Touchpoint Mastery – getting the most out of your customer journeys

Network2Your touchpoints are the network of inter-linked interactions where ‘the rubber hits the road’. They are the moments where the customers’ experience of you occurs and where your business revenues are generated, and potentially occur millions of times every day in your business.

But are these moments owned by somebody who has the specific responsibility to develop and optimise the experience at that point? Potentially they should – as this is where you can best influence the experiences your customers receive.

Touchpoint Mastery is a framework to help touchpoint owners to creatively interrogate their touchpoint and to identify and deliver ways to add depth and value to each contact point that a customer – or potential customer – may have with your business. This framework delivers a greater understanding of the intricacies involved at each touchpoint – and hence the opportunities that exist there.

It also enables the touchpoint owner to create a repository of best, and interesting, practices relevant to their touchpoint that they can call on when the touchpoint is next being refreshed or redesigned.

You can view a fast-paced webinar on the subject of Touchpoint Mastery by CX and innovation consultant Chris Thomason here.

You can also download a PDF document on the process and the benefits you gain from it here.

Customer journeys are an excellent way to see the high-level interaction with customers but it’s at the touchpoints where experiences are delivered and purchasing decisions are made. So maximise your experiences and boost your revenue opportunities by allocating a Touchpoint Master to all your touchpoints.

Binary customer experience

HomebaseI love really bad retail experiences – because they make really good stories.

Don’t get me wrong here, for I love brilliant experiences too for the same reason – they also make memorable stories. Here’s a memorable story about Homebase, a UK-based DIY warehouse for consumers, but not for a great experience…

Homebase have a system where you can check online if an item is in stock, and then reserve it to collect later at your local store. In the past eight months I’ve used this service twice before and each time when I got to the store, I was told they had no stock of the item I’d reserved – even though I’d got a confirmation email with a reference number.

Yesterday I tried to use this system for the third time (I’m an optimist) but just before I set out to pick-up the item, I got a call to say that they didn’t have any stock – even though the stock level showed four available. I was told there were some at another store (some 7.5 miles away) and I could get one from there. Driving into Greater London for the item had absolutely no appeal to me.

In an effort to improve things for me (and for millions of other Homebase customers), I said that I wanted to make a complaint. I stressed that I wasn’t complaining about my local store – which is the Reigate branch – but that I wanted to complain about the continued failure of the reservation system itself. I asked for the head office number – got it – and dialled it – but it turned out to be the online ordering support number. The IVR system eventually put me through to a call centre operator whose manner was appalling.

She said that the reservation-in-store system was solely the responsibility of the store and that she would put me back to my local store. No amount of explaining was going to convince this person that this wasn’t about the store, but about the system itself. I finally asked for the issue to be escalated – but she refused, stating that she would only put me back to the store – and nothing else. I asked for the issue to be escalated eight times and each time she just asked for the name of my local store to connect me. Despite my demonstrating that her approach in itself was poor customer experience, the response wouldn’t change – so I hung up and vented on Twitter.

140 characters and eleven minutes later, the #Homebase-UK team were in touch with me. Eventually, the manager of the social media team called me, listened to my situation and asked for time to sort it out. Ten minutes later, he called back to say that the local store had been instructed to send someone to the next store with stock to collect one of the items and bring it back to the Reigate store.

Sometime later, Homebase Reigate called me to say they had the item, and I went in to pay for it. The store manager was very apologetic, but I said she didn’t need to apologise as it wasn’t her fault – this was a systems fault.

So, was this a good recovery of a bad situation by Homebase or not?

I’d say absolutely not!

If I was just a customer, then I would agree that I’d be quite satisfied. However, I’m not just a customer – I’m a CX consultant who likes to see both sides of the service equation. And the other side of the service equation relates to how the employees are treated and the experience they have within their company.

It’s accepted that selling more stuff (increasing business revenues) and being helpful to customers (delivering great customer experiences) form a self-reinforcing circle. The companies that embrace CX as part of their corporate-DNA frequently have higher growth and stock valuations than those that don’t.

In these CX-vanguard companies, there’s a tacit acceptance that there’s a binary approach to delivering great customer experiences for there are only two types of role within their business:
1. You are a customer-facing employee actively involved in serving the customer and delivering a great experience, or
2. You are supporting the above people to perform their role – and you’ll do whatever it takes to help them succeed.

If you want to be truly committed to delivering great experiences, then it has to be this simple. A binary customer experience approach.

In this case the store staff were imposed upon to help me out due to an installed system which clearly didn’t work properly. If Homebase were truly committed to delivering a great experience for customers and their staff – then perhaps it should have been the support person responsible for the poorly implemented system that should have assisted the store staff to recover from this issue.

