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What a Customer Journey Touchpoint Is (and Why Customer Experience Leaders Should Care)

Your relationship with customers is built one step at a time. Every interaction they have with your organization leaves an impression — and you want it to be a good one!

‘Touchpoints’ have been a hot topic for marketing, sales, and customer experience teams for decades. And for good reason! Each customer journey touchpoint is an opportunity to reinforce your brand value and engage customers in meaningful ways.

With the rapid spread of artificial intelligence, your team even has the power to automate many touchpoints and experiences (with a few notable pitfalls if you’re not careful).

But, what exactly is a touchpoint? And why do they matter for customer experience teams?

What is a Touchpoint?

A touchpoint is any contact or interaction a customer has with your organization. Touchpoints span the entire customer journey, including before they become a customer and well after their first purchase.

Social media posts, brand websites, customer review websites, demo request forms, QR codes, email marketing messages, sales team outreach (SMS or phone calls), and every direct or indirect brand interaction are touchpoints. But that’s only scratching the surface.

Customer Experience Touchpoints Are More Than Transactional Moments

In terms of customer experience, touchpoints are more than just transactional moments. They’re critical interactions within the customer journey that help define key moments in the process that can build or erode customer trust.

Each touchpoint is an opportunity to show who you are to customers. In the best case, every touchpoint will evoke positive emotions and deeply fulfill your customer’s need at that specific point in their journey.

But customer touchpoints are often misunderstood for what they really are, or go unappreciated from the customer’s perspective.

And therein lies the problem.

Related Article: 3 Employee Experience Touchpoints That Impact Customer Experience

“Customer Journey Touchpoint” is NOT Just Business Jargon

The concept of customer touchpoints is more than just business jargon!

Touchpoints are meaningful only if and when the company understands them. Without understanding, sure, the term touchpoint may as well be meaningless business jargon.

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

Channels are Not Touchpoints.

Channels are a way for you to understand where customers come from and how they interact with you, the company. Touchpoints are more precise and specific.

For example, Online could be a channel. Online chat could be a touchpoint.

What Most Organizations Get Wrong About Customer Journey Touchpoints

When defining their customer touchpoints, most organizations list things like:

  • Mobile Apps
  • Social Media
  • Direct Mail
  • Web Sites
  • In-Store Cashiers
  • Self-Checkout
  • Customer Communications
  • Contact Centers

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

  1. Has been in a linear and direct relationship with the organization
  2. 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 you to take an inventory of customer touchpoints from the customer perspective.

A Fictitious Example of a Customer-Focused Touchpoint Inventory:

  • I have a need, and look up a service online. <- Search, site, and mobile
  • I select this company. <- Why? A great online demo? Excellent Yelp reviews?
  • I use online chat to engage. <- Are chatbots able to quickly answer questions? (And are those bots actually helpful?)
  • 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 question so I find the help center. <- Is your content accurate and updated? Is there a dynamic path to assist customers, or are there points inadvertently driving customers mad?
  • 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? Do I feel confident this happened?
  • I love the service and want to tell a friend. <- Do you make it easy for customers to refer their friends (or incentivize them to)?

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.

Related Article: How the Most Important Touchpoints Get Ignored, And How to Fix It.

How to Inventory Your CX Touchpoints

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 of where your priorities should lie.

Use your Customer Experience Mission Statement and CX Success Statement to guide you. These resources will help you determine what to prioritize and how to optimize each experience so you fulfill your promises to customers at every interaction.

Related Article: Touchpoint Mapping: Discovery, Enlightenment, and A-HA! Moments

It becomes obvious that while your online channel is working pretty well, your in-store experience is suffering due to lack of care. Or that your automated and artificial intelligence-driven experiences may need some fine-tuning.

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.

Identify Customer Touchpoints by Customer Journey Mapping

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.

So, how should you start making a plan to identify and optimize each touchpoint? Start by building your customer journey maps.

A customer journey map details the steps that distinct customer personas will take as they seek out your product or service. The mapping process will immerse you in the customer’s view and help you realize their needs. You’ll quickly see things from their perspective and find plenty of ways to either transform their experience or fine-tune an already acceptable experience into something memorable.

And remember: A map is a tool to get you to where you want to go. Set yourself up by focusing on your goals first. Focus on one area at a time and create action plans to execute. You can address the rest of the journey and the other touchpoints when you’re ready! This is about progress — not perfection.

Need Help? Download the Customer Journey Mapping Workbook


About Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CSP

Jeannie Walters CCXP CSP small square photoJeannie is an award-winning customer experience expert, international keynote speaker, and sought-after business coach who is trailblazing the movement from “Reactive Customer Service” to “Proactive Customer and Employee Experience.” More than 500,000 people have learned from her CX courses on LinkedIn Learning, and her insights have been featured in Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and NPR

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