Experience Mumbo Jumbo


Share on LinkedIn

CRM has been around for over 10 years now and there is still no standard definition of what it is. Everybody sort of knows, but a definition, well that’s a whole different ball game. Having said that, there is a consensus emerging that CRM is a business strategy, that it is about mutual value exchange, that it is about more than just transactions, and so forth.

Customer Experience Management has been around for much less time and there is even less agreement of what it is. Or about what constitutes an experience. And there is not yet an emerging consensus about what an experience really is. Worse still, there is a lot of meaningless mumbo jumbo about CEM out there that just serves to confuse matters.

In an attempt to shed a bit of light on CEM, here is my take on some key concepts.


Touchpoints are the key building blocks of experiences. They are points of contact that customers have with your company, its products, staff or partners. Things like parking at a supermarket, finding a trolley and paying at the checkout. They are opportunities to influence the customer, positively or negatively. Jan Carlzon, the former CEO of SAS Airlines describes the most important touchpoints as ‘moments of truth’ in his book of the same name. He used them to turn around SAS in the early 1980s from an airline that was little more than a flying club for its pilots, to one that was customer-focussed. And highly profitable.

Despite their importance, most individual touchpoints are too short and not meaningful enough to have much resonance with customers. Instead, customers lump them together into Episodes.


Episodes are groups of touchpoints that are grouped together through being part of a meaningful activity carried out at the same time. Things like driving to the supermarket and parking, shopping at the supermarket and having afternoon tea after shopping before driving home. They are the basis of experience assessment by customers. Neuroscience research suggests that they are assessed based upon the emotional trend of the episode(does it get better or worse over time), the emotional high-point of the episode (good or bad) and the end of the episode. Experiences that are long or have natural breaks should be considered as a series of episodes rather than a single experience.


The customer experience is all the individual touchpoints or episodes that make up a purposeful activity by a customer. Things like going shopping for groceries, going to the cinema or going to the dentist. Although most experiences are associated with the customer trying to do something purposeful, they may also occur by chance, for example, being caught up in a traffic accident on the way to the supermarket. Where an experience is made up of a number of episodes, it will be assessed as a summary of the individual episodes in a similar way.

End-to-end Experience

The end-to-end experience sometimes refers to longer experiences made up of a number of episodes, but more often to a number of experiences over the lifetime of the customer’s dealings with a company. Things like doing the weekly shopping at your favourite supermarket. Once customers make repeated experiences, they develop expectations of what it will be like in the future. Each further experience updates the expectations; a good one increases them a bit, a poor one reduces them a bit more.

This is important because it is the core expectations about an experience that forms the benchmark which customers uses to assess the experience next time. It is these expectations, or in particular, the feelings and thoughts they evoke in a customer in expectation of the experience that is the basis of every experiential brand. And which brand isn’t experiential these days.

Emotions, Feeling & Thoughts

Customers are people, and people have limited information processing capacities. This may come as a suprise to most classical economists and to some experience designers, but it is true! So human evolution has developed cognitive tricks to avoid getting bogged down in the processing associated with just crossing the supermarket car-park. In a nutshell, most of the processing is down sub-consciously, largely driven by emotions (which we don’t experience) and the feelings they trigger (which we do). For example, it is estimated that over 85% of the items we buiy in a typical supermarket visit find their way into the shopping trolley without conscious thought. A mecca for clever advertisers. Only experiences which are unusual or otherwise out of the ordinary trigger conscious thought.

Experience designers need to take emotions and feelings into account when designing experiences, although generally not at the individual touchpoint level. They also need to ensure that the experiences are easy to process and don’t require too much conscious thought.

If you want to find out more about these building blocks and how you can use them to design better experiences, look at Antonio Damassio’s book, ‘The Feeling of What Happens’, which describes some of the neuroscience behind experiences, and Berndt Schmitt’s book, ‘Customer Experience Management’, which explains how to design experiences that really work. Although there are a lot of other books on the market about CEM, these two are still by far the best.

And be critical when reading blog postings, articles and books about customer experience. There is a lot of confusing mumbo jumbo out there. Stick to these basic principles and Berndt Schmitt’s approach to experience design, and you won’t go far wrong.

What do you think? Is this a reductionist’s folly? Or are great experiences built from the ground up?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamhill/


  1. Graham, I like your thinking.

    Although touchpoint is usually “too short”, it is always the little things that count. One simple touchpoint experience can have significant impact on an individual’s total perception of an episode.

    If finding a trolley is not an enjoyable experience, then the customer can have two choices. He or she can either continue finding the trolley, or just leave the premise and visit another shopping mall nearby. That “finding a trolley” process is then the little thing, and that little thing can already provide either positive or negative experience to customer.

    Touchpoint is mutual, because it is an interaction. Persons involved can control where and when the touchpoint takes place. But experience is personal and unique. It is beyond everyone’s control.

    Berndt Schmitt’s “Customer Experience Management” is a good book. He talks a lot about how to deliver experience, but it’s more important to know what and where to deliver experience. I suggested earlier the idea of managing “People, Information and Deliverables” to deliver experience. That’s the what.

    Last but not least, in the HBR article “Putting the Service Profit Chain to Work,” Heskett suggests that “profitability depends not only on placing hard values on soft measures but also on linking those individual measures together into a comprehensive service picture.” Focusing on Customer Experience alone no longer ensures succuess. Winning requires an optimal balance between internal organization (yin) and external market (yang).

    I’ve been studying touchpoint experience for almost 10 years. The more I read, the more I realize how little I know about touchpoint experience. I hope I am not in your list of confusing mumbo jumbo.

    Daryl Choy, the founder of WisdomBoom and Touchpoint eXperience Management, helps firms make a difference at every touchpoint. Choy can be reached at wisdomboom.blogspot.com.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here