What a CEO needs to know about customers- from touch points to journeys

As a practitioner, manager, and board director, and as a widely read observer, i can say clearly that Companies which create exceptional customer experiences can set themselves apart from their competitors and produce significantly better business results.

The practice of mapping the journey of our customers, is well established, but typically these elements have been treated distinctly- a piece of point of sale, a price, a sponsorship, and while there is typically oversight from a brand perspective to ensure there is fit with the brand, there is often little co-ordination from a customers perspective to ensure these touch points align to create a co-ordinated and self-reinforcing customer journey,

thats why I’d like to discuss moving from discussing elements of a marketing plan to the overall perception of the plan from a customers perspective.

For a CEO/General Manager and for Board level directors the basis of understanding a customer decision jurney os simple; Observe – Shape – Perform – Review

What do my customers want?

Leading companies understand that they are in the customer-experience business, and craft an experience that delivers on their brand promise. That turns customer expectations into customer experiences.

More than this theoretical understanding, companies need to understand how their organization delivers for customers. As well as knowing what it delivers.

Your management task begins with considering the process from a customer perspective—not considering your organization just yet—and putting the customer at the heart of the exercise. so where to start.

 Observe: Understand the interaction through the customer’s eyes

The ever changing digital world we inhabit has handed customers unprecedented power to dictate the rules in purchasing goods and services.  They have greater access to both information and choice. The can search online and choose around the world. They can experience the service of almost every great company in the world, and set their internal benchmarks at this best level.

McKinsey reports that 75% of customers now

  • expect “now” service within five minutes of making contact online
  • a simple experience,
  • use comparison apps when they shop giving them access worldwide
  • put as much trust in online reviews as in personal recommendations.

The upshot of this, is that all of our customers now demand immediacy, personalization, and convenience as a base service level. Excellent service is now a hygiene factor no longer a means of setting businesses apart. Our customers trained (spoiled) to expect this by Apple and Google and Amazon- and they expect and will not accept less than world class service.

Identify and understand the customer’s journey.

This inexorable increase in customer expectations means paying more attention to the overall end-to-end experience customers have with a company from their perspective; rather than the individual elements of their experience. Too many companies focus on individual interaction touch points devoted to billing, or on-boarding, or service calls, and the like. In contrast, a customer journey spans a progression of touch-points and has a clearly defined beginning and end.  A customers perception of your business is as a whole and NOT as a sum of individual touch-points.

The advantage of focusing on the journey is twofold.

  1. Even if employees execute well on individual touchpoint interactions, the overall experience can still be disappointing.
  2. Business outcomes are better focusing on Journeys rather than touchpoints.

McKinsey supports this view through their US cross-industry customer-experience survey, June–October 2015 data, for example, indicates customer satisfaction with health insurance is 73 percent more likely when journeys work well than when only touch-points do. Similarly, customers of hotels that get the journey right may be 61 percent more willing to recommend than customers of hotels that merely focus on touch-points.

The answer isn’t to replace touchpoint management and thinking. Indeed, the expertise, efficiencies, and insights that functional groups bring to bear are important, and touch points will continue to represent invaluable sources of insights—particularly in the fast-changing digital arena. Instead, companies need to recognise and address the fact that we are simply not wired to naturally think about the journeys their customers take. Our focus is to maximise productivity and scale economies through functional units. We are hard-wired for transactions, not customer journeys.

Shaping; So how could we consider how companies may tackle this inherent issue?

In my experience, six actions are critical to managing customer-experience journeys

  1. Observe- Step back and identify the nature of the journeys customers take—from the customer’s point of view.
  2. Observe- Understand how customers navigate across the touch-points as they move through the journey.
  3. Shape- Anticipate the customer’s needs, expectations, and desires during each part of the journey.
  4. Shape- Build an understanding of what is working and what is not.
  5. Perform- Set priorities for the most important gaps and opportunities to improve the journey.
  6. Perform- Come to grips with fixing root-cause issues and redesigning the journeys for a better end-to-end experience.

Creating your own customer-journey scorecard

Managers should know what a customer journey entails:

Yes, its composed of Episodes or Moments of Truth to us. 

For our customer the journey is a specific, discrete experience. The act of simply purchasing a product in a store is a touchpoint within a customer’s decision journey. Discovering a need, researching and then buying a new product and getting it home or having it delivered, then getting it up and running at home would constitute the full journey as the customer sees it. They do not perceived and rate individual elements of the journey, its one holistic experience, and so we should treat it like this.

Think End-to-end experiences

It’s not enough to measure customer satisfaction on any single touchpoint; what matters is the customer’s experience across the entire journey. It’s common to generate high individual-touchpoint-satisfaction scores and yet have an unacceptably low scores across the end-to-end journey. Its cumulative rather than discrete.  A great sales rep in-store doesn’t overcome a poor delivery episode.

How appropriate is our descriptive Language?

Do managers describe journey events in the way a customer would (for example, “upgrading my product or service”)? Or do they lapse into company-speak (for example, “shipping new equipment”)?  If you can’t explain the journey in a customers own language you certainly can’t appreciate it.

