Is Your Customer Journey Candy Land or Snakes & Ladders?

customer journey
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There are a few things that go through your mind when a hungry Spotted Python decides your hand is lunch.

Mostly they have to do with really, really wanting said python to let go, but also some regret at having been dumb enough to put your hand in front of it in the first place, and a little guilt that all the snake got for its effort was a moisturizer-flavoured hand.

As I gently persuaded my son’s disappointed snake to take its teeth out of me, I started to think about customer experience, since neither Fluffy (yes, that’s his name) nor I were having a particularly good time. And then I started thinking about how like Snakes and Ladders most customer journeys are.

To jog your memory, Snakes and Ladders (aka Chutes and Ladders) is that children’s board game where, depending on the role of the die, you can end up leaping ahead by climbing a ladder or going way back by sliding down a snake. It’s good fun until a four-year-old hits one snake too many and then it’s really quite unpleasant.

Delightful Enchantment

Yet that’s how most organizations deliver customer service. For the majority of turns, customers simply move forward through their life cycle and not much happens. But every now and again, someone really steps up and delights the heck out of a customer. It can be going the extra mile with a project, staying on the phone to solve a problem the customer caused to begin with, or doing some good deed in the community: you get the picture. When that customer posts a lovely review online or sends an email to an Overlord or delivers a Net Promoter nine, we all climb that ladder with them. And for one, all-too-brief turn we feel like a million bucks. Enchantment delivered.

Then there’s the next turn, and our previously exultant customer hits not another ladder, but a dreaded snake, and down they go. Down they go into the hell of an inaccurate shipment, a rude customer service person or a night on the bathroom floor (or they bite into a hand instead of a delicious rat). Just like the four-year-old, they are grumpy about it; unlike the four-year-old they post a lousy review, send a day-ruining email to your boss and submit a terrible NPS score. To which we respond by running in pointless circles of escalations and explanations and exception management and other things that are generally not in anyone’s job description.

Exhausting Pixie Dust

I am going to propose that customer journeys need to resemble Candy Land instead of Snakes and Ladders. In Candy Land, children move easily around the board by drawing cards with colours and moving to the next spot with that colour. Every now and again they have to miss a turn or go back a couple of spaces, but nothing more dramatic than that. Eventually, someone gets to the end first, followed closely by the rest of the players. Is there any drama? No. Is there any opportunity for revenge? No. Is there wild delight? Not really. Is there withering disappointment? Also, no. That’s okay because the point is to move through the game until it’s nap time.

My friends, this is what we need to be using as a model for the customer journey. Forget the delight, and all the exhausting pixie dust it requires, and let’s just deliver a consistently good, predictable experience. Minor setbacks are allowed, and a pleasant experience is required, but other than that, it should be as routine and as undemanding as a game of Candy Land.

The alternative is the ditch-to-ditch drama of managing snakes and praying for ladders.


Originally published August 18, 2017 on

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Elizabeth Williams is the President of Candler Chase Inc., a consulting firm specializing in employee communications and branding. She is a survivor of more than 20 years in the telecom, financial services and technology sectors, and can often be found blogging about brands and speaking at conferences. She keeps meaning to write a book.