If the IT director had been told to get in his (or her) car to collect my item to fix this up when it first happened eight months ago, would this reservation shambles still exist?

I doubt it.

Note: Homebase was recently acquired by Australian company Wesfarmers – and knowing them from my time in Australia; I have expectations of a massive improvement in the Homebase experience.

Why smart people struggle to be innovative

Brain 2If you’re employed by a business and are reading this article, the chances are you’re quite smart.

You must have a level of knowledge and expertise in something that your employer values – which is why they offered you a job in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s this knowledge and expertise that’s often stopping you from being innovative.

Why? Because as an expert you are supposed to know the answers to any questions asked that relate to your area of skill and knowledge.

You can test this out if you want. The next time a senior manager asks you a question, try answering it with I don’t know or Sorry, I haven’t got a clue. Responses like this are likely to be serious CLMs (Career Limiting Moves). There’s a corporate expectation that everything should be known.

The educationalist and creative expert Sir Ken Robinson sums this up by saying “In our culture, not to know is to be at fault, socially.”

You, as an expert, always need to be seen to know the answers – but in doing so you tend to repeat, recycle and upcycle things that you’ve done before and that you know will work.

Because that’s what experts do!

We inherently love answering questions that only we know the answers to, as this cements our place in the organisation as the expert in this field. And it also fuels our self-esteem.

However, to be innovative we have to do something new – and that’s to go beyond the realms of our existing knowledge and to find something new. Something unknown. And this is worrisome for an expert. It shows what we don’t know.

And being British doesn’t help either.

Think of a workshop where there’s a discussion on the growth a business could achieve by doing new things. The conversation covers a broad range of topics and for each one the appropriate expert is expected to spout-forth words of wisdom in that area. By default, the expert will talk about what they know – not what they don’t know. And in line with British cultural mandates, the other people in the room stay quiet, in deference to the expert at the table.

Maybe things should be different.

When any specific topic is being discussed for fresh opportunities, perhaps the expert should be the one to shut-up and allow the rest of the people to talk. Because for innovation to happen, it first needs to be uncovered – and this is achieved through a process of exploration.

When Captain James Cook was on his voyage of discovery from 1768-1771 it included his search for the hypothetical Terra Australis – the presumed great southern continent. From the top mast of Cook’s ship HMS Endeavour, a crew member could only see a distance of twelve miles in any direction to the horizon. They didn’t know where to go, so they went in directions from where they saw a bird flying or when they saw some fresh foliage in the sea – and of course where the prevailing winds took them. They often had to follow these hunches as they only had such a limited view in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

This is true exploration. And in true explorer-style, they traversed an erratic course, and on their journey they made amazing discoveries – like New Zealand and Australia. The botanists on the crew also discovered many smaller things, like new species of plant and animals too. The diagram below shows the route that Cook may have taken in his exploration.

Explorers Route

When you are on an aeroplane and resort to reading the in-flight magazine, invariably towards the back will be a map of the routes that the airline flies. These will be depicted as straight lines traversing the globe from central hubs like London, Dusseldorf or New York and covering all major points on the planet. This is similar to how the expert thinks. They intend to go directly from a question to an answer.

Well, if Captain Cook had been an expert rather than an explorer then his journey would have potentially been more like this…

Experts Route

He’d have completed his journey much quicker but would have missed out on discoveries like New Zealand and Australia! For innovation to happen we have to be willing to meander and explore for new answers to questions.

But this isn’t in the nature of an expert.

Let me give you an example. When you lose your keys where do you always find them? The answer is in the last place you looked! That’s because you’ve found the solution to your quest – and so you stop looking. You can’t find your keys again when they’re already in your hand. But with innovation it’s different.

Once you find one brilliant opportunity you must look even harder, because you’ve broken through the barrier of the obvious into new ground. And more opportunities will exist close-by – but only if you continue to look and explore.

Unfortunately, exploration does not come naturally to the expert. Once a good solution has been found to a question, then they like to move on to the next question – rather than move on to the next answer. When the expert stops looking, the explorer continues looking. For Killer Questions have many different answers – not just one!

Asking Killer Questions

To identify big and bold growth opportunities, a business needs to be asking big and bold questions. We call these Killer Questions. They’re the sort of questions that experts and many leaders are fearful of asking because the immediate response to a How do we achieve (this) question are the three most feared words in the business lexicon: I Don’t Know.

If, as a business, you ask yourself the question Where will we get an additional 5% increase in revenues this year, the solution isn’t likely to be some radical change to your business, or some game-changing new product. It’s likely to come from a series of smaller changes that will each add value and which accumulate to give the desired additional 5% result.

These smaller changes will most-likely appear to be blindingly obvious in hindsight – as all the best new ideas are. Unfortunately, this can have the tendency to make the expert look a little stupid. For they weren’t the ones to come up with these ideas – which potentially seem to reside within their area of expertise.

