Micro-interactions Versus the End-to-End Experience


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Customer Experience Management (CEM) has been with us for over 10 years now (it arguably started with Lou Carbone’s work on experience engineering in the mid-90s) but that doesn’t mean that we all agree on what CEM is yet.

As I suggested in a recent post on ‘What Exactly is Customer Experience Management‘, there are still big differences in opinion about what CEM is, for example, whether you should start with the brand and create a branded customer experience, or whether you should start with customers and create an experiential brand. My preference is for the latter. But that doesn’t mean that branded experiences are always wrong.

Another difference is whether you should build the experience bottom-up from tens (or even hundreds) of individual micro-interactions, or whether you should design the experience top-down with the end-to-end experience in mind. My preference is for the latter. But a series of blog postings by David Armano over at the Logic + Emotion blog are making me pause for thought.

David sets out his ideas in a presentation about ‘Micro Interactions + Direct Engagement in a 2.0 World’. He suggests that in today’s always on, mobile internet powered world, we receive thousands of micro-interactions with brands everyday. These vary from traditional physical touchpoints, through intangible on-line touchpoints, to social touchpoints of friends and family. It is the interaction of all these multi-facetted micro-touchpoints that shape our perceptions of companies, their products and the brands that result. This fits well with our understanding of how customers learn through a process of Bayesian updating. If David’s suggestion is true, we need to understand as best we can which of the many micro-interactions are important in shaping customers’ perceptions and how they should be integrated together to create a coherent customer experience that we can sense, that creates the right feelings, that makes us think the right things, that persuades us to buy and that over time creates a sense of relationship. That creates an experiential brand in other words.

I am still not 100% convinced by David’s suggestion; this is still a brand-driven model rather than the customer-centric one I believe we need to adopt to remain relevant to customers in the near future. And Tom Guerillo makes the point in an article about ‘Experiencing Experience’ that experiences are very context-driven. My experience at Starbucks is driven by what I have experienced at the particular Starbucks, at other Starbucks and at other coffee houses in the past. And my experience will likely be entirely different to yours. That makes starting with micro-interactions more of a hit-and-miss approach than starting with the end-to-end experience. All that notwithstanding, David has started an interesting discussion that we definately need to have.

What do you think? Are micro-interactions more important? Or should we be concentrating on the end-to-end experience instead?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Further reading:

What Exactly is Customer Experience Management?

David Armano on Micro Interactions + Direct Engagement in a 2.0 World

Wikipedia on Bayesian Inference

Tom Guerillo on Experiencing Experience

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,

    You are raising some critical issues that CEM enthusiasts need to wrestle with. I am with you in that I believe you start with the customer. I am a little concerned that the micro-interaction approach is missing an important consideration. Namely, the role of the customer. I know you are fond of customer co-creation, as I am. Once the customer gets involved get involved in creation, the company needs to see this as an opportunity for co-creation and seize it.

    Does that mean that as a company you don’t start with and end-to-end plan? No, it is just that the plan needs to expect and, in fact, hope for customers doing the unexpected. When customers do, they are exhibiting a high form of emotional and intellectual engagement with the company offering. When this happens there are fruitful outcomes to be reaped by both sides.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company

  2. John

    Thanks for your comment.

    As is so ofter the case, I agree with you. It all comes down to a gradual recognition that brands are not something created by marketers, but something co-created with and by customers. This was acknowledged recently by marketing luminaries such as AG Lafley, the CEO of Procter & Gamble, when he implored marketers to “let go” of the brand and cede more control to customers, by Time magazine declaring ‘You’ as the person of the year and by AdAge declaring ‘The Customer’ as the agency of the year.

    This has yet to sink in to many traditional marketers who still see themselves as the custodians of the brand. And therefore as the designers of each and every micro-transaction with customers. Irrespective of whether the micro-interactions elicit the longitudinal responses in customers that they would like.

    Rome was not built in a day. And neither are the ‘real brands’ created by and for customers (with the assistance of marketers).

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Further Reading:

    AF Lafley on Letting Go

    Time Magazine on You

    AdAge on The Customer

  3. Graham,

    You mentioned that Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’ve been told that it takes miles to stop an ocean going ship and if you want to get back to a particular spot, the best thing to do is to make a figure 8. I think that is what most companies have been doing with respect to customer-centricity.

    Recently, I have had the opportunity to talk with people involved in community building efforts at both Intel and Dell. I am encouraged in both cases. What started out as using an old mindset to solve a new problem turned into insight and some transformational thinking. When Dell got serious about becoming part of the online conversation, it was because of a crisis. Fortunately for them and their customers, they recognized the potential of real dialogs with customers. Intel started with the idea that communities would smooth out technical support. Some how they let real open communities exist and discovered that they produced energy, commitment and innovation in all parties.

    Armed with new insights, both companies are redesigning there ships with new purposes in mind.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company

  4. John

    I am pleased to hear that Intel and Dell are starting to enable conversations with customers and between customers through their community building efforts. Conversations between customers have always taken place but it is good for the two companies to be part of the conversation.

    I don’t think that quite makes ‘markets into conversation’ as some would have us believe, but it is a start.

    Your post reminds me of a classic 1995 HBR article on ‘How to Make Reengineering Really Work’ that I re-read this morning. The article shows the new process adoption (and savings made) achieved by 20 different companies going through business process reengineering. The only ones that achieved high adoption (and high savings) were those that changed the end-to-end process in a big way. This finding is supported by other research that shows that significant benefits from business change are only achieved when a ‘tipping point’ of at least 50% of the organisation adopts the change as daily business.

    It would be interesting to see of there is a similar ‘tipping point’ for Intel and Dell, and how the adoption of the organisational changes associated with customer communities influences their business results.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Further Reading:

    How to Make Reengineering Really Work

  5. Graham,

    While he didn’t use the term “tipping point”, Ken Kaplan of Intel did say that as the community conversations heated up, more and more upper managers wanted to on the distribution list. Some executives wanted to follow conversations that were not even in their area. I take that to indicate that word-of-mouth let them know that something significant was happening.

    Interesting how easily we use term like word-of-mouth when taking about customers but how much less frequent it is applied internal change.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company

  6. John

    Very interesting. It provides yet more evidence for the emerging social model of organisational change. In this model, organisational change happens when individuals change (and benefit from doing so), work teams change (ditto) and the larger organisation changes. The long-term support of management at successively higher levels is critical if the changes are to stick and the organisation is not to revert to type.

    Although the individual is the foundation of change (to the relief of all the organisational psychologists out there!), it is their social networks that enables the change too reach the organisational tipping point and to stick. Leandro Herrero of the Chalfont Project wrote an excellent book on ‘Viral Change’ which sets out a practical approach to making change happen through organisational social networks.

    Change emerges out of the interaction of all the individuals in teams, groups and the whole organisation. It is thus difficult to manage and impossible to control. This is a direct challenge to the obsolete model of ‘top-down mandated’ change peddled by academics and consultants, and eagerly lapped-up by managers over the years. Just as in any organisation, the old-school of top-down change managers are resisting the changes in their own midst, despite their evident lack of demonstrable success in driving successful change. In a piece of delicious irony, many in the change profession havn’t achieved their own social change tipping point yet!

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Further Reading:

    Nelson Repenning on Change Dynamics

    Leandro Herrero on Viral Change

  7. “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” Shakespeare

    Now the question is, to top-down or to bottom-up? Or… is it the right question to be asked?

    There will never be consensus on what CEM/CRM is, because everyone will have his/her own experience, and therefore may develop his/her own definition.

    After all, does anyone know what the customers really want?

    Daryl Choy
    Make Little Things Count


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