Caramel & Broken Teeth: Why Understanding Your Customer Journey is Crucial

SPLICE Software on June 8, 2016

Recently, I saw one of my favorite childhood treats; a huge chunk of hard caramel on a stick. I rarely see this candy anymore and suspect it’s because this candy has a remarkable ability to pull out teeth - even when consumed properly. I tried to do a quick risk/benefit analysis on the candy vs. my teeth, and the sugar won over reason. I bought it, and on a day that was packed with activities, leaving no margin for time error, I inexplicably concluded that the caramel would make a good breakfast. I actually thought about the repercussions of breaking a tooth, but decided to go forth anyway, and use “hope” as my strategy. Two minutes later, I found myself wondering what the glass-like substance in the caramel was.  Sure enough I had broken part of my tooth and swallowed it. I felt my stress level rise.

Fortunately, my dentist was able to fit me in immediately. My dentist is nowhere near my home. I have no idea if his prices are competitive - and probably never will, because I don’t check - but because of how he handled a previous dental emergency of mine, which happened on Christmas Day, he is my "dentist for life." I schlepped all the way there and got the tooth repaired, all the while, wondering and fretting, about how I would conceivably accomplish what I still needed to do that day.  I felt my stress level continue to rise.

When I walked out of the dentist, the traffic was terrible. So, I decided to dash into a convenience store to buy provisions for what would likely be a long ride. I hurriedly grabbed a large bucket of caffeinated soda, and rush-walked to the counter. I found a large line before the counter which is highly unusual and unexpected in this type of store. I just wanted to pay, get out of there, and join the commuting fray, but the line just didn’t move.  At all.  After a while, it became apparent to me that the hold-up was a group of customers that were trying to negotiate with one another about splitting the cost of a purchase. Now my stress was well beyond safe levels.

When I got to the counter, the clerk at didn’t ask how my day was going - there was no need because I was so stressed out I must have looked like a rabid and desperate animal of some nature. Instead, the clerk smiled, looked me in the eye, and asked “is that it?” When I told him it was, he said it was on-the-house, smiled at me again, and genuinely told me to have a nice day. At that point, I felt my stress level drop.

I still had more things to do than I had time to do them in. I still had to deal with the traffic, and I still had a lot less money now then at the start of my day. But I felt my stress level drop. An empowered employee who clearly had a great deal of empathy did something that made my day quite a bit better. He gave me a bucket of free soda. Monetarily it wasn’t big, but the experience was big. What does this have to do with the customer journey? With voice or customer experience strategy?

First, “hope” should not be a strategy for improving your customer experience. It often leads to situations that are far worse than "gooey caramel". Wanting things to be a certain way does not make them so. It’s often your own best insular thinking, and the voice in your head is what gets you in trouble, not out of it.  But quantifiable, and informed, customer information can lead to a customer strategy that is not just "hopeful". You get this with Voice of the Customer data.

Second, a customer’s journey begins and ends outside of your organization. You can only control those customer touchpoints within your domain, and this makes each customer touchpoint critical. Use customer journey, and empathy map techniques, to fully understand this, and inform them with Voice of the Customer Data.

Finally, if you want your customers' feedback, give your customers a chance to easily tell you about their experience. People are busy and over surveyed. Don’t forget you are dealing with real people who have far greater priorities than giving you feedback to use within your customer journeys. After all, they may have just spent the better part of their day dealing with their need to pull out perfectly good teeth with caramel.

If you’re looking to get started with Customer Journey Mapping, contact us today!

Joan Pepper, Founder of JG Pepper Consulting & Customer Success Manager at Zycus