When it comes to experts and the value you bring to an innovation process, your real value comes in applying your knowledge and expertise to answering other people’s questions, or issues related to their areas – not your own! This way you apply your massive experience to seeing their perspective differently – and so adding value to the discussion that others can’t.

Similarly for the other experts around the table who will also be adding value to the discussion from their own area of expertise – but to the first person’s issue.

How many business / growth questions have you been asked recently where the honest answer was that you didn’t know? Most probably none. It’s not the business protocol to ask this kind of question. And if you only came up with the idea for growth now – and it’s a really simple and smart one – then why didn’t you suggest this last year?

In hindsight, it’s often a no-win situation for the expert, which they subconsciously try to avoid by not asking the bold questions in the first place.

We need to be asking questions that we don’t know the answers to. Experts need to mentally change from knowing everything, to knowing nothing – and to leave their expertise by the door and become explorers for a while.

As an expert, this may seem uncomfortable not allowing your expertise to shine, but you need to consider yourself to be the explorer and to apply your broad collection of knowledge to other people’s issues. To be an explorer for them! Later on, when it comes time to shape the opportunities into deliverables, then you can re-engage and assert your expertise to help with the execution.

Making this change is hard – but very effective. Being an inexperienced explorer and avoiding commenting on your area of expertise is the key-way for you to deliver greater degrees of innovation in your business.

Boosting Executive ThinkingOur new guide book Boosting Executive Thinking leads you through a process which helps you ask – and creatively answer – powerful business questions. It’s in a practical workbook format and is available from Amazon here.

At Ingenious Growth we help create business and service developments through an innovative approach to framing powerful growth questions – and finding creatively-pragmatic answers to these questions.

So what’s the big question you need answers to now?

Design: The 50-year fad

Apollo-headGreek sculptors, Renaissance painters, Victorian bridge builders and 21st Century tech-creators have all broken established boundaries and integrated disparate fields in order to create “the new”.

Modern management practices are barely 50-years old and are still evolving in a rapidly changing world. However, they are all based on hierarchy and process which inevitably creates silos designed to be convenient for control and measurement.

But great designers don’t hold back.

  • They cut across these silos.
  • They identify limits and exceed them.
  • They integrate the factual with the visceral.
  • They unleash workplace imaginations and then rein them in having extended the boundaries of pragmatic opportunity.
  • They know to craft their solutions to fit into the business hierarchy and process, so their success can be controlled and measured.

This is what great designers do.

And the organisations that embed design as a core competence are reaping great rewards compared to those that don’t. Design may be a fad – but it will be a 50-year fad – until a radical, new management-approach comes along…

6 new approaches for customer experience design

(Or fresh thinking around stale design perspectives).

Want to consider some new approaches to your customer experience design process? Here are the six that we think merit the most consideration.

1: Use Touchpoint Terrain Maps instead of Customer Journey Maps

I’ve written before on the subject of Touchpoint Terrain Maps (here). The key area where a Touchpoint Terrain Map is of greater value is in the earlier, chaotic stages of the customer lifecycle. For when you are competing to get the attention and subsequent patronage of the customer, it’s a highly chaotic time, and the customer is prone to change brand, channel, their intent and commitment at a whim.

But this is where you need to fight harder – for in these earlier lifecycle stages the customer is yours to win. Later on when they are in an established relationship with you – then the customer is yours to lose if you perform badly in the experiences you deliver to them.

The Alternative: Make your touchpoints work hard

In the early stages, a Touchpoint Terrain Map helps you understand the potential and the opportunity that each touchpoint delivers for you as a stand-alone entity. Recognise that its prime purpose is to advance the customer onto the next stage to get them closer to the point where they commit to using your service. Obviously doing this in a manner that appeals to the customer’s nature.Touchpoint Terrain Map 4

Later on in the lifecycle when the customer is engaged with you, then customer journey maps can take over, as the relationship processes are more defined and linear in nature. The chaos (hopefully) has disappeared – as long as your experiences deliver what they require.


2: Put your employees before the customers

If customer experience had to be boiled down into a single mathematical equation, then it would be this: CX = EX. The truth is that for great customer experiences to be achieved, your employees need to be empowered to deliver these through great employee experiences of their own.

But what’s your company’s attitude to this? You will certainly have strong views on how you want your end-customers to be treated, and how you’d like them to feel about your brand – but do you apply these same values to your internal customers – your own staff?

A simple example might come from your retail channel where your store environment exudes the look and feel of your brand and your brand values. This is the public space where your staff live and breathe these values as they strive to serve your customers and deliver great customer experiences.

