In the classic arcade game Whac-a-Mole, you wield a foam mallet to smash a relentless parade of devious plastic moles that pop up from holes in the arcade cabinet and taunt you. It’s a rush of activity, where success is measured in milliseconds and the agility of your reflexes. Yet, for all the whacking, the moles never truly disappear—they retreat momentarily, only to resurface elsewhere. It’s an exercise in tactical responsiveness but strategic futility, and a cautionary tale for many CX leaders who mistake busyness for progress.
In customer experience management, it’s easy to collect pain points. Talk to a customer or send a survey and you’ll come back with a dictionary of pain. We ran a workshop for a cable internet operator and identified 114 customer pain points in 90 minutes—and that’s only what employees already knew about!
The company could spend the next 37 years and lots of effort whacking all those moles—but would all that activity make a difference? Would the business grow profitably from the whacking?
The Folly of Optimizing Touchpoints
With limited resources—time, money, and people—you’re forced to direct your activities toward changes that produce the biggest business outcomes. Pain points usually involve a touchpoint, or specific interaction, with the company—calling the contact center, receiving a bill, or making a transaction. But without a view of the customer journey, you risk wasting those limited resources on the wrong opportunities. For example: you create an effortless experience in the contact center, but don’t correct the product issue that customers are calling about in the first place.
We worked with a B2B SaaS company with very siloed business units—product development, professional services, customer support, customer success, technical documentation, and training. Every department was working hard, but the departments weren’t working together.
Hyper-aware of their own customer complaints, each department deployed web-based portals to make customers’ lives easier. There was a product login portal. Two support ticket portals. A learning management system with training videos. A knowledge base with technical references and release notes. An online community where customers could suggest new features to product managers.
Each department was whacking their moles, but what did customers think?
“It’s one of the most frustrating things,” a customer told me, “to try and remember where to get help. There are seven websites and seven passwords. The passwords have different requirements and they expire at different times. I have to keep a spreadsheet just to remember what each site is for and how to log in to it.”
Every department was customer-focused, but no one was customer-centric. Each leader hyper-optimized the touchpoints in their control, unaware that they were simultaneously degrading the overall customer experience—frustrating the very customers they were trying to serve.
Adopt a Journey Perspective
When our client “zoomed out” and examined the customer journey, they realized that the disjointed online experience was frustrating customers. The pain points regarding each website didn’t illuminate the real problem from the customers’ point-of-view. Once they understood the customer’s journey, they began working together to build a single entry point for customers and enable “single sign-on” integration between the applications.
When companies operate without a journey perspective, they create fragmented and often frustrating customer experiences. Imagine a symphony where each musician plays their part flawlessly but without any coordination—resulting in cacophony rather than harmony.
To adopt a journey perspective, zoom out and look at the customer’s entire experience as they try to accomplish their goal. You can visualize this journey with a tool called a customer journey map—an illustration of the customer’s experience, showing the highs and lows from the customer’s perspective.
The customer journey map serves as a strategic blueprint, enabling you to identify not just isolated pain points but also systemic issues that may be affecting the customer experience at multiple stages. It allows you to shift from a myopic focus on individual touchpoints to a holistic understanding of the customer’s journey.
This strategic approach allows for more effective allocation of resources. Instead of spreading efforts thinly across a multitude of isolated issues, you can focus on key moments—we call them Moments of Truth—that have a disproportionate impact on the customer’s experience. These are the critical interactions that have the biggest financial impact because they influence the customer’s decisions to stay longer, spend more, tell others, and cost less to serve.
Secondly, a journey perspective fosters cross-departmental collaboration. When everyone understands how their role fits into the larger customer journey, they collaborate across silos, and a culture of customer-centricity takes root. In essence, you transition from being a company that is merely “customer-focused” to one that is genuinely “customer-centric.”
If you find yourself stuck in a never-ending game of Whac-a-Mole with customer pain points, it’s time to put down the mallet and pick up the map. Adopt a journey perspective, and transform tactical responsiveness into strategic effectiveness.
This article was created as part of the Vistio Knowledge Collective.