Creating an inventory of all of the touchpoints within the customer journey helps define a lot of moments, both good and not-so-good. When done thoroughly, a touchpoint inventory can be a great launch pad into your customer experience improvement initiative.
But what exactly IS a customer touchpoint?
According to Wikipedia:
Touchpoint (also touch point, contact point, point of contact) is business jargon for any encounter where customers and business engage to exchange information, provide service, or handle transactions.
Wikipedia is spot on, if you happen to be viewing your customer's journey from within the vacuum of your own organization. And too often, that happens to be the case. Customer touchpoints generally are not well understood or appreciated from the customer’s perspective. And they are definitely not just "business jargon." But they can be meaningless unless the company understands them as a complete inventory and as individual opportunities to improve the customer experience.
Awareness and understanding of your customers’ current situations, and what drives them toward loyalty or defection, is the essential to delivering a superior customer experience. Understanding the actual touchpoints your customers have with your organization is a basic part of that understanding.
Most companies, when defining their customer touchpoints, list things like:
- Direct Mail
- Web Sites
- In-Store Sales Associates
- Welcome Letters/Customer Communications
- Customer Service Call Centers
- Television Ads
So sad... The challenge with this approach to identifying touchpoints is that it's based on the assumption that the customer has a) been in a linear and direct relationship with the organization and b) reads and engages with these touchpoints in meaningful ways. In short, an inventory of touchpoints is often entirely company-focused. (Sometimes, it is so company-focused the touchpoints are categorized by org chart: marketing; accounts receivable; shipping, etc.)
Instead, I challenge any organization to take an inventory of customer touchpoints from the customer perspective. Then to take it a step further, develop a method of analysis and scoring. Other considerations should include who your customers actually are, what channels are most popular, and other data points.
Below is a sample of a comprehensive touchpoint inventory and analysis I have prepared for a client.
Beware: Channels are NOT touchpoints.
Channels are your window from within the organization, and are a way to understand how customers reach you and how they interact with your brand. Touchpoints are much more precise and specific. “Online” could be a channel. “Online chat” could be a touchpoint.
Taking a comprehensive and thorough inventory of your touchpoints like the one above can be a daunting project. It can take months to categorize all the ways customers may interact with you. But it’s worth it! (Tweet this!)
What's in it for you?
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 and it becomes obvious that, say, while customers are responding well to your online channel, your in-store experience is suffering due to lack of care. You now have a great advantage in developing the best strategy for improving the experience you provide.
By creating a customer-centric strategy for the future, you can continue to track what works best for your customers vs. what simply doesn't work well. Experiences are evolving rapidly today, and it’s easy to be left behind. Understanding your customer touchpoints could help you stay ahead of your competition in meaningful ways.