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Why Customer Journeys Matter

McKinsey research claims that customer satisfaction has a 40% stronger correlation to a customer journey than to touchpoints. It’s a confusing statistic that seems intuitively correct, but what exactly does it mean?

Let me give a recent example to help explain.

Tyler from Enterprise Rent-a-Car picked me up right on time. Twenty-something, sharply dressed, firm hand-shake, clean car. In the ten minutes it took to drive from my house to the Enterprise location we became friends. It was almost magical. We knew about each other’s families, schooling, and future plans. Five minutes later I was in my rented car and on my way, and I genuinely liked Tyler. I was so taken by the interaction I told three separate people about it that day.

The “touchpoint” Tyler was responsible for between Enterprise and me — their customer — was off the charts. If Tyler were to talk to me later about my experience with Enterprise, he would rightfully expect me to give great feedback.

He would be wrong.

Why? Because the journey always matters more than the touchpoints, and the journey was bad.

Here’s a rough journey map of my car renting experience:

Every time I talked with a person, my experience was good to great. Tyler gets top marks. Ryan who took my call that I was going to be late, told me what to do, and updated my agreement was solid. Sarah who handled the overcharge and corrected the bill was helpful.

But the journey included two breakdowns that, despite the very strong touchpoints, made the experience poor.

First, their “hold music” script is clueless: while late, stuck in traffic, and on hold, a recorded loop happily told me how great Enterprise is. Only by completely ignoring the customer journey could someone decide this was good content. No one thinks you are great when you have them on hold!

Second, the billing system failed. I called and said I was late, the employee followed policy and noted I would drop it off later, and yet the invoice dinged me for the extra day anyway, forcing me to call again to complete the journey.

Here’s why I think this example is helpful: The interactions an organization usually thinks about as “touchpoints” were great. Every customer facing employee did a good to exceptional job. But the touchpoints handled by the company’s systems were awful, and by the last good human interaction, I still ended up pretty “blah” by the end.

Delivering a consistently excellent customer experience requires journey-based thinking and a deliberate design of each step of the journey. Great customer facing staff is not enough. If you’re just starting down this path, start with a customer journey map for a key segment. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.

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