The Streetlight Effect: Why Every Brand Needs a Customer Journey Approach

If you’ve been trying to improve your brand’s customer engagement, maybe you can relate to an old joke that goes like this:

On nighttime patrol, a police officer sees a drunk man searching the ground under a streetlight.

“What are you doing?” the officer asks.

“Looking for my keys,” the man replies.

After helping the man search under the streetlight for several minutes, the officer asks him, “Are you sure this is where you lost your keys?”

“No, I lost them in the park,” the man replies.

“Then why are you looking here?”

“Because this is where the light is.”

The “Streetlight Effect” (named for this joke) holds a lot of organizations back from taking their customer experiences (CX) to the next level. They need to understand which interactions are motivating customers to stick with their brand or leave it, and why.

The tricky thing is, they’re looking for insights in all the wrong places.



Most organizations are unlikely to get in-depth understanding from traditional measurements and methods, such as:

  • Using CSAT tools to conduct once-a-year, out-of-context surveys of consumers on a contact list (who didn’t necessarily experience the product or service)
  • Relying on limited survey data, taking what consumers say at face value when their actual behavioral data might say something different
  • Looking at one channel (e.g., contact center) and one function (e.g., a ticket filed with customer support) vs. the broader set of teams that are involved in delivering the experience

These limited, ad hoc info-gatherings can give companies a false sense of security about the customer’s overall experience. If they rely on customers’ direct feedback to gauge their loyalty or predict churn, for example, they might never hear about critical experience issues seeing that 96 percent of unhappy customers don’t complain, and 91 percent of those will simply leave a brand.

What kinds of insights might you miss outside the streetlight of traditional CX measuring methods? Here’s an example to illustrate. Think about the last hotel you stayed at, and whether you would stay there again. What are the experiences that color your answer? They might include:

  • How easy it was to book a room
  • How long you had to wait before you checked in
  • The quality of their amenities (e.g., pool, gym, business center, etc.)
  • How easy it was to get an electronic copy of the bill

These experiences cut across multiple journeys that make up the hotel stay, and they influence each other. Suppose you spent time at the hotel bar; by itself, the hotel might interpret that as a positive. But what if it was only because your room wasn’t ready on time, and you needed something to do? Unless the hotel can understand the bar touchpoint in context, they won’t know you were likely having a negative journey experience.

Expanding your sight beyond the streetlight to understand these interactions requires a more holistic approach to CX: context-driven customer journey orchestration.



Context-driven journey orchestration is the ability to determine the “best next experience” for a given customer at any time and deliver an excellent customer experience. This type of journey orchestration takes into account:

  • The customer’s segment
  • The channel the customer is currently in or using
  • The chain of events prior
  • The outcome they’re seeking to achieve

Organizations need to combine these four points of knowledge so they can “read the room” in digital channels, just like they can in physical settings.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you upgraded your internet package to the highest connection speed. But you’ve recently logged three trouble tickets citing slow speeds, and now your contract with the internet provider is almost up. If your internet provider had a conversation with you, they could quickly determine that, barring some kind of intervention, you’re going to churn. Traditionally speaking, they would have a harder time recognizing you as a churn risk in their digital channels.

With a context-driven journey approach, however, the company can string together the breadcrumbs to predict that the next time you call their contact center, it will likely be to tell them you’re switching providers, so they should proactively take action to retain you before then.

These points of knowledge—the need for high internet speed, the trouble tickets, the expiring contract—are all happening outside the company’s streetlight view, but they’re the data that really matter if the company is going to anticipate your needs. If they can’t shine a light on that data with a context-driven journey approach, they’ll be searching blindly for how to maintain your loyalty.



Adopting a context-driven approach in your organization is no small undertaking. But like any other journey, it begins with a single step.

Decide on one journey area that will be your initial focus. Should it be discovery? The purchase experience? Onboarding? Retention? Collections? While context-driven journey orchestration can transform CX across your organization, we recommend a crawl-walk-run approach—essentially, picking a starting point with associated metrics and iterating from there.

So how do you choose the ideal starter journey? There’s no silver bullet, but we recommend using four main criteria to filter down to where context-driven journey orchestration will produce the best ROI in its first step.

  • Business Metric-Related: Is your organization prioritizing conversion/acquisition or retention/loyalty?
  • Hotspot-Related: Which journey steps are producing the most friction?
  • Level of Effort: How much heavy lifting will be required?
  • Time to Value: How long will it take to generate results?

Once you’ve determined a pilot journey, we can make the first step even easier. CSG XponentTM, our customer engagement platform, includes Journey as a Service (JaaS). JaaS provides a set of industry-specific, pre-built journeys (e.g., smart notifications for retail pharmacies, fraud notifications for financial services, digital retention team for communication service providers, etc.), complete with out-of-the-box connectors and decisioning models that yield better business results, quicker time to value and lower risk.

Think of JaaS as the handy flashlight you can shine beyond the streetlight, helping to expand your view and ability to understand customers.

Learn about JaaS here.