Do All Your Touch Points Need to be Perfect?


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Pursuing excellence, customer centricity and continuous improvement are obsolete; so says Sampson Lee in his 2015 article “Turn Upside Down How PAIN is Perceived in Innovating CX and Brand Management”.

I am glad to say that I haven’t really had many bad customer service experiences, just some that fell short of expectations or I was disappointed in. Did this cause me “pain”? No, not in the literal sense but it did show a gap between expectations and my willingness to “accept” what was not to my liking.

The most recent example came when I took my wife to a great resort spa for her birthday, just a quick overnight stay at a spa that was rated in the top 5 in the country. Everything was top notch, a beautiful property, excellent bellman & front desk service and the spa was fantastic!

The employees were so friendly and professional, we had a great time.

Now I know why they are rated so high, they deserved it…

But when most of the company is operating at such a high level, the departments that do not maintain the same level of service really stand out.

This happened with the restaurant.

We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner there during our stay. The food was good, very good. Plate presentation was nice and so was the restaurant’s atmosphere. But here’s where they fell short and the same level of attention to detail and service was not followed.

I can’t say the experience was terrible, because it wasn’t.  But customers, such as me, do notice when there is a “kink in the armor” as they say.

All the little pleasantries of fine dining service were not there and it showed. Example:

Waiters with a pack of cigarettes clearly seen through their white shirt pocket; the failure to remove both salad plates before the entrée was served; not checking back on us to gauge our satisfaction with our meals; no automatic replenishment of our beverages, to name a few.

Were these acts so detrimental to the overall quality of the property to prevent me from returning? No. But they did stand out as failures in service compared to the high level and quality service provided by the other areas.

As Mr. Lee writes; “Will your customers be satisfied if you eliminate all their dissatisfaction? The answer is NO.”

He continues; “Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman suggested that human beings only remember two moments of any experience – the peak and the end. The conventional approach to customer experience management tries to make every moment “good” from the beginning until the end of an experience. It attempts to raise the entire red line higher and higher to achieve the highest level of industry standards. The problem of pursuing excellence is it takes lots of resource; you dilute your limited resources trying to improve too many things.

This approach generates a flattened emotion curve with an insignificant peak and end. You are simply wasting your company’s resources because the experience is not remembered by your customers. When you disallow pain, you minimize pleasure.”

Did the spa’s restaurant intentionally allow me to “feel pain” to heighten the exceptional level of service elsewhere? I doubt it. Possibly they had an “off day”, it happens to the best of businesses.

But what if the restaurant service was as high end as everything else? Would I have the same impression and satisfaction with the whole resort if every touch point was perfect? Good question.

Don’t I need some measure of excellence to gauge what worked and what didn’t? This isn’t possible when “everything” is great, is it?

Don’t we need ugly to appreciate beauty? Click To Tweet

What about being sick to value good health? When we’ve gone so many years without it won’t we finally value our newly attained wealth? The former is our pain point, the latter our pleasure.

Maybe Mr. Lee is on to something. “P.I.G” (pain is good), agree?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve DiGioia
Steve uses his 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers' desire. Author of "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift...Even If You're a Bad Waiter" and named an "ICMI Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader" and a "Top Customer Service Influencer" by CCW Digital, Steve continues his original customer service, leadership and management-based writings on his popular blog.


  1. Hi Steve: If a business owner or operations executive told me that he or she deliberately engineered a cruddy experience in one area to make the other parts of the business shine out, I’d be pretty stunned. I’ve never heard of this happening, probably because the risks are enormous.

    The closest comparison to the idea that I can think of is Club Med, which famously maintained Spartan rooms to accompany their otherwise fine – though not luxurious – facilities and dining. The rationale was to encourage visitors not to spend their one- or two-week vacations confined in a hotel room, but rather to get out and enjoy the other amenities – all very nice and well-maintained. The strategy drew clients who had like interests, and didn’t see great value in nightly turn-down service, and Godiva Chocolate on the pillows.

    In a recent related story, Yoplait Learns to Manufacture Authenticity to Go with Its Yogurt (New York Times, June 26, General Mills, Yoplait’s parent company, studiously decided to take a less-than-perfect name, Oui, to grab share in a market becoming dominated by similarly weird – or at least, improbable – brand names. The name, Oui, will surely generate lots of yuks, and probably in the name of authenticity, that’s exactly what General Mills expects. But I’m almost 100% certain that their objective is not to elicit pain.

  2. Hi Andrew,
    I agree that any “intentional” allowance of poor service in order to enhance product/service elsewhere is ridiculous, but I don’t believe that is the intent of Mr. Lee’s original article.

    The thought is that it’s “impossible” to have each customer touch point to be near perfection so don’t try. The financial cost and practicality is not worth it.

    I can understand his reasoning but we should not be satisfied with potential mediocrity in the hopes that the first and last impression will carry the day.

    I’m from the school that customers will find what they wish, good or bad, depending on their whims of the day. It’s our task to smooth the journey. Thanks.

  3. All customer touchpoints don’t need to be ‘perfect’ (I’m not sure, anyway, what that means), but……..they do need to be consistent and deliver expected, or better, value. If, per your example, deficiency in even one element of the experience undermines value, customers will lose trust in the vendor. Their memory of the experience will be damaged, negatively impacting downstream behavior.

    One of my past research clients was in the foodservice distribution business. Based on some of our customer experience study results, they were challenged to understand why, despite performing at better than 99.5% on touchpoints such as “completeness of delivery”, “timeliness of delivery”, and “accuracy of order”, many of their customers were extremely unhappy with this vendor and were at risk of defection. What our research uncovered was both an emotional and functional response to the disruption of their operation when execution on these touchpoints was less than perfect.

  4. HI Michael,
    As you mention, today’s customers desire/need an emotional response to be a part of their purchase experience, at least as per some research. They don’t need a bland “feel-good” reaction to a series of worn out phrases or actions but a sincere mindset of service.

    Yes, as Mr. Lee, points out, their last touch point has a lasting effect on service impression but the overall series of actions, and the manner in which they are taken, must still be a harbinger of the mode and method of anticipatory service along with a touch of customer care.

    Thank you.


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