In an earlier post I mentioned that touchpoint mapping is a relatively useless approach for making significant improvements in the customers’ experience. Unfortunately, touchpoint mapping is also the most frequently used approach… either followed by companies on their own or recommended by consultants who claim expertise in customer experience design. The most important thing to realize is that… the most influential elements of the customer experience often occur at the non-touchpoints with your business. As a result, touchpoint mapping doesn’t lead to anything more than incremental improvement that, for the customer, amount to “better sameness.”
In most situations, the lifecycle of the customers’ experience follows something that roughly approximates this simplified picture:
Of course, the details look different for each situation. However, in most cases, an organization’s touchpoints with the customer include: sales contacts, ordering activities, fulfillment activities, and problem resolution. As you see, the customers’ process includes a lot of other things that have a substantial impact on their overall experience. In addition, customers often have to integrate products and services they get from you with the products and services of other organizations in order to address their needs.
For example, one of our recent clients is a leading jewelry store chain. Like many retailers, there is a natural tendency to think about the customer experience from the perspective of “things that happen in the store” or, increasingly, “things that happen on a website.” However, for most jewelry stores, 70% of the customers are “male gift givers.” For these customers, the experience is really defined by the end-to-end process they go through when they give a gift that makes a meaningful contribution to a “relationship bank account” with someone that matters a lot to them.
The customer is certainly affected by what happens in the store… but major parts of the experience have little to do with the store. They may think about an upcoming event, like a birthday, anniversary, graduation, or holiday. Although many male gift givers put off actually buying anything until just about the last minute, they typically engage in a “semi-conscious consideration of options” for what to buy. These customers have unwritten or implicit “rules of thumb” that influence how they shop. For example, “do a quick pass through three of four stores, then return to buy the best I find… or… “spend two months salary on an engagement ring.” There are also very significant portions of the experience driven by how they give the gift, how the recipient reacts both initially and over time after receiving the gift. If the gift giving experience does not go as planned, there are many cycles of highly emotional reactions for both the gift giver and the recipient. One of these that is particularly important is the experience that precedes having to return an item… which many stores make very stressful.
These are just the highlights. There’s actually quite a bit more. In this case, the parts of the experience that happen outside the store are the primary determinants of the quality of the experience for the customer. If a jewelry store were to focus on understanding and improving what happens in the store and/or online interactions, the best they’ll come up with is better sameness. The opportunity for a creative jewelry chain is to leverage insight into those portions of the customers’ experience that are “below the surface.” This provides insight that can help not only improve what happens at the “above the surface” touchpoints, but also provides insight into related services that address customers’ unarticulated or unmet needs at the non-touchpoints.