. Digging in, our team found that one of the customer’s primary objectives wasn’t to be certified, per se. It was to be able to use that certification to enhance their employment and career prospects. In this context, we discovered that the overall journey was problematic.

As importantly, we discovered that a series of inter-related touchpoints – all connected via an underlying technology – were significant drivers of dissatisfaction within the journey. Looking at it from both ends (journeys and touchpoints) we were able to quickly point to solutions, helping these customers more efficiently get their “job” done.  Measuring only the journey wouldn’t have solved the issue.

Where Does it Hurt?

Conceptually, customer experience is a collection of customer journeys. And each journey is a collection of "touchpoints". The value of looking at them this way gives you a way to treat collections of touchpoints and the journey’s they make up as another "analytic lens" that allows you to more quickly assess customer experience across multiple channels, devices, and segments.

A good doctor asks what hurts (and listens to his or her patients) before making a diagnosis. If the patient says their arm is bothering them, they then ask “where?” If that same patient says “My elbow hurts” the Doctor may well ask if their forearm or shoulder hurts as well.

In this regard, understanding and improving customer experience means listening to your customers much as a Doctor might listen to their patients. Touchpoints and journeys are tightly interrelated tools for diagnosing all aspects of the experience. Use them both, and listen to your customers in the process. For now, that alone will help most companies a great deal more than almost anything else.

This blog originally ran on CMO.com, where Michael Hinshaw writes the weekly “Get Customer-Centric” blog.

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