It’s the journey, not the touchpoints, that make the customer experience

Customer experience – it’s a simple enough concept to understand: give customers a great experience and they’ll stay loyal, spend more and shout your brand-name to the rooftops. Statistics back this up. Recent PWC research found that 73% of people point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions. On the flipside, one in three consumers say they would walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience.

Pre-pandemic, the issue of customer experience was certainly on the strategic agenda, but not necessarily a matter of great urgency. From March 2020 priorities changed. Fewer opportunities for face-to-face interaction have resulted in businesses paying much closer attention to how their brand performs on digital channels.

Channel choice is essential. Challenger brands have emerged across every sector, promoting a digital-first or digital-only agenda geared towards a tech-savvy generation. For established brands to compete, a presence across all channels is essential. But it is not enough. Where customer experience is concerned, simply being present and available to customers digitally is a long way from being able to deliver an experience that truly stands out.

More channels means more touchpoints with the customer. And more touchpoints means more complexity. The danger is that each touchpoint then becomes a problem to solve in isolation rather than one element of the customer experience journey as whole.

Siloed services

At the heart of the challenge is the siloed nature of service delivery and the insular structures and processes that companies rely on. Consider the variety of ways that a customer might interact – perhaps an in-store conversation, web visit, call-centre conversation, mail or email exchange. Even as the teams responsible for each touchpoint work hard to optimise their own function they are at risk of losing sight of the big picture – what the customer sees and wants.

It’s a disconnect that can be hard for a business to recognise. Individually, these business functions might score highly in terms of customer feedback and response. But the customer may still feel that the overall experience has been disappointing.

The importance of the customer perspective

The point is best illustrated with an example.

The insurance industry is just one sector that is focusing seriously on its customer experience proficiency. A car accident represents a typical interaction. If somebody has a car accident they will often touch their insurance company at least five times to handle just one claim. Typically, those 5+ touchpoints are with different silos within each insurance company. So, each of these silos is thinking about their individual interaction with the customer. Each silo may be hitting its target goal of 95% customer satisfaction which, in theory, means that 1 out of every 20 customers is having a less than satisfactory experience. But switch to a customer perspective. If 5% of customers are dissatisfied across five touchpoints, that’s 25% of the time that customers are having a bad experience. This now paints a different picture whereby one out of every four customers is left dissatisfied.

A customer only thinks about their experience as a whole, and if businesses can’t switch to this customer viewpoint, as opposed to a siloed perspective, they run the risk of always falling short.

The car accident is just one example from one sector. Hundreds of similar scenarios exist. Think of the number of interactions that are required for services such as customer onboarding, technical service, change of address, mortgage applications and more.

Getting to good

So what does good look like? A company with a holistic customer journey perspective will still do the best possible job at each touchpoint. But the business will join the dots, understanding the context behind the interaction, addressing the root cause and looking to feedback any intelligence to drive continuous improvement. Ultimately, interactions become personalised to individual’s preferences and circumstances.

If this big picture sounds overwhelming it shouldn’t. Lack of IT resource or the right skills to improve the customer experience are often cited as barriers. But, today, these issues are quickly and easily overcome.

Businesses are partnering with experts that have the tools and experience to quickly drive change without burdening IT departments. The first step is to help business leaders evaluate and review key customer journeys. What’s the reality for customers? Where are the pain-points? What is the resulting burden in terms of cost and efficiency on the business? Then, sensible steps are proposed – improvements that can be implemented rapidly with little IT support.

Expert partners will work with businesses to construct tailored digital interfaces to support and transform customer interactions. Disparate departments such as marketing, legal and finance will have sight of every stage of an engagement with customers – speeding decision-making and response times.

Forward-thinking businesses are acting now. The pandemic has changed priorities and shifted strategic planning – customer experience has taken on increased significance in a world where face-to-face interaction has become less prevalent. Businesses aren’t necessarily structured in a way that makes it easy for them to assess their customers’ journeys as a whole. But, with expert support, they are finding this focus. The reward for companies getting it right is a customer base that is more likely to stay loyal, to repeat purchases, to spend more and to act as a cheerleader for the brand. This, in turn, delivers a competitive advantage that translates directly to the bottom-line.