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McKinsey on Turning Touchpoints into Customer Journeys Blog Feature
John Zimmerer

By: John Zimmerer on July 7th, 2017

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McKinsey on Turning Touchpoints into Customer Journeys

Customer Experience

In a McKinsey article entitled “From Touchpoints to Journeys: Seeing the World As Customers Do,” Nicholas Maechler, Kevin Neher and Robert Park discuss maximizing customer satisfaction by focusing on the end-to-end customer journey rather than on individual touchpoints as many have in the past.

This article was published in March of 2017, and it’s (still) quite relevant to the current discussion regarding the evolution of customer experience from disjointed, siloed customer communications sent from an inside-out perspective (i.e., what the company wants or needs to say to the customer) to outside-in customer journeys that span multiple touchpoints (i.e., what the customer's trying to achieve).

From touchpoints to journeys

Touchpoints: Where Channel Meets Device

A touchpoint is where a channel (like email) meets a device (like a mobile phone or tablet). There are many, many touchpoints through which customers make contact with brands these days, and the list keeps expanding as technology and customer expectations progress. It’s easy and logical to focus on touchpoints since most organizations are already operationally set up to deal with individual interactions in the context of marketing, commerce or service through those departments’ existing processes and technologies.

However, as the article’s authors point out, “The explosion of potential customer interaction points—across new channels, devices, applications, and more—makes consistency of service and experience across channels nigh impossible—unless you are managing the journey, and not simply individual touchpoints.”

Focusing on Customer Journeys

What is a customer journey? Here’s a video of McKinsey’s Alex Singla explaining the concept. In a nutshell, “customer journeys include many things that happen before, during, and after the experience of a product or service. Journeys can be long, stretching across multiple channels and touchpoints, and often lasting days or weeks. Bringing a new customer on board is a classic example. Another is resolving a technical issue, upgrading a product, or helping a customer to move a service to a new home.”

Customer journeys are becoming ever more complex in a multi-touchpoint, cross-channel, always-on, hypercompetitive world. Companies that focus on touchpoints one at a time risk damaging the customer experience on a macro, cumulative level. Customers are relatively quick to forgive a single negative experience with one touchpoint or interaction. They are far less likely to overlook a series of negative or disjointed experiences stretching across their journey with your brand.

Solving the problem can be worth millions of dollars for many enterprises in terms of customer retention and upselling, but it requires a change in culture and mindset within the company to shift away from siloed, operational thinking to a more strategic and holistic journey-centric approach.

Here are McKinsey’s recommendations for getting started, excerpted from the article:

In our experience, six actions are critical to managing customer-experience journeys (articles elsewhere in this volume explore several of these topics in depth):

  • Step back and identify the nature of the journeys customers take—from the customer’s point of view.
  • Understand how customers navigate across the touchpoints as they move through the journey.
  • Anticipate the customer’s needs, expectations, and desires during each part of the journey.
  • Build an understanding of what is working and what is not.
  • Set priorities for the most important gaps and opportunities to improve the journey.
  • Come to grips with fixing root-cause issues and redesigning the journeys for a better end-to-end experience.

Customer Communications Management Must Adapt

CCM has traditionally lived in a silo, and it still does in many (if not most) organizations. It’s usually treated as a print-focused, obligatory piece of operations. Companies are simply required to send out letters, forms, disclosures, statements, legal notices, and more to customers, and CCM software is the best tool to do that.

But CCM really is, or should be, an integral part of the customer experience. Think about a critical customer journey in your industry. How many touchpoints along the way involve generating personalized documents, whether print or digital, sending them to customers through various channels, and following up appropriately? That’s all CCM.

So CCM vendors like us who understand the broader customer experience landscape are having to adapt to serve entire customer journeys—not just customer service and/or regulatory requirements as in the past—including touchpoints we’ve never really been a significant part of before, like marketing and ecommerce. If we don’t move our solutions to the cloud and make it easy for our clients to integrate CCM services with their other customer experience technologies that serve other parts of the customer journey, we will quickly become irrelevant.

That’s exactly why we built INTOUCH®. We designed it from the beginning with customer journeys, not just touchpoints, in mind—because, as McKinsey’s research indicates, companies that excel in delivering journeys tend to win in the market: “Put simply, most companies perform fairly well on touchpoints, but distinctive performance on journeys can set a company apart.”

Read the McKinsey report for some great graphics illustrating the advantages of moving from touchpoints to journeys and some practical examples of the practice in action. The authors’ conclusion? “Research identified consistent and clear communications as one of the most important elements of customer experience. …Thinking about customer journeys—instead of traditional touchpoints—can require an operational and cultural shift that engages the organization across functions and from top to bottom. For the companies that master it, the reward is higher customer and employee satisfaction, revenue and cost improvements, and an enduring competitive advantage.”

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Image courtesy of mckinsey.com.