In recent times, the number of touch points through which a customer can contact an organisation has geometrically increased. Apart from an organisation's physical location, there are other ways customers may contact organisations which could be through the contact centre or by social media. In a bid to ensure the ship runs smoothly, each of these units or departments is led by someone in charge of the daily operations who marshals the troops so that there is leadership, direction, coordination and to ensure little or nothing falls through the cracks.

While this system of operation is good, organisations will need to take it a step further by looking at their operations through the eyes of the customer to truly understand that customers go through journeys in getting service and may contact one or more touch points to get that service, hence there should be a shift from just touch point management to journey management.

The present-day journey of a customer is more tilted in favour of the organisation, with the customer having to go through hoops because the journey is the result of individual departmental efforts, which most times are siloed and not aligned, creating bad experiences for customers.

Understanding the customer's journey is about learning what customers experience from the moment they begin considering a purchase, and then working to make the journey towards buying a product or service as simple, clear, and efficient as possible.

The customer journey is very crucial; what does it take for a customer to get service from your organisation? There are some organisations that just the thought of visiting brings a shiver to the spine of the customer because one seems to have to pass through the eye of a needle, from waiting lines to filling forms, to moving from one department to the other involving the customers contacting different touch points.

According to Parature, a CRM Software company, an average customer uses an average of four channels to communicate with a brand, the most popular ones being physical visits and via the contact centre, it is therefore crucial that an organisation should support as many contact options as possible and ensure a consistent experience across all.

It's not enough to simply provide a range of contact options in the contact page of the website-a true Omni-channel customer experience is the new standard. Companies and organisations should take steps to ensure that customers and their preferences are remembered and cut across all channels.

For instance, if a query starts by a physical visit and the customer chooses to continue the interaction later via phone, they should not have to explain from the beginning, which is usually the norm today, leaving the customer to narrate the issues afresh to each person or department he comes across. An average bank has at least six or seven online touch points for engagement apart from physical locations such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Youtube channel, Snap chat, but how well do these offline and online elements integrate? Can I make a complaint at a branch and finish it off online? This is why it is crucial to manage the journey and not just the touch points.

Organisations that are unable to create seamless journeys across their touch points usually have a high number of customers that are not satisfied, cranky and burnt out employees, high call rates, defections and churn, as not everyone has the patience and time to stick to an organisation which cannot put its house in order, especially in a competitive market. On the other hand, organisations that have smooth customer journeys have lower call rates, happy customers, high referral rates and of course are better at retaining their customers and getting new customers.

A critical look needs to be taken at the different units in the organisation to ensure that all are aligned. For instance, the sales team may be meeting their targets and selling products to customers, but the sales team may not be properly educating the customer on what he is buying into, the options available and how to navigate through the product; what happens then is that a problem is created for the operation or retention team or the call centre, who the customer has to contact to solve the problems created and the cycle goes on and on. The sales team looks good and the operations team too looks like one that is engaged, solving customer's queries which should not have arisen in the first place, if proper education was carried out.

To look at journeys effectively, the cap of transactional thinking has to be removed and the garb of relational thinking needs to be adorned, a trade off will have to be made, metrics will need to be adjusted such that the sales team will not be just rewarded for closing a sale but for keeping that customer for at least a period, in exchange for lesser target. This will be more profitable for the company as a better percentage of its customers will be retained, since the end users are more engaged and more educated by the sales team.