However, when it comes time for these staff members to have a tea-break, and go behind the scenes into the staff room, what sort of experience is that for them? Do broken furniture, chipped coffee mugs and torn, dated wall-posters really help to show how committed you are as a company to your brand values internally?

The Alternative: Get your employee experience aligned first

Chipped mugToday, employee experiences need to be integrated with customer experiences so the employee truly understands what experience the business wants to deliver. And to know and feel empowered to deliver these to their customers.

To achieve this, increasing numbers of companies are aligning the oversight of customer and employee experiences under one management role as this helps ensure a better integration. These companies recognise that to give great customer experiences you need to start with your employee experiences.


3: Recognise that digital isn’t king

Digital seems to be the obsession de jour for many organisations – but while the future may appear to be digital, humanity still rocks!

Digital is only great when it works – which should of course be the 24/7/365 norm. Digital will always be responsible for setting ever-higher levels of standard expectations, for as soon as a customer experiences something interesting on one supplier’s website – they will rapidly expect to see this feature adopted whenever they need to do something similar on any other website too.

In most organisations it’s the marketing department who make the promises of what the brand will deliver, while it’s the sales and operations teams who have to deliver on these espoused promises. Invariably companies that over-promise and under-deliver will not be attaining their brand values – and this will soon be noticed by the customer. And when things start to go awry, that’s when the human aspect of a great service recovery becomes apparent.

As digital drives the expected standards ever-higher, the true differentiator of your experiences over those of your competition will be in how you recover from any broken promises.

The Alternative: Create brilliant human fixes

There will come a time in the not-too-distant future where the incremental gains that can be added by the digital channel will offer little in the way of meaningful, additional value for the customer. The human recovery of failed promises will be your key differentiator.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean great cost being involved in pacifying irate customers. See this example from Lego where the cost of their recovery was probably a few pennies for a new Lego minifigure – but the content of the related email back from their customer service person to the young individual involved went viral.

Lego letter 1And the brilliant reply…

Lego letter 2People talk about human experiences. If they talk about digital experiences, then it’s frequently about their emotional, negative interaction with them. Never underestimate the power of great human interactions – and ensure you keep a focus on driving your ‘humanity’ to higher levels.


4: There’s more than just Pain Points and Moments of Magic

Idealised customer journey maps frequently contain sad and smiley faces to represent the Pain Points and Moments of Magic. It’s essential to recognise those Pain Points in your service that annoy your customer or make them work too hard – and then to fix them as a matter of priority. Before you can start to get credibility for any wowing that you do, you absolutely need to get your basics right – the things that really matter to your customers.

When it comes to wowing your customers, it can be difficult to truly justify the value added by Moments of Magic, or even if customers recognise them as especially positive moments. Have customers told you they find these interactions to be special in some way?

It’s important to identify the key interaction points in your service proposition where you have the opportunity to gain significant business leverage and value. For example, Moments of Truth are those few instances in a customer’s interaction with you where you need to ‘come good’ with your next action. They may be more related to an emotional state where there’s an expectation from the customer, for example in how you resolve a complaint such that the customer is willing to continue to do business with you. But do you understand where all your Moments of Truth are?

Similarly your Makers or Breakers are the instances when a customer makes a decision to continue a particular activity with you – or to continue it with someone else. These Makers or Breakers are less significant than the Moments of Truth – but they are much more prevalent – and they ultimately determine whether the customer spends their money with you or with someone else. Makers or Breakers could be related to the cost of your service, your opening hours, the choice of offer you have, the ‘feel’ as someone walks into your store, or the perceived quality of your service.

This is why the primary aim of every single touchpoints needs to be to smoothly and easily encourage and enable customers to move on towards their desired goal through your next sequential touchpoint – and not via someone else’s. However, some touchpoints have a higher potential to make or break the deal than others, and these are your Makers or Breakers moments.


The Alternative: Focus on your Moments of Truth and Makers or Breakers

Toy storeCreate an understanding across your business of where the Moments of Truth and your Makers or Breakers are. These need to be clearly identified on your Touchpoint Terrain Map.

You also need to ensure that these touchpoints are allocated to individuals who have significant understanding of your business, and also of customer experience design, as these will be among the most important touchpoints on your map. Treat them accordingly and with great respect.


5: Don’t aim for seamless experiences

The generally accepted wisdom is for an experience to be seamless in the manner that a customer transitions between channels. Naturally, the experience shouldn’t be negative in any way, but these seams are opportunities for you to do something special – so your aim should be to create beautiful or sensational seams. Your seams are opportunities to add unexpected delight for the customer – so don’t hide them!

A prime example of this occurred to me with Dell. I’d bought a new laptop and monitor and wanted to buy a sound-bar that would fit onto the monitor. On the website I couldn’t get clear confirmation that the sound-bar I planned to buy could be fixed to the monitor, so I went to the help page. As webchat wasn’t available I asked for a call back.

