By Brian Ebarvia

Over the past several years Customer Experience (CX) has evolved from buzzword into an area of competitive advantage, changing how brands measure interaction with customers. Companies are increasingly paying attention to all aspects of customer contact, investing in programs and technology to monitor delivery performance and customer feedback.

Given the recent corporate focus and the hyper growth of solution providers, the CX concept appears to have originated in just the past few years but that’s certainly not the case. Measuring consumer perceptions at various touchpoints has historically revolved around the brand funnel: finding ways to generate awareness and familiarity and influence consideration and purchase decision.

Mass media advertising – TV, print, radio – represented the primary touchpoint to create awareness and educate consumers about the brand and set them off on their purchase journeys. Interaction with a salesperson was another common touchpoint, as was contact with customer service representatives. Companies used audience measurement and surveys (awareness and usage, customer satisfaction) to monitor perceptions of their brands. The entire customer experience seemed linear and far more straightforward.

Today, use of audience measurement and surveys hasn’t changed drastically (albeit more sophisticated), but media consumption habits have, exponentially increasing the number of brand touchpoints: email, banner ads, social media, customer reviews, etc. Complicating matters is that customer journeys consisting of these touchpoints are not linear nor mutually exclusive, e.g.:

  • Complaints and frustrations may not be communicated directly to customer service but rather tweeted or posted on Facebook or Instagram with pics of a defect.
  • Despite zero brand awareness, consumer consideration will instantly change if a product carries an “Amazon’s Choice” logo.
  • Customers are armed with buyer comments from seller websites and video product demos on YouTube before speaking to a salesperson, and they can choose to avoid the salesperson altogether.

Monitoring and understanding each potential touchpoint has become quite the challenge for businesses. While companies demonstrate commitment to CX, often dedicating teams to this purpose, they risk falling into a trap of false confidence. High scores on metrics such as response time, resolution status and customer ratings signal to businesses that their mission to deliver a great customer experience has been accomplished. Management sees this strong performance and concludes success.

However, high ratings for individual touchpoints such as customer call resolution, website, meeting with sales rep, service visits, and individual product performance don’t necessarily translate to a great customer experience. Companies miss the opportunity to leverage touchpoint data to identify key customer journeys and assess the entire experience that has culminated over the life of a customer’s relationship with the brand. Customer service ratings are high, but why did the customer need to call in the first place? Meeting with the sales rep went well, and product installation went smoothly, but did product performance meet the expectations set by the sales rep? Purchase experience on the website and tracking of package delivery was simple, but what happens when an order is unexpectedly cancelled due to lack of inventory?

Let’s take a look at a TV service provider whose efforts to satisfy customers at various interactions didn’t correspond to higher overall satisfaction ratings:

For each encounter, customers were more satisfied with their experience at the touchpoint level than with the overall brand. The root problem was that each touchpoint was treated independently from one another. Teams responsible for individual interactions were focused on their singular touchpoints and weren’t always working in conjunction with the larger customer journey and overall experience. Once the team’s objective was fulfilled, customers may have felt alone in navigating through the journey to their next touchpoint.

Thus, measuring touchpoints doesn’t always tell the entire story. Aligning series of touchpoints to customer journeys gives companies a more holistic view of customer interaction with a brand. In turn, mapping customer journeys and identifying which ones have the most impact will strengthen the overall customer experience.