Four Lessons for Designing Exceptional Customer Journeys

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ONE DAY I AWOKE to find my refrigerator had stopped making ice. Upon further exploration, I discovered that my frozen foods were not really frozen anymore, and the items in the refrigerator were not as cold as usual. I checked the settings, measured the temperature, and even referenced the troubleshooting guide in the owner’s manual. Alas, my conclusion: The refrigerator was broken.


Every interaction between a company and customer is a journey. Some are long journeys that involve many interactions over a long period of time. Others are short journeys, like mine, that lasted only a couple of weeks. Regardless of the journey, every step matters. Of course, this is complicated because the preferences of customers can vary wildly. Some want the personal touch, a human guiding them on the journey, while others want to use digital methods and chart their own path.

My refrigerator dilemma is a pretty good mix of several methods, so let’s take a look. I found out quickly that I had to go through an authorized repair service, which meant searching the manufacturer’s website, interacting with a chatbot, initiating an online chat (that abruptly ceased), and ultimately calling a contact center that set up an appointment for repair. I received texts in advance to confirm the appointment and to ensure my home was COVID-free. Eventually a service technician arrived and spent two hours at my house installing a new compressor.

Overall, the process was relatively painless. However, therein lies the problem: We expect a service experience to be painful! Even though I was pretty satisfied, I would have preferred to use my local appliance shop. Also, it would have been nice if I had not needed to provide the same information (name, model number, serial number, etc.) several times. And it would have been a bit less frustrating if the chat system didn’t shut down after I entered a paragraph of information. Finally, it would have been so much more convenient if I had not had to wait a week and a half for the repair, which was the earliest it could be scheduled. Clearly, satisfaction in this case was a pretty low standard to achieve.


My story is not unique. We all have tales of journeys we have embarked upon to purchase, fix, and troubleshoot various products and services. However, the story diagramed on this page has some lessons for customer experience leaders:

  • First, discover the customer journey. If you haven’t done so already, map out all the steps that customers go through in working with you. This includes human interactions as well as digital touchpoints. For best results, involve a cross-functional team and invite customers to share their experiences. This type of exercise is critical to understanding the customer’s perspective and what must be improved to deliver the best possible experience.
  • Find the right balance. On the one hand, customers want digital options that are self-serve and always on, allowing them the control to quickly and easily search, shop, research, inquire, share, and purchase. But customers also want to be able to call on informed contacts to listen, recommend, serve, troubleshoot, and address their complex needs and objectives. It’s about finding the right balance between digital and human interactions. Although these can be different for every customer, customer experience leaders need to ensure the right options are in place to provide a flexible and seamless experience.
  • Keep the focus on the customer. Companies commonly spend a great deal of time and money developing processes to improve efficiency. Of course, that’s important. However, too often this results in a journey that is smooth for the company but clunky for the customer. Customer experience leaders need to be the advocate of the customer. It’s your job to ensure the focus is on the right stakeholder and that any process updates benefit the customer. Also, this isn’t an either-or scenario. Ultimately, you can achieve win-win opportunities—delivering a better experience and improving efficiency.
  • Remember the big three. Here are three fail-safe questions that every customer experience leader can ask as they design exceptional journeys for their customers: First, can we make it easier? Second, can we make it faster? Third, can we make it more personalized? Regardless of the journey, customers long for simplicity, speed, and experiences focused on their specific needs. Relentless focus on these three characteristics will always pay off.

Every once in a while, we have a refreshing journey that exceeds expectations. The experience getting my refrigerator fixed was just okay. Experiences that are just okay don’t inspire me to tell a friend, provide a testimonial, comment on social media, or return to do more business with the company. Exceptional journeys, on the other hand, lead to more buzz and more business. And that’s why customer experience leaders should be so deliberate in discovering and designing exceptional journeys for their customers.

Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading customer experience services firm. He can be reached at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com.

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