Dell logoI entered my phone number in the online text-box and was then prompted to state when I wanted to receive the call-back. The options ranged from two-hours time to five-minutes time – or I could be called immediately. I selected the option for ‘immediately’ and then clicked the SUBMIT button.

On my SUBMIT mouse-click, I got a shock – for my phone rang at that exact same instance. I answered it to hear two ringing tones before a voice answered “Welcome to Dell, how may I help you”. My issue was resolved in moments. This is an example of a sensational seam by Dell which surprised me in a great way – as it’s a story that I tell regularly.

The Alternative: Create beautiful seams

Recognise that the transitions in your experience are ideal opportunities to deliver surprise and delight to your customers. Design them with this in mind. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always possible – but applying good design thinking will often produce something you can practically consider.


6: Don’t assume that great experiences will keep you ahead

Customers only became truly, and widely, engaged with their experiences around 2010. This was due to a nexus developing of three prevailing trends, namely the widespread penetration and usage of the smart phone; the advent of 3G mobile coverage and wifi connectivity; and the mass engagement of consumers with social networks.

Around this time, customers expected to interact with a touchscreen phone, and instantly share a photo or an update with other people anywhere in the world, whenever they wanted to. This feat would have been considered unbelievable by most people just five years earlier – but in 2010 that was the expected norm. This is just one example of how the smartphone ignited people’s belief of, understanding in, and desire for, ever-better experiences in all aspects of their lives.

And things have moved on dramatically since 2010 too, such that great customer experience isn’t great anymore – it’s the expected base-standard today.

The Alternative: Leapfrog where you can

You need to re-calibrate your experiences to determine what you will provide as your minimum standard of great. But don’t worry, as not everything has to be brilliant. However, the basic essentials of your core proposition and its related experiences need to be great – for great has become the new standard. The question is Have you defined what ‘great’ means to you and how great experience aligns with your brand promise?

The majority of businesses will be playing experience catch-up for the next few years, so don’t expect to have the greatest experiences across your entire customer landscape.

For example, many larger businesses include these online support services on their website:

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Support discussion forums
  • A virtual assistant (eg National Rail’s Ask Lisa or O2’s Ask Lucy)
  • Web-chat

AskLisaAnd some are even developing ways for a virtual assistant to offer a handover to a web-chat agent when the question is too complex for the virtual assistant to handle. This includes an introduction to a named web-chat agent with their photo.

But which of these do you need to deliver your desired level of service? Do you need to worry now about a virtual assistant hand-off when the technology is still in development – or can you wait until it becomes experientially and commercially proven?

Instead, know where you need to fix up your weaknesses and identify where it’s essential for you to be strong – and focus on these aspects of your experience in the meantime. For the remainder, you’ll be able to observe the ever-dynamic landscape of best practice evolution and cherry-pick those practices that will boost your overall experience in the most opportune and value-effective manner.

Solutions through alternate approaches

Finally, here’s a summary of the suggested alternative approaches you can take to your customer experience design work.

  1. Use Touchpoint Terrain Mapping to truly understand the landscape of your experiences
  2. Focus on your employee experiences first to give better customer experiences
  3. Create brilliant human fixes to digital problems
  4. Incorporate Moments of Truth and Makers or Breakers into your experience landscape
  5. Create beautiful experience seams to boost customer delight
  6. Focus your limited resources on the essential experiences for your business and leapfrog ahead with relevant best practices as they become known to you

This article started by offering fresh thinking around stale customer experience perspectives. This may have attacked and battered some of the conventional wisdom that exists in customer experience management and design, but the purpose was to meaningfully disrupt our design thinking as an industry. And to achieve this I need to get you (the CX manager/designer) to think differently by reconsidering your established views.
I hope I’ve achieved this!

What our customer experience design team do…

If you want hands-on, practical assistance to move beyond the current approaches to customer experience design to enable your organisation to leapfrog into delivering next-generation customer experiences – then please get in touch with us:

We’ll work with you and your CE team in the most-innovative manner to boost your customer experiences. We prefer to help you by creating progressive momentum through advice and guidance with your team to gain short-term, high-value benefits – and to also work with you building platforms for longer-term, strategic CE development.

6 essentials for asking great business questions

Q&A (3)Everyone wants the right answers. But more importantly – do you know what the right question is? For in business, there’s no profit or glory in finding perfect answers to the wrong question.

To ensure you get the kind of answers your business needs, it’s essential to interrogate your question first. To question your question. To give it a good kicking to ensure that before you even consider answering it, you are sure it’s the best possible question for you to spend your valuable mental efforts on.

These six interrogation approaches will give you confidence that the big question you want to ask will be of big value to your business.

