What is a customer touchpoint?
Customer touchpoints are the various moments at which a customer will directly, or indirectly, come into contact with your brand. These touchpoints make up the customer journey, and are key to influencing the customer experience.
What is a customer journey?
A customer journey describes all the customer touchpoints a potential customer has before, during, and after their purchase.
They include those aspects of the journey directly influenced by your organization as well as those influenced or controlled by third parties. This is an important distinction as, while you may not be responsible for a particular part of the journey, it still affects the experience your customer has.
Why is understanding customer touchpoints important?
It’s impossible to improve the customer experience if you don’t know the moments that they go through to make that experience. These moments – the touchpoints in which the customer interacts with the brand – define the experience that customers have.
Multiple touchpoints create a journey. If brands are to successfully influence the customer – to buy, renew or recommend to a family, friend or coworker – then the experience in the moments that matter needs to meet their needs.
By knowing and understanding how customers feel during these touchpoints, brands can focus on improving certain, and often small, aspects to the experience, rather than having to rethink the journey as a whole.
This helps brands to create a tailored approach, instead of having to adopt a one-size-fits-all mindset.
Identifying your customer touchpoints
Before – how did they find out about you? Your customer may find out about you through adverts, billboards, social media, online reviews, or good old-fashioned word of mouth.
During – which channels and what did they do? This is your point of sale (POS). It could be your website, branch, store, or delivery. Customers may interact with sales assistants and call centers.
After – what happens after the sale? These include invoicing, queries, returns, product support, product or service lifetime, newsletters, and customer feedback surveys
Once you understand and map every touchpoint in your customer journey and collect feedback from each, you will be able to spot ‘pain points’ along the way or areas that need improving.
Examples of customer touchpoints
Customer touchpoints, as mentioned above, are the moments in which a customer will come into contact, or engage, with a brand. This might be before, during, or after completing a purchase or using a service.
These examples include direct contact – where the brand is involved in this interaction, and indirect – where it involves third parties.
- Advertising (inc. digital, out of home, print)
- Social media
- Welcome/thank you emails
- Physical stores
- Customer service (cashier, contact center, sales rep)
- Product reviews
- Subscription renewals
- Influencer recommendations
- Peer reviews
- Point of sale
- Customer onboarding
- Physical and digital events
How customer touchpoints work
Let’s take an example here – a customer looking to take out a mortgage. The customer touchpoints in our example below.
Your customer has seen an advert for an attractive interest rate and their brother recommended your mortgage.
Your online mortgage calculator said the repayments were affordable, so the customer has a helpful face-to-face meeting in a branch, and goes home to fill out the online application form.
They instantly receive an email with a decision in principle, telling them it has been accepted, inviting them to complete the full application.
The customer takes a few days to fill out the application and receives an ‘application received’ message.
Some of the information was missing, so a contact center agent calls them to explain what information they need to provide.
Finally, the mortgage is agreed and the customer receives a letter with a binding mortgage offer.
Once the customer has then gone through the house buying process, had their surveys carried out and confirmed their exchange date, they receive final confirmation of the mortgage including direct debit details, terms and conditions, etc. The process is now complete.
So that’s a total of 11 touchpoints – and for many home buyers there will be much more back and forth too – up to the point of purchase.
Following completion, there may be more, like annual or monthly statements or interactions with the customer if they want to increase or decrease how much they pay each month.
Turning your touchpoints into a journey
Customer touchpoints, together, form a journey. This is the process, or order, in which a customer might directly or indirectly interact with your brand. Customers take multiple different journeys with a brand, influenced in different ways.
There is not a single linear journey that every customer will take.
After all, this is why integrated marketing campaigns exist, to meet the needs of different target audiences. However, understanding these different journeys is important in order to be able to improve the experience of each journey, and of each target audience.
This is called customer journey mapping. It provides an overview of every way in which a customer might interact with your brand. It covers how they:
- Research the product/service/brand
- Use the product
- Seek customer service support
- Express their displeasure
- Recommend the product
- and more
Then, when something isn’t working or could be improved then it’s possible to look at the process visually and come up with solutions to make it better for customers.
Get started with the ultimate course in customer journey management & improvement.
What to fix and where?
On the face of it, you might have a satisfied customer. They may give high NPS or CSAT scores as they now have their mortgage and a lovely new home.
But how many other customers started the application form, gave up filling it in because it was too complicated and went to another provider? Or received a mortgage in principle only for the full application to be rejected?
This is where journey mapping is essential. By gathering feedback at each touchpoint, you can start to understand how each one contributes to the overall experience. Was there a stage that was particularly difficult? Where did the service they received fail to match up to their expectations?
Being able to pinpoint specific pain points along the customer journey means that you can step in and make improvements at the moments that matter.
Using customer experience data and mapping it back to specific touchpoints is how you start to understand the key moments that influence customer behavior.
By analyzing this feedback side by side with your core CX metrics, you’re able to identify the improvements that will have the biggest impact on your customers and their overall experience as well as the impact on organization metrics like win rates, sales, and customer lifetime value.
An action-orientated approach to customer touchpoints
Understanding how your customers interact with your brand throughout the customer journey is vital, but it will only prove effective if you take action on the insights that you uncover. For example, if it becomes clear that the onboarding process is damaging the customer experience, then action needs to be taken to rectify that.
The better the experience in these moments, the more likely you’ll be able to influence the customer to complete your goal – whether that is to buy a product for the first time, upgrade a service, sign up for another year, or recommend to a friend.
Tools such as Qualtrics CustomerXM can help – not only will you uncover insights into how customers really behave, but recommended actions to implement these insights too so you can continually improve the experience.