the cloak of Touchpoint satisfaction



… discovered a more complex problem. Most customers weren’t fed up with any one phone call, field visit, or other individual service interaction—in fact, most customers didn’t much care about those singular touchpoint events.  What was driving them out the door was something the company wasn’t examining or managing—the customers’ cumulative experience across multiple touchpoints, multiple channels, and over time.

Take new-customer onboarding, for example, a journey that spanned about three months and involved an average of nine phone calls, a home visit from a technician, and numerous web and mail interactions. At each touchpoint, the interaction had at least a 90 percent chance of going well. But average customer satisfaction fell almost 40 percent over the course of the entire journey. The touchpoints weren’t broken—but the onboarding process as a whole was.”

McKinsey: Touchpoints to Journey


“Of course, disinformation,” Quinn said. “I can do that. I’ll leave out critical events, then I’ll put in false information and twist everything that has happened around into a vague, shadowy history that obscures what really took place.”

Terry Goodkind


So. I pick up McKinsey white papers on occasion because, while bloated diatribes, they are typically frickin’ smart. My opening quote on the ‘touchpoint journey’ is from McKinsey.

Now. In the marketing & communications world touchpoint marketing has been around for decades by one name or another.  But recently I had to discuss it and ended up talking about it in a slightly different way than I have in the past. I had scribbled down “tactical connection engineers.”

What made me sit back on this a little was this applies to a communications professional as well as everyday schmucks like you & I <who take in communications & messages>.

Communications professionals as tactical connection engineers.

Communications people have had a logistical organizational problem with an effective touchpoint connection plan for years. We hire specialists and then ask them to drill down in their specialty to insure ‘the most effective plan of action within that touchpoint silo.’ This translates into a couple of things, assuming they do their job well,

<a> it will focus so much on the target, the consumer, in its intent to herd and persuade & ‘connect’ that it can very easily slip away from the business selling the shit, and

<b> while today’s business world vociferously balks at ‘purchase funnels’ the truth is that if you have a specialist within some touchpoint segment they may show you some hurricane like visual to show that in the swirl of a connection they herd someone into a ‘meaningful relationship’ stage … uhm … that’s a funnel.

In addition. I would suggest that with companies going to specialized partners and silos what could be construed as a ‘customer focus’ may actually exacerbate the problem as everyone goes running toward their own view of customers and journeys and, maybe worse, prioritizing shit on the journey based on their own budgetary limitations. These silos aren’t really customer focused people nor are they ‘strategic thinkers’, they are actually more likely to be tactical connection engineers.

Everyday schmucks as tactical connection engineers.

Let me explain this one a little because I think it would behoove communications professionals to think about us everyday schmucks like this more often. We tactically engineer our input. We do his to engineer the productivity in our life. Sometimes it may be fr pleasure but the majority of the time we are engineering on Life efficacy <efficient & effective>. I say this because while communications talk ad nausea about a non stop ever changing world they tend t view us everyday schmucks in some stagnant way. They don’t view us as “tactical connection engineers’ but rather simply prey for their own tactical connection engineering. Stupid.  We are tactically engineering our own connectivity on a daily basis dependent upon the context of the day, hour, moment.

Ponder that a second all you “highest order of personalization” advocates. Your head will explode if you ponder too long.

All that said.

While I am not a huge specialized fan, in a specialized world I would argue that holding the center is the most important thing — holding the center on functional offering, brand/company character lens and vision <let’s call that the company distinctness>. Holding the center on the grander strategy & the greater good <brand value> beyond the simple transactional connection objective. It insures whoever is doing whatever will at least be aligned on what really matters – what you are selling and who is selling it. It also insures the intense focus on connection doesn’t inherently strip away the substantive shit that makes up the greater value in the brand.

I cannot tell you how many times I have pulled the following lines from “The Second Coming” by Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

Siloes, or multiple partners, are the falcons. You need to make sure you have a falconer who can be heard <assuming you have a hierarchy type organization>. That means your tactical connection engineers need a head engineer <for ALL tactical engineers regardless of department or expertise>.

I have been asked a zillion times by my business owner friends I always tell them the same thing … do not hire multiple partners unless:

<a> you choose one as the one to hold the centre for you, or,

<b> you are strong enough to hold the centre yourself – and on b. I am honest enough to tell them that most companies/clients don’t really have that expertise to do that because it is far too easy to follow the next shiny object.

That is my #1 argument for finding one partner and using them well.

Now. Back to the risk in tactical connection management. Of course, it’s necessary to provide customers with what they say is important.  However, research consistently shows that it’s much more valuable to align customer experience investments to those elements shown to drive emotional connection, thus maximizing ROI while minimizing risk. For example, one research study showed customer-experience strategies that maximized emotional connection resulted in customers who are six times more likely to consolidate assets with the firm than customers who are highly satisfied, but not emotionally connected.

In the search for profitable organic growth, more and more companies are investing in the technological aspects of optimizing the end-to-end customer experience <each aspect of how customers interact with the company’s brand, products, promotions, and service offerings, on and offline>. They seek to optimize each touchpoint assuming by doing so they will optimize the entire ‘journey.’ They are wrong, in addition, most of these same companies lack a strategic objective for all the pieces & parts in the whole. This matters because without the strategy you gain efficiency (theoretically), but you lose the opportunity to increase customer value. This matters because without the strategy the tactical connection engineers just become the most efficient tactical engineers, not necessarily the most effective for the company.


I do think tactical connection engineers will also need to be better data interpreters <decoders>. Why? Well. data people are finally realizing to maximize customer value it isn’t about just customer satisfaction but also an emotional tier in which you appeal to some fundamental motivations and emotional motivators  <desire to feel a sense of belonging, to succeed in life, or to feel secure for details>. HBR has a nice article on this: “The New Science of Customer Emotions”).

In the end.

Touchpoint architecture is a good basic principled way of viewing things. Some people may argue against that, but it’s a framework, not a formula. I will say the larger issue is not the system itself but rather how the system is used, hence, my suggestion to have “tactical connection engineers.” Ponder.

Written by Bruce