1. Is it meaningful?

Is your question aligned to the strategic direction of the business / your department? Does it add value for the customer? Is it addressing an issue that is acknowledged within your business – or is this something that you personally have on your agenda? The more meaningful and aligned to the business aims that your question is, then the more support you will have when you identify interesting outcomes.

2. Is it pragmatic?

Are the outputs from your question likely to be within the available constraints of time, effort and money that are available to you? While you may need to request additional resources to execute the outputs – are they reasonable given the scale of the potential benefits that will be gained? And if they have to compete with other initiatives for funding, how likely is it that the answers to your question will be high enough on the agenda to be allocated those linited resources?

3. Does it help address your superior’s goals?

It’s frequently useful to ask questions that help you attain your own appraised goals for the year. But will this question (when successfully answered) also help your boss to achieve their goals? And their superior’s goals too? If so, you have a much greater chance of gaining support for your question and resources for its answers.

4. Is it within your remit to deliver?

Will the answers to this question be executed solely by you, your team, or by people under your control? If not, then potentially this question overlaps with another area of the business. To get buy-in to your eventual answers – get this other area’s involvement with your question at the start. Then subsequently, they will have greater engagement with your outputs as they were part of forming the question. If you go ahead without their involvement in the question, you risk having them disagree with your initial question when you want their participation in executing the answers.

However, if the question is entirely within your remit then you have full control over the shaping of the question and the subsequent delivery of the outputs.

5. Does it answer the ‘So what’ test?

If you address your question and find some brilliant answers to it – so what? Will it make a big difference to somebody in some way? Are key people going to want to help you with the delivery of your solutions?

If you aren’t sure this will happen – then you’ve failed the ‘so what’ test.

6. Does it put you in Querencia?

Bullfight 1Querencia is a Spanish word associated with bull-fighting. It doesn’t have a direct translation into English, but it’s the place that the bull backs into before making its final charge. The place from which there is only one direction to go – and that’s forward.

When your question is in Querencia – when it’s shaped into a form that all involved agree and support – then there’s only one way for it to go. Forward. No distractions – for your question is ready to be answered.

If your question is open to being challenged – then address those challenges before you start to answer it – don’t try to justify your question to others through your answers.

The more people that buy-in and support your question before you answer it – then the deeper your question is sitting in Querencia.


By using these six essential checks to interrogate your questions before you answer them, you’ll save a lot of potentially wasted effort if people disagree with your question later. But more importantly, you’ll get support with the execution of the great answers you’re about to develop.

Boosting Executive ThinkingOur new guide book Boosting Executive Thinking leads you through a process which helps you ask – and creatively answer – powerful business questions. It’s in a practical workbook format and is available from Amazon here.

At Ingenious Growth we help create business and service developments through an innovative approach to framing powerful growth questions – and finding creatively-pragmatic answers to these questions.

So what’s the big question you need answers to now?

Boosting Executive Thinking

Boosting Executive ThinkingOur new book Boosting Executive Thinking is now available from Amazon – and we’re giving away TEN free copies.

The most valuable asset you have in your organisation is your mind, and this workbook is designed to support your mental processes to help your mind achieve more-insightful strategic thinking. Like you’ve never imagined before.

Strategic thinking around key issues is often a personal activity at the outset – before it can be shared with others to incorporate their viewpoints.

This workbook assists you during the initial phase to break out of your routine thinking patterns; to ensure you consider fresh perspectives; and to deliver more, and differentiated, insights for a better quality of thinking.

What this workbook does for you…
> Helps you think rapidly and creatively around a key issue.
> Focuses your thinking by guiding you through an innovative process.
> Keeps all your ideas in one place for future reference.
You can buy the book online from Amazon here.

If you’d like to receive a FREE COPY of the physical book, then send an email to think (at) and tell us the business question that you’d like more creative thinking on. The best ten answers will get a response asking for your mailing address and we’ll get a copy in the post to you pronto. You’ll need to get your question to us by 7th September to be in with a chance.

Good thinking and good luck!

Use Touchpoint Terrain Maps instead of Customer Journeys

Customers frequently talk about their experience of your service, especially if it’s been outstandingly good or bad. But how often do you hear them talk about going on a journey with you (travel industry excluded of course)?

The only people who seem to mention the phrase customer journey are service and experience design practitioners – because it’s convenient for us to think this way. Yet, as we are supposed to be thinking from the perspective of the customer, why do we focus on a topic they never consider?

Customers just want to achieve an end-goal in appropriate time-frames, with or without you – and nothing else! Sometimes this end-goal does actively involve you – especially for luxury or physical experiences like health spas, restaurants and personal care, for example.

