I originally wrote today’s post for CMSWire. It appeared on their site on June 7, 2022.

Connected customers expect seamless, consistent, and personalized experiences across various channels and touchpoints. You must know their preferences and expectations and design an experience accordingly. To deliver on their expectations, you’ve got to have a complete view of the customer journey, informed by customer and data-driven insights.

How do we do this?

Let’s begin with this concept: journeys not touchpoints, the mantra for customer experience success. It means that, while it’s important to look at the individual steps and touchpoints, moments of truth, and channels of the experience, it’s more important to remember the whole journey, the end-to-end experience that the customer has with your brand as he’s trying to do whatever it is he’s trying to do. Focusing on the entire journey affords you the ability to design and deliver an exceptional customer experience. 

Why is this concept important? Because journeys are how customers think; touchpoints are how businesses think. The customer doesn’t just think about the brand as a website or a phone call. When customers interact, they think about all of the steps that it will take to buy something or to solve a problem. And there are multiple touchpoints and steps in that experience that all need to be tied together to create a seamless journey.

Let’s use the customer service experience as an example. That journey begins when the customer has an issue and starts looking for answers. She might go to the website first, then engage with the chatbot because she couldn’t find what she was looking for, and then ultimately call customer service. Each one of those (website, chatbot, customer service rep) is a touchpoint. String them all together, plus incorporate all of the other steps and channels and touchpoints in between, all the way through until her problem is solved, and now you’re talking about the journey.

Focusing on touchpoints reinforces organizational silos, which are painful for employees, making them painful for customers, too. Have you ever created a touchpoint map? It’s created with customers and captures and inventories all of the various touchpoints along the customer lifecycle or a specific journey. It paints a picture of the ways your brand touches customers and customers touch the brand. Trust me – you’ll be shocked by how many touches there are!

There’s no seamless and consistent experience for the customer if brands design for each individual touchpoint. The touchpoints are all steps along the same journey, so brands must view them in a connected way and design accordingly.

In order to get a full picture of what the journey looks like and to highlight where those silos impact the customer experience, you’ll also need to create a journey map, which is a visualization of the steps that your customers take as they interact or transact with your brand. It captures a timeline of what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling along that journey and tells the story of their experience.

Creating the map isn’t enough. Journey mapping is both a tool and a process. The next step in the process after the map is created is to enhance it and bring it to life with data. Data is at the heart of designing and delivering a great customer experience. There are many reasons to incorporate data into your maps, but some of the actionable ones are to:

  • Identify key moments of truth
  • Clarify high points and pain points for the customer
  • Identify where to simplify and personalize the experience
  • Understand where channel optimization needs to occur, and
  • Identify where communications can be more timely, relevant, and consistent

There are various types of data that can be incorporated into the map – including customer feedback, emotions, and expectations, as well as operational metrics and other business data. These will help you understand where the experience is going well and where there are gaps. 

The rubber really hits the road when it’s time to design and deliver the new future-state experience. Given that understanding the customer is the first step in designing a better experience, the aforementioned data will be quite useful but so will customer data such as past and real-time behavioral, interaction, and transaction data; location data; and more. Integrating this data into the customer journey at the right place – touchpoints and channels – and time will ensure that your customers get the personalized experience they desire. Never before has the phrase “right data to the right people at the right time” been more relevant.

Customers have changed. Customer behaviors have changed. Customer expectations have changed. They no longer say, “Know me.” Now they say, “Hear me. Know me. Understand me. Show me.” And “show me” translates to a lot of different things, like relevance, timeliness, and context, which can come in the form of location and proximity, channel, time of day, life events, product category, previous brand interactions, why a customer is buying, and more. Having data that allows you to hear/know/understand/show means that you will more effectively and efficiently engage with your customers.

The more you have the right customer data – data that is contextually relevant and is consolidated and accessible to be used at the right time – the better the experience will be for your customers. But it’s not just enough to have the right data, you’ve also got to have the tools (such as customer data platforms to create a single view of the customer, journey analytics, and predictive and prescriptive analytics tools and capabilities) to understand, learn, adapt, and power all customer touchpoints, the technology (such as geofencing, facial recognition, and biometric sensors), and the people to apply the data in a relevant and contextualized way.

Data is the driving force, but there are hindrances and obstacles, including: organizational silos; siloed or disconnected data; data quality, accuracy, and consistency; lack of tools and technology; and, importantly, lack of customer understanding. Even if these obstacles aren’t an issue, the real dilemma is often speed, timeliness, and the ability to glean insights fast enough to be able to deliver the right experience in real time. Using journey maps to understand the customer and her experience and to design better future experiences helps to break down or connect silos by helping every department (department often equates to touchpoint) see how the touchpoints connect to create the end-to-end experience. This becomes a driver for data sharing and for connecting customer data.

In the end, “journeys not touchpoints” means that you are (1) building relationships with customers, not just focusing on transactions; (2) being proactive, not reactive, in experience design, which gives you a competitive advantage; and (3) designing and delivering a seamless and consistent end-to-end experience because you’ve  infused connected data into connected journeys – journeys that account for all of the touchpoints customers engage with during a single transaction, whether that’s making a purchase, calling support, or opening an account. Brands that embrace “journeys not touchpoints” and put data at the heart of designing and delivering a great experience will be the providers of choice, as customers recognize and appreciate that brands care enough to hear them, understand them, know them, and, ultimately, show them.

Today’s customer journey is an iterative, complex pinball of touchpoints. ~ David Louis Edelman

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

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