I have never been keen on buzzwords and the one that is appearing everywhere in the marketing and insights space is “The Customer Journey”. If you Google “Customer Journey”, you will find a plethora of information telling you how important it is. It’s no surprise that market research software providers, Surveymonkey, and CRM /sales management giant, Salesforce, are at the top of the searches. It’s in their interest to make the customer journey important and guide you through their own customer experience. I would call these two companies’ activities ‘sales’ myself.

Is it important to maximise the customer experience?

There’s a myth that maximising the customer experience is the best way to be a successful business. This is may be true in some cases, but it’s not in all cases. There are plenty of companies that have reduced their service levels to make bigger profits. I see figures quoted, including in a webinar this week, that a 10% increase in customer satisfaction will reward you with a 30% increase in revenue. Firstly, it’s not a 10% increase in satisfaction from, say, 5.0 out of 10 to 5.5 out of 10 (which is a 10% increase), they are referring to a rise from 5.0 to 6.0, which is a 20% increase. The percentage increase depends on the starting point, so it’s a flaky assertion at best.

More revenue but more profit?

Arithmetic aside, it may be true in some cases, but it will not be true in others. It carefully fails to mention ‘profit’ only ‘revenue’. It takes no account of the cost of implementing whatever it is that improves customer satisfaction and whether it succeeds in bringing in more revenue from the type of customers a business wants.

False claims

It’s no surprise when Salesforce tell us that 73% of people are extremely or somewhat likely to switch brands if a company provides an inconsistent level of service. I don’t think it means that a consistently bad level of service is better, but I question how this data was produced. It would be easy to word the question to respondents to provide a biased result.

Claim vs. reality

What people claim they will do does not correlate with what people really do. I have been known to moan about a service and even threaten to change supplier, but it does not mean that I will really switch the service that I use. It comes from bad research where loaded questions can give a false information.

Creating fake order from real chaos

Customer journey mapping is the new science that august organisations such as Harvard Business Research, Gartner and others are trying to tell us is the way to improve the customer experience and increase revenue. That may be true, but customer journey mapping works on the supposition that customers proceed along a conveyor belt in an orderly fashion. They don’t; at least, not often. Creating personas may be a great way to brainstorm how to service different customer types, but it has its limitations unless customers follow a highly predictable path. I love the quote I found on the Market Treason website “Creating fake order from real chaos”. I can’t put it better myself.

What about quality vs service vs price?

The problem with most customer experience analysis and customer journey mapping is that it doesn’t address the pull of quality vs service vs price. Consumers and businesses are not stupid. Quality and service come at a price. If a company can improve its quality and service without increasing its price, it has either been overcharging or neglecting something, usually technology, that will improve its ability to deliver.

Price affects customer experienceIgnore price at your peril

To imagine that just improving the customer experience or making the customer journey better is enough is clearly flawed. Consumers and businesses will say that they want a better service and better quality, but if the lesser product or service comes at a cheaper price, they may choose to pick the inferior service. Price remains as important today as it ever was. And, what’s more, comparing prices on the internet is easier than ever.

Measuring touchpoints vs the Customer Journey

Finally, I would like to look at the current claim that analysing the customer journey is more important than individual touchpoints. I’ve read what Gartner and others have said about this. They are at pains to say that it is the ‘overall experience’ that matters, the customer journey, not the individual touchpoints. Then, they say that it is the data from these touchpoints that make up the overall experience. So, it’s the same thing except that measuring touchpoints gives more black and white findings whereas a customer journey is more of feeling or, perhaps, a black box analysis tool which can bring fake order from real chaos.

More bad maths

One appallingly flawed argument I found was that if you have 4 touchpoints and each scores 80 out 100, the overall satisfaction is 80% X 80% X 80% X 80%, which equals 40.96%. It does not mean this. It could mean that 20% of customers are dissatisfied at each touchpoint or it could be that 80% of customers are dissatisfied at one touchpoint – or, more likely, somewhere in between, but not a definitive 40.96%. And, of course, that’s not to mention that different numbers of customers may use different touchpoints and that higher value customers might use one touchpoint more than another.

Keep it simple or not?

I am great believer in keeping things simple where possible. Measuring touchpoints is relatively easy, produces accurate data that is actionable and should be inexpensive. I would not deny that there are some highly data talented data scientists that can analyse customer journeys and produce valuable data, but that data will be expensive and may not help to make changes that improve service. Even the best customer journey mapping data could be out of date as soon as it is produced whereas touchpoint tracking can spot change quickly and inexpensively.

The myth

The myth is that customer journey mapping is a science and will improve every business. It will not. The arguments might seem persuasive but if you google ‘customer journey mapping problems’, you will find as many persuasive arguments against.

Getting the full picture at a reasonable price

I maintain that we can give accurate CX data at a fraction of the price of the Customer Journey vendors. There are undoubtedly cases where these vendors provide something that is truly insightful and beneficial to a business, but accurate, quickly actionable data is often far more valuable. If you want to find out what customers really think, there are two perfectly good solutions – ask them at the touchpoint face to face if possible (not with a clipboard and a long questionnaire) or use Social Media (Social Listening) data, which, if carried out properly, will tell you what the real pain points are. But, that’s another blog article.

Phil Hearn is CEO of MRDC Software and CX Zebra. His ambition is to make CX as simple as possible so that real advantage positive actions can be implemented and monitored to bring steady success.