Tropical BeachAn uncomfortable truth

This is an uncomfortable thing to hear, but the vast majority of your customers don’t want to go on a journey. Many wouldn’t even want to interact with you in an ideal world if they had the choice. Your service is simply a means to an end in the customer’s mind. For example, would you rather fly with your favourite airline for ten-hours or be at your end destination ten-hours earlier if you had the choice?

Other examples of this situation are when a customer…

  • Simply wants their new mobile phone to work properly – but they know they’ll have to get their network provider involved to fix it.
  • Needs to have an amazing new outfit for an event next week – but they know they are going to have to spend time online or in a store to find it.
  • Just wants to feel well again – but they know they are going to have to go to hospital for a check-up.

Frequently, customers deal with you not because they want to – but because they are forced to. We have to spend ten-hours sat in a thin, metal tube at 35,000 feet because that’s the only practical way to get to our destination.

To be truly customer-centric, you need to help them achieve their end-goal in the quickest possible manner. But a customer journey map alone isn’t the best process for achieving this.

Once you have the customer on-board your thin, metal tube then the number of alternatives they can consider is limited. Chicken or fish, madam? Red or white, sir? Choosing their movie etc. However, during the lead-up to this point, their consideration set is huge. Choosing an airline; finding a fare; getting to the airport; departure lounge shopping; and many more pre-flight activities offer an array of different options and are subject to so many customer whims, needs, constraints and irrationalities – that they are too chaotic in nature to be mapped usefully.

Pinball predictions

Pinball MachineImagine trying to map out the route a ball will take in a pinball machine when you pull the plunger. Once the first bumper is hit, the ball’s journey becomes chaotic. But many of the early, life-cycle stages in a customer’s relationship with you are just this chaotic. Unfortunately this is where you need to attract and engage with the customer – when their business value (your future revenues) are up for grabs.

Let’s commit the cardinal sin of service and experience design and consider our own personal situation. We all know this is to be a huge design-crime as designing a service for the public by using yourself as the intended persona is a mistake. But let’s do it anyway.

When was the last time you formally committed to going on a customer journey with any company that you as an individual are involved with?

For example, when you wanted to buy something – did you plan your journey beforehand? You may decide to go into town and look in the store when you get up tomorrow morning. But if you wake-up tomorrow to find it pouring with rain, you may well change your mind and buy online instead.

Being in the moment – and the mouse-click

Already there’s a change in your planned customer journey – but what is your online route going to be? How many times have you decided to do something online and been diverted by the search engine’s results, a targeted offer, or some other digital distraction? You go where the moment and the mouse-click take you! No real planning – just intentions that are easily, frequently and impulsively changed. So why do we as experience design professionals seem to think that this can be mapped in advance?

Retrospectively, every customer’s route from their initial starting point to their ending point can be mapped – but to what purpose? Will that same person use this same route the next time they perform the same task? Unlikely. And what’s the probability that another customer from that same consumer segment will use the exact-same journey? Minimal. In fact, of all the customers that will interact with your business on any given day, the percentage that will follow any pre-mapped customer journey is likely to be shockingly low – or even non-existent.

We’ve all seen the development of beautiful visuals that show a zig-zagging line that purports to show how an ideal customer moves between different channels. And we’ve all seen smiley faces and sad faces added to show the highs and lows of the experience for them at that point. But try to find a single customer who actually followed that journey and had those emotional experiences, and you’ve a better chance of finding unicorn poo on your doorstep.

It’s about individual touchpoints – not overall journeys

A customer journey map is actually trying to show how a customer advances from one touchpoint to the next. However, there needs to be appropriate mechanisms built into every touchpoint such that the customer can be advanced to the next stage – which hopeful will still be one of your touchpoints – at an appropriate speed to suit their preference. In actual fact there are so many things that customers are likely to consider out of rational and irrational behaviour, that frequently the touchpoint needs to nudge the customer on as swiftly as possible.

Another truth is that a customer can suddenly appear at any one of your touchpoints and just as rapidly disappear if they can’t achieve what they expect to. Your touchpoints need to be designed suitably for this drop-in behaviour, and also designed to prevent customer drop-out too.

There are some constrained touchpoint sets which effectively form a defined activity sequence. These are more appropriate for being mapped into a customer journey, as the customer is locked-in while a specific process is completed.

Relaxation SpaFor example, when you buy a specific relaxation package at a health spa, you allow yourself to be guided in almost every detail as to how the various treatments to your body are done.

Another example is selling a house. Once the seller has authorised the sale to go ahead, then a standard sequence of events commences.

These more clearly-defined processes that aren’t significantly at the discretion of the customer are ideal for conventional journey mapping, as any process can always be improved.

However, where the customer is in full control of their actions and can make decisions according to whatever whim or impulse triggers their behaviour, there’s a much more effective tool to use than customer journey mapping.

