Your customers don’t care about touchpoint, they care about the journey

I went on a holiday recently and wanted a phone that worked internationally. Simple enough, right? I got the phone but it didn’t work so I called customer service. They were very friendly and helpful, and got my phone working. Later I went to the site to check about the billing process. The information was there, but it took me a while to find it. When I returned the phone, I got a bill that I hadn’t expected so had to call customer service again. And again, the person was very helpful. Each interaction was good, but fundamentally I was dissatisfied with the service and, therefore, the brand.

My experience, in a nutshell, is an issue some colleagues of mine recently explored in a great piece in the Harvard Business Review – “The Truth About Customer Experience.” While companies rightly focus on individual interactions with customers – the call center, the sales rep, the web site, etc. – what matters more is the overall customer experience journey. That’s because customers don’t think “That touchpoint interaction with the brand was great.” They think “Setting up this service is a pain.”

Thinking about customer journeys isn’t just about improving customer satisfaction scores; it’s about fundamentally improving the business and bottom line performance. Here’s the data that backs that up:

  • In measurements of customer satisfaction with companies’ most important journeys, performing one point better than peer companies on a 10-point scale corresponds to at least a 2% point outperformance on revenue growth rate.
  • The gap between the top- and bottom-quartile companies on journey performance was 50% wider than the gap between top and bottom-quartile companies on touchpoint performance (in one of the surveyed industries).

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this idea of journeys. Customers don’t go down a reductive “funnel” when deciding what product to buy. They go on a decision journey where they compare products, add and remove brand choices, and get recommendations. Customers don’t have interactions with brand “touchpoints” when they’re installing a service or using a product. They go on a journey where they have multiple interactions to achieve a specific goal. Yes, touchpoints are important. But if companies want to win in today’s business arena, they need to win journeys.

There are, of course, important implications to becoming a journey organization. Here are a few of them:

Organize for journeys. Many journeys involve a complex series of internal hand-offs (e.g. customer service needs to send the installation time to the installer in the field). Unfortunately, most organizations function in silos around each touchpoint and don’t have people responsible for the journey overall. That requires pulling together teams of people across functions to understand their roles in the context of the journey overall, and developing new ways of managing the journey. You’re going to need to get creative. One telecom company redeployed senior executives to become “chain managers” with responsibility for overseeing specific journeys. It also created war rooms where the chain managers could monitor journeys and meet with the functional teams involved.

Create incentives for journeys. This point is obviously related to organizing for journeys above, but it’s so important I wanted to highlight it specifically. If sales reps are rewarded for closing sales or customer service representatives for keeping calls short, then that’s what they’ll do. You’ll need to create incentives tailored to specific journeys you’ve identified as important. Back-office employees, for example, should be rewarded for the accuracy of order tickets rather than just the number of them. Customer service personnel should have incentives for identifying root cause issues when customers call. All those involved in a given journey should be rewarded for the completion of a successful journey.

Measure journeys. It’s a truism that you manage what you measure – are you measuring the right things? If it’s just “call duration” or “number of sales generated online”, you’re focusing just on success at the touchpoint level. Dashboards and metrics need to measure the entire journey with an emphasis on those journeys that matter the most (to the customer and the business) and identifying. This isn’t just a continual process; it’s continuous, e.g. you need to monitor journeys constantly, make adjustments, and build feedback loops from the frontlines so that your metrics drive on a daily even hourly basis decisions.

Is your organization ready for the journey?

Written by David Edelman. Published on LinkedIn.