The Three Billy Goats Gruff and the customer journey


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Three goats
Photo by L ley on Unsplash

Do you remember the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff? In it, three goat brothers longed for the grass on the other side of the river. But the only way to get there was a troll-guarded bridge. After making the effort to cross the bridge and overcome the troll they faced, the goats finally reached the sought-after grass.

However, many versions of the fairy tale end with the goats being disappointed by the grass they’d so anticipated. All that effort – for such poor results.

Far from being a story about greedy goats, The Three Billy Goats Gruff can, in fact, offer us insight to the impact of the customer journey on satisfaction and experience. The experiences of the goats in the story are not unlike that of the journey customers often take with businesses. So, what could three fictional goats possibly teach us about customer experience?

Tip-tapping across the bridge to your business

First, let’s break the analogy down. The goats are customers; the troll is a hurdle or difficulty; the bridge is the contact channel; the grass is your business and its offering.

In the story, the goats had to make substantial effort to overcome a troll-sized hurdle to get to the grass. Sadly, they were less than thrilled upon tasting it. They’d had a difficult journey, and as a result, the outcome wasn’t worth it.

When customers must make a lot of effort to access your products, services or support, it’s easier for them to feel let down by the outcome. This is because the more effort we put into something — like crossing the bridge — the more we expect out of it.

Difficult customer journeys

In the story, there are two main factors that make the goats’ journey difficult. These factors can be translated to apply to a real-life customer journey.

1. There was only one way to access the grass
Only one bridge led to the desired grass. The goats couldn’t opt for a more convenient route, or take their pick of entry points, or find a suitable workaround.

In real life, this translates to a lack of accessible customer service. Your business isn’t easy to reach – or reach resolution with – due to a restricted range of customer contact channels, or ‘bridges’.

2. The troll
The troll of the story represents hurdles that customers face while trying to complete an interaction. Such hurdles could be related to communication, such as language barriers, being forced to repeat problems to multiple agents, or an apathetic service rep.

Other hurdles might be related to disabilities, or age-related difficulties that make using your ‘bridges’ harder. Finally, hurdles could relate to poor processes, such as long customer wait times and unempowered agents.

But what if it had been different?

For an easy customer journey, the goats needed to find more bridges, fewer trolls. In real life, this means an omnichannel customer contact strategy, and the minimalisation of hurdles at every point of the customer journey.

The goats would still get the same grass, and your customers will still get the same products and support. But the lower effort means they wouldn’t have built up their expectations. Where the difficult journey made the resolution seem unrewarding, creating an easy customer journey makes it feel smoother and stress-free.

Creating a great customer experience then, is about managing expectations and perceptions throughout the customer journey.

Effortless customer journeys

You need to reduce the effort required to peruse your products and access your services. And this drive for an effortless experience needs to exist in every interaction that customers have with you.

First, the end goal of the journey needs to be made accessible. In The Three Billy Goats Gruff, this would translate to building more ways to cross the river. In real life, this means offering as many customer contact points as possible.

So, be accessible for customers with a short spare moment to send you an email; the customers that prefer to talk with your team over telephone; the online customers seeking an instant response via live chat. The more ways a customer can get hold of you, the easier it is for them to do so.

Second is removing any hurdles that threaten a smooth, easy customer journey. In The Three Billy Goats Gruff, this would be getting rid of the troll. In real life, there are many hurdles that can get in the way of a smooth customer journey. You need to be prepared for all of them.

Be sure to empower your team to help customers at the first instance, and train them not only to listen, but to be empathetic. If a customer reaches out, be there to answer without a long wait time. Make sure your content is easily findable and you have a clear FAQ and self-service section. Finally, be sure to anticipate customer needs and reach out if they appear to be struggling with something.

Defeat the troll

Increasing customer satisfaction is all about perception and managing expectations. By creating an effortless customer journey, your customers won’t have their impression of you tainted by stressful experiences or long-winded processes.

Don’t let experience trolls ruin your customer journey. Create a smooth, effortless experience for your customers, and let your business shine, even once customers have crossed the bridge.

Niamh Reed
I'm a Keele University graduate and copywriter for digital engagement specialist Parker Software. I graduated with first-class honors in English with creative writing and was also awarded a certificate of competency in Japanese. I can usually be found feverishly writing business technology articles – covering everything from AI to customer service – and drinking too much tea.


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