The alternative: Touchpoint Terrain Mapping

Instead of trying to create idealised journeys of how a customer interacts with you, which by default will be wrong for the majority of the time, instead try Touchpoint Terrain Mapping.

A Touchpoint Terrain Map is a list of all the customer touchpoints that exist in your business arranged by the stage in the customer lifecycle. The aim of each touchpoint is to accelerate the customer onto the next touchpoint to help them achieve their task in the most appropriate manner and timeframe as possible.

Touchpoint Terrain MapThe many customer touchpoints you have in the early stage of your customer lifecycle are similar to a pinball machine. Some touchpoints are like bumpers that accelerate the ball in a specific direction as soon as the ball makes contact with that bumper. Other touchpoints are like the pinball machine’s indented saucers that capture the ball and hold it for a period while your score rockets upward. After a time the ball is ejected to continue on its way.

And some touchpoints are like the flippers where the player can try to flip the ball in a desired direction to try to score more points by hitting specific targets. The only difference here is that you can try to guide the customer onto the next touchpoint that is preferred by the business – but still give the customer an option to do what they please.

An example of this is a Contact Us page on a website. The page may suggest that the quickest solution would be to look at the Frequently Asked Questions to direct the customer to another self-help solution which is better for the business – and also better for the customer to know in the future too. However, lower down on that same page, there should also be other options for them such as phone numbers to call, or a tool to help them locate their nearest store if they feel the need to visit.

Locating your customers

Many CustomersThe fascinating thing with a Touchpoint Terrain Map is that every one of your active customers is located somewhere on the map at any given moment. This allows you to identify which are your most influential touchpoints that need the most attention.

And not all touchpoints are created equal, as some are used far more frequently than others. Your primary operational and contact touchpoints will be used to a very-high level while other touchpoints – like the fax number on the side of your delivery trucks – may hardly be used at all.

A Touchpoint Terrain Map can also be used to allocate each touchpoint to a specific person within the organisation and it’s their responsibility is to ensure that touchpoint performs optimally. It’s important that every touchpoint is the responsibility of one specific person and that they are capable of developing that touchpoint to ensure that it operates at its maximum potential.

BrandedVan So regardless of whatever segment of customer uses a specific touchpoint, or for whatever reason, it must nudge the customer onto the next touchpoint in the most business-efficient manner possible.

The term nudge is used deliberately, as we should recognise that customers are in control and will always make the final choice for themselves.

To get a thorough end-to-end view of how your customers interact with you, a combination of Touchpoint Terrain Mapping and Customer Journey Mapping is likely to be your best option. The Touchpoint Terrain Map helps for the more-chaotic early stages of the customer lifecycle, while a Customer Journey Map is practical for the more-defined customer interactions.

Closing questions for you to ask

There’s a popular saying that “life isn’t a destination, it’s a journey”. While this may be philosophically true, when it comes to your customer experiences – then it’s all about the destination and not the journey! You need to recognise that in the chaotic early life-cycle stages, the customer has the potential to leave you at any moment – and so each touchpoint needs to be considered as an intermediate destination.

Here are some powerful question for you to ask:

Is every one of your touchpoints today allocated to a specific person?

Do they have the formal responsibility of boosting the customer’s experience at that touchpoint?

And, are they mandated with maximising the business value from that touchpoint?

If you start to ask these questions you can start to become more touchpoint focused in your answers.

Chris Thomason – Ingenious Growth. See

What our customer experience design team can do for you…

If you want hands-on, practical assistance to move beyond the current approaches to customer experience design to enable your organisation to leapfrog into delivering next-generation customer experiences – then please get in touch with us.

We’ll work with you and your CE team in the most-innovative manner to boost your customer experiences. We prefer to help you by creating progressive momentum through advice and guidance with your team to gain short-term, high-value benefits – and to also work with you building platforms for longer-term, strategic CE development.

Our expertise in customer experience design and management comes from working with large, global organisations on both sides of the client / agency fence. Our clientele includes UPS, O2, AkzoNobel and Vodafone.

The red and blue areas on this map contain the same number of people

Population red and blueThis phenomenal map was created by infographic-master and data-cruncher Max Galka. Both the red and blue areas on this map each contain 5% of the world’s population. The red area includes Bangladesh and just three Indian states: Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, while the blue area incorporates Canada, Australia, 9 US states, and most of South America, Russia and Scandinavia.

While this map is a fascinating insight in itself, what interests me is that the same principle is likely to exist in many facets of business. If you were to map which products deliver your profit, which ones would be red and which blue? Or which of your services deliver the best customer experiences – do they form the red or the blue? Or which products account for the greater servicing costs for your contact centres?

Creating 5% maps like this could be invaluable to helping business understand where the focus really needs to be. How would this play out in your business or in the clients you have?