What IS a Customer Touchpoint?

Touchpoints within the customer journey help define a lot of moments, both good and not-so-good.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of a touchpoint is:

Customer Touchpoint according to Wikipedia

Touchpoint (also touch pointcontact pointpoint of contact) is business jargon for any encounter where customers and business engage to exchange information, provide service, or handle transactions.

Yes and no, Wikipedia.

Customer touchpoints in general are not often understood or appreciated from the customer’s perspective. Therein lies the problem. And they are more than just business jargon! They are meaningful only if and when the company understands them as a whole inventory and as individual opportunities to improve the customer experience.

Understanding your customers’ current situations, and what drives them toward loyalty or defection, is the first step in delivering a superior customer experience. Understanding the actual touchpoints your customers have with your organization is a basic part of that understanding.

Most organizations, when defining their customer touchpoints, list things like:

  • Billboards
  • Direct Mail
  • Web Sites
  • In-Store Cashiers
  • Welcome Letter/Customer Communications
  • Customer Service Call Centers

The challenge with viewing touchpoints this way is this approach often assumes the customer:

a) has been in a linear and direct relationship with the organization and

b) reads and engages with these touchpoints in meaningful ways.

In short, an examination of touchpoints is often entirely company-focused. (Sometimes, it is so company-focused the touchpoints are categorized by org chart: marketing; operations; billing, etc.)

Instead, I challenge any organization to take an inventory of customer touchpoints from the customer perspective.

Customer Touchpoint

A fictitious example:

  • I have a need, and look up a service online. <- search, site, mobile
  • I select this company. <- Why? A great online demo? Excellent Yelp reviews?
  • I use online chat to engage.
  • I start the relationship. <- What does that first charge look like on the credit card bill? Does it make sense to the customer?
  • I have a problem and look for customer service. <- Where? How? Online? Via an 800 number? How am I treated when I call? How many transfers does it take to solve my problem?
  • I want to stop being a customer. <- How do I cancel?

Of course this is a simplified version of what it takes to identify meaningful touchpoints. Other considerations should include who your customers actually are, what channels are most popular, and other data points.

And channels are not touchpoints.

Channels are your view, as the company, and are a way to understand where customers come from and how they interact with you. Touchpoints are more precise and specific. “Online” could be a channel. “Online chat” could be a touchpoint.

Taking a comprehensive and thorough inventory of your touchpoints can be extremely challenging. It can take months to categorize all the ways customers may interact with you. But it’s worth it, and here’s why. If you organize your touchpoints (the customer perspective) against your channel strategy (your company perspective), you can have a clear vision for where your priorities should lie. It becomes obvious that while your online channel is working pretty well, your in-store experience is suffering due to lack of care.

By creating a customer-centric vision for the future, you can continue to track what is working for your customers and what simply isn’t. Experiences are evolving rapidly today, and it’s easy to be left behind. Understanding your customer touchpoints could help you stay ahead in meaningful ways.

Photo credit: Bill Ward’s Brickpile via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a global consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.

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Really liked the article Jeannie!

There are so many different touchpoints and I love the way you introduce them looking at the customer's point of view. 

It's extremely hard to classify all touch points but it will always be worth it to know as many of them as you can. Knowing the path customers go through allows you to design a simple customer experience and make it more enjoyable (not for you but for customers).

Mary Savery
Mary Savery

Great read. It is so important to remember to differentiate your business over every aspect of dealing with customers. The client experience covers more than some people think, and making sure that their perspective matches yours is the goal! There's another blog, the Wire, that has a similar article to yours to check out, also. Thanks for your time and happy holidays! http://thewire.cableone.net/let-go-of-your-logo/