Through the Eyes of the Customer: The Importance of Measuring End-to-End Journeys

Studies invariably show that improving customer experience provides good returns on investment (ROI). In fact, across sectors, McKinsey estimate that organisations offering exceptional customer experiences can exceed the gross margins of their competitors by 26%. But what makes a good customer experience? And what is the barometer for it?

Despite often having the good intention to transform customer experience, finding the best answers to these questions can be a struggle for many organisations. In the first instalment from the ‘Through the Eyes of the Customer’ series, we looked at the five things that customers value most from their customer experience. In this article, we will examine the importance of measuring end-to-end journeys.

Across sectors, organisations are generally waking up to the importance of customer experience. The potential financial rewards of a strong CX strategy, and indeed the risks of not devoting attention to CX, has prompted many executives to examine the service they are offering their customers. Demonstrating the benefits of CX investment is important for organisations looking to strike a fine balance between costs and returns. However, identifying the best way to measure journey success is not an easy task, especially when the journey is complex.

The way customers interact with organisations has been transformed in the digital age, and the proliferation of different channels means customers now have more choice than ever in how they engage with a business. Today, typical customer journeys tend not to be confined to one single channel. In fact, Deloitte estimates that more than 60% of customers meander across multiple channels, perhaps beginning their journey with initial research online, then going into store or branch for further advice, only to complete a journey via telephony.

This multi-channel behaviour makes tracking individual journeys difficult. As a result, businesses tend to assess performance at the individual touchpoints at which a customer engages. But while measuring touch-point experience is not without value, it would be a mistake for an organisation to judge the success of a journey solely on the sum of touch-point measurements.

The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant

An elephant appeared in a village where six blind men lived. None of the men were aware of the shape and form of an elephant and so, being curious, they started to inspect it by touch. The first man, whose hand landed on the trunk, exclaimed “it’s like a thick snake”. Another whose hand reached the ear believed it to be a kind of fan. The man who felt the elephant’s leg likened it to a tree trunk, whilst another who felt the tail described it as a rope. After feeling the elephants tusk, the fifth man stated that an elephant is like a spear. The last man leaned against the elephant’s side, telling the others “you are all wrong, an elephant is like a wall”.

Now, at this point you might be asking what does customer experience have to do with blind men and elephants (it’s a good question). Well, just as each of the blind men failed to gain a full understanding of the elephant, so too will organisations fail to understand their customer journeys if they only look at the individual parts of it.

A Journey is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

Organisations can be forgiven for focusing on individual touch-points. It’s simple to build into operations, it creates accountability for the different stages of customer journey and it certainly seems like a logical way to assess performance. After all, if a customer is satisfied with every stage of their journey, then it surely implies they would be happy with their overall experience.

The problem is that customers do not see their journeys in this way. From the first time a customer engages with an organisation to the conclusion of that journey, customers do not see their experience as a series of individual interactions but rather assess an organisation on the basis on their end-to-end experience. Key customer priorities that are not taken into account through measuring touchpoints alone include the time taken between stages of a journey, the ease in which a customer can meander through different channels, or consistency of service across channels and devices.

In other words, journeys are cumulative experiences, spanning potentially multiple channels over a period of time. The more touch-points there are, the more complex the journey becomes. Even if these touch-points are optimised, a failure to connect them together can significantly damage customers’ perception of their journeys, increasing costly repeat calls and churn.

Moments of Truth

There are parts in every customer journey that have a disproportionate impact on how a customer feels about their journey. Often termed ‘moments of truth’, it is impossible for organisations to identify these points without an understanding of how touch-points relate to each other. A failure to recognise moments of truth can mean organisations can fail to deliver to customer expectations. 

Channels Don’t Equate to Journeys Either

Measuring journeys within a specific channel also carries with it the same problems as simply measuring touch-points. Today, 72% of customers spend at least a week gathering information on a product purchase, and this information gathering is intensive, spanning a range of in-person and online channels. By measuring channels alone, organisations could miss key pain points occurring within customer journeys.

Too often, silos between channels prevent seamless journeys. Companies must look to break down the internal processes and legacy systems, which inhibit customers actively progressing a single journey using a variety of channels, if they are to meet growing customer expectations. Accenture report that 75% of customers expect to pick up right where they left o­ff when reporting an issue without having to re-enter information or re-inform a customer service representative.

To Assess CX, Organisations Need to Look at End-to-End Experiences

Rather than looking at touch-points alone, organisations must also look at the end-to-end experience of customers. In other words, this is the journey from the very first interaction to any support required after completing the transaction.

Broad customer behaviours must be mapped to understand how customers meander between channels and touch-points as they move through their journey. At the same time, the needs, hopes and expectations of these customers should be anticipated. By doing this, organisations can identify areas that are working well and opportunities to improve the journeys that they offer. This should always be done in reference to desired outputs and so organisations must have a clear idea of what needs to be achieved. The ultimate aim of CX strategies is invariably to deliver the customer objective in the quickest, easiest and most efficient way possible.

Where problems are identified, organisations should look to address the root cause of the problem. It’s likely that breaking down silos and creating omni-channel CX strategies will be key action points for organisations across sectors. Though no mean feat, the rewards can be substantial. McKinsey quote that an (unnamed) global insurance company improved their average NPS score by 15 points and by 50 points for complex cases, without adding large costs, by remapping their journeys and ensuring communication across the whole end-to-end journey was optimised.

With customer experience able to add real value to a company’s performance, the question is now whether organisations can afford not to have a real insight into how their journeys are performing.

The Bottom Line

Measuring performance at touch-points is not without value, and this article is in no way making the argument that organisations should cease doing this. But what is clear is that if organisations are looking to improve their overall customer experience, hinging the success of a CX strategy on individual or an amalgamation of touch-points would be a folly. Instead, it is imperative that organisations look through the eyes of their customers and see journeys as customers do. This means looking at the end-to-end experience.

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