A customer journey looks at things entirely from the customer’s’ point of view; their actions, goals, questions, and barriers over time.
In this installment we’ll look at a framework for understanding how your organization supports the customer throughout that journey.
This is accomplished by orchestrating touchpoints — a touchpoint being any interaction point between the customer and your brand.
Being creative with how you think about the touchpoints along the customer journey can yield surprising benefits.
For example, in the car insurance customer journey, one of the stages — if you’re unlucky — is getting in an accident and having to report a claim. With most insurance companies this is a complicated and poorly-defined process that takes place at a traumatic time. And for insurers it is also a time of risk because a significant number of claims are fraudulent — the accident never happened. Progressive Insurance rethought this step of the journey and introduced a new touchpoint — their now-famous white vans show up at the scene of the accident as soon as it’s reported. This helps the customer feel taken care of at a stressful moment, and it minimizes the possibilities for fraud because the accident can be verified. (I’m indebted to Frances X. Frei, who wrote about Progressive in this HBR article, and revealed the insights about the dual benefits of its operational choices.)
Once you have mapped your customer journey, you can move on to looking at touchpoints.
I generally find that touch points fall into four general categories (you may need some modified categories of course, feel free to experiment):
Products: Using the term “product” loosely here, this includes the hardware, software, and services themselves. In the case of Progressive, this includes its vans and website. (I’m classifying the website as a product as it’s central to every aspect of Progressive’s business, from acquiring to servicing customers. Frei examines how the website’s feature of quoting competitive prices, for example, also has positive business benefits for Progressive. But for company’s where the website is a straightforward marketing tool, it may be better to classify it in Messages, which we’ll see below.)
Interactions: Two-way interactions that can be in-person (such as in a store), on the phone, or virtual (web sites, blogs, social network and user forum presences, and so on). Progressive minimizes in-person interactions to reduce costs and tries to have customers self-serve on the website, but when an accident does occur, the interaction with the agent in the white van is crucial. An interesting contrast is online shoe retailer Zappos, which wants customers to call, as the company sees that as a loyalty-builder for the brand, even if it’s relatively expensive. CEO Tony Hsieh says, “We believe that forming personal, emotional connections with our customers is the best way to provide great service.”
Messages: One-way communications that include brand, collateral, manuals, advertising, packaging, and the like. Progressive advertises heavily, with its minor-celebrity spokesperson Flo who works in the Progressive “store” in the TV commercials. In the previous article I mentioned the importance of the out-of-box-experience stage of the customer journey, and that typically falls into the Messages category as it focuses on establishing the brand voice and explaining a complex product to first-time users.
Settings: Anywhere that the product is seen or used: a retail store, a friend’s house, TV product placement, events, or shows. Especially in Big Box retail, we have seen that manufacturers and vendors have less and less influence over how their products are presented, making this a tricky touchpoint to manage.
Chances are that you are already creating these touchpoints. You are creating a customer experience. But what turns this collection of touch points into a superlative customer experience?
The key is coordinating and integrating the touch points so that they seamlessly meld together.
There are two ways this needs to happen:
longitudinally throughout the customer journey, and with each touchpoint type supporting the others for each stage of the journey
Read more: Touchpoints Bring the Customer Experience to Life
My point of view: still a classic for me (just like the book of Frei). But also we see fundamental shifts like the growing importance of not controlled settings or the rise of automation in 2 way communication.