Touchpoints: the danger that lies in the details

The trouble with touchpoints: why focusing on specific contacts points can make you miss the big picture.

When people think about service design, they often think in terms of touchpoints between you and the users of your services. It’s a powerful approach, but one that brings with it some dangerous distractions, if you’re not carefully. The Harvard Business Review goes into this possibility in quite some detail:

As they dug in, they discovered that the firm’s emphasis on perfecting touchpoints wasn’t enough. The company had long been disciplined about measuring customers’ satisfaction with each transaction involving the call centers, field services, and the website, and scores were consistently high. But focus groups revealed that many customers were unhappy with their overall interaction. Looking solely at individual transactions made it hard for the firm to identify where to direct improvement efforts, and the high levels of satisfaction on specific metrics made it hard to motivate employees to change.

And what’s the fundamental problem here?

Think about a routine service event—say, a product query—from the point of view of both the company and the customer. The company may receive millions of phone calls about the product and must handle each one well. But if asked about the experience months after the fact, a customer would never describe such a call as simply a “product question.” Understanding the context of a call is key. A customer might have been trying to ensure uninterrupted service after moving, make sense of the renewal options at the end of a contract, or fix a nagging technical problem. A company that manages complete journeys would not only do its best with the individual transaction but also seek to understand the broader reasons for the call, address the root causes, and create feedback loops to continuously improve interactions upstream and downstream from the call.

The whole piece makes for thought-provoking reading [free registration required] about how focusing too much on optimising particular points of contact can not just lead you to miss the bigger picture – but also to completely misunderstand what your customer is seeking in any particular situation.

Photo by Agustín Ruiz and used under a Creative Commons license