This is the real “Omni-Channel”

Often multitouch and multichannel in nature, a “new-product on-boarding” journey might begin with a website visit, then a sales call, then a second website visit, followed by a store visit, a delivery, then a technical-help call during the activation or installation stage.

Whats the Duration, and what can cause dropouts?

Journeys are often longer than we think. For example, the on-boarding journey in the cable industry can extend through two or three billing cycles until the customer is au fait with the overall system and usage. (Most calls in the first few months are actually onboarding-related issues and inquiries.)

Repetition- repetition

Journeys are repeatable—and can be repeated for a meaningful percentage of customers as they buy our products/services again. So they can compare different experiences through different people or teams.

Identify and then Quantify what matters to your customers.

In most companies, there are a handful of critical customer journeys, repeatedly played out each day. And here lets go back to the premise that its the journey that counts NOT the individual touch-points- so we need to perceive and quantify the total journey, not focus on individual touch-points. Understanding what are the most critical journeys, customer segment by customer segment, helps a business to maintain focus, have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, and begin the process of redesigning functions around customer needs.

A well researched customer journey- that we have all experienced – is our experience journey in an airport. Research backs up our personal views that our customer satisfaction had more to do with the behaviour of security personnel than with total time spent in the airport. And that Changi Airport has spent time and focus streamlining the customs and security aspects of their experience.  They are now researching chair placement to enhance experiences.

Define a clear company wide customer-experience aspiration and common purpose.

Creating a winning and distinctive customer experience depends on a collective sense of conviction and purpose within your organisation to serve the customer’s true needs.

This purpose must be made clear to every employee through a simple, crisp statement of intent: a shared vision and aspiration that’s authentic and consistent with a company’s brand-value proposition.

The most recognisable example of such a shared vision might be the Disney Common Purpose which states “We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.”

The statement of purpose should then be translated into a set of simple principles or standards to guide behaviour all the way down to the front line.


Shape: Redesign the business from the customer back

Having identified by segment what the most essential journeys are, we can identify what makes a differentiating purpose and focus on improving the most important customer journey first.  I remember amongst the first things I did as a General Manager was to ring my own company up to complain. It was not a particularly good experience- it was a major customer pain point that we had to address. But only by personally experiencing the problem could I envisage a solution.


Apply behavioural psychology to interactions.

For example, savvy companies can design the sequence of interactions with customers to end on a positive note- a foundation of positive buying psychology; end on a positive.

You can identify how to merge different stages of interactions to diminish their perceived duration and engender a feeling of speedy progress.

And you could provide simple options that give customers a feeling of control and choice.

all three options are grounded in sound customer buying psychology.

In our digital age; Reinvent customer journeys using digital technologies.

Customers accustomed to the personalisation and ease of dealing with digital savvy companies such as Apple,  Google and Amazon now expect the same kind of service from established players and from you.

Customer-experience leaders can become even better by digitizing the processes behind the most important customer journeys.

Agile digital companies significantly outperform their competitors in customer journey measures, according to some studies.


Perform: Align the organization to deliver against tangible outcomes

An immediate challenge will be how to structure the organization and rollout of this strategy as customer journey’s clearly cut across many company (competing?) silos. Not only that but think about where and how to get started.

I always like to start with applying measurement to what your customers are saying, envision the current journey and then measure performance against this. Numbers are good- happy/not happy, how many drop out at each stage and why, get some verbatim comments to paint a picture.

Teh we’ll just have to empower frontline employees to deliver against your customer vision.

Use customer journeys to empower the front line.

Its a truism, but its still true- empowered employees are motivated to do the right thing.

Executives at customer-centred companies talk and discuss with these employees at every level of the organization, working directly with them in retail settings, taking calls, and getting out into the field. Eg Amazon famously staged “all hands on deck” sessions during the year-end holidays, a tradition that lives on in the employee-onboarding experience.

Some organizations create boards or panels of customers to provide a formal feedback mechanism.

Establish your most important measures to capture customer feedback.

And I mean not just to measure what happens but also to use the rich customer generated data to drive action throughout the organization.

The ideal customer-experience measurement system puts these customer journeys at the centre and connects them to other critical elements such as business outcomes and operational improvements.


Put cross-functional governance in place.

Ok, now this is tough, especially in traditional, functionally arranged organisations… shifting to a customer-centric model cuts across functions. This is not an easy task.

To move from knowledge to action, companies need proper governance and leadership.  Here are what successfuly companies have done, as examples…

  • C-level customer champion, with the power to cut through silos
  • transformation must take place within normal operations.
  • leaders at all levels must role-model the behaviour they expect from these teams,
  • constantly communicating the changes needed.
  • Formal reinforcement mechanisms and skill-building activities at multiple levels of the organization support the transformation,


As Kotter says- create and publicise early wins to demonstrate value creation.

To get company-wide buy-in create some early customer wins, and then publicise these to build an explicit link to value creation by defining the outcomes that really matter,

Try analysing historical performance of satisfied and dissatisfied customers, and showing all that satisfied customers will by more at higher margins. It helps everyone achieve their targets

Then focus on the customer satisfaction issues within the most important journeys with the highest potential payouts.

This requires discipline and patience, but the result will be early wins that will build confidence within the organization and momentum to innovate further.

And now all i can say is good luck, and here’s a link to a 100 page summary!