Customer Experience

Customer Touchpoints | Definitions, strategies, & expert interviews

Customer Touchpoints | Definitions, strategies, & expert interviews
Customer Service Researcher
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Customer Touchpoints | Definitions, strategies, & expert interviews

Customer touchpoints are essential to understanding your customer's journey.

66% of companies now compete primarily on customer experience. This makes sense given that 86% of buyers will pay more for a great experience.

Great customer experiences require a lot of attention to detail at every stage of interaction with the customer. So in this guide, we will not only go through the basics and why touch points are so important, we'll also walk you through how you can do a customer feedback analysis that breaks into a touchpoint analysis.

Whether you're a newbie or an industry expert looking to brush up on the finer points, this guide is for anyone looking to understand touchpoints in detail.

What's in the guide?

  1. What are customer touch points?
  2. Examples of customer touch points
  3. The typical touch points in a customer journey
  4. What makes touch points important?
  5. How to do a touchpoint analysis (5 steps in detail)
  6. Touchpoint FAQs
  7. We've also created a complete guide to customer journey mapping here.
[Read The Case Study]: How to Reduce Response Time by 46% to Customers in Critical Need of Customer Service

What are customer touchpoints?

We had answered this question on our LinkedIn page a while back (follow us there for regular education like this):

SentiSum LinkedIn post about touchpoints
SentiSum LinkedIn post about touch points

Another touch points definition

A touchpoint is any interaction (including encounters where there is no physical interaction) that might alter the way that your customer feels about your product, brand, business or service.

It sounds like business jargon, and it is! The reality is that a touch point is simply anytime you encounter a company. For example, you may be using an Apple computer right now. The computer itself is a touch point with Apple as a company.

Usually, businesses want to understand their ‘touch points’ because each one is responsible for how much money a customer spends and how frequently. For an airline, for example, the touch points include everything from the ticket, the signs in the airport, the agent at the gate, the seat, the flight attendant, and the onboard magazine. Each one of these points changes your expectations, emotions and feeling toward that airline.

Customer journey definition (and what's the difference)

If a customer touchpoint is a singular unit, a touchpoint map is an inventory of those touch points. A touchpoint map should not be confused with a customer journey or journey map.

A journey map is done on a very specific point: one touchpoint or a transition from one touchpoint to the next.

In a customer journey map, we choose an interaction like calling customer service. We then map the steps the customer must take from the moment of need through to the moment of completing or fulfilling that need. A journey map contains what the customer is doing or thinking or feeling.

What are the stages of a customer journey?

A customer journey can be many, many parts of their interaction with your brand. As stated above, the customer journey map is “the steps the customer must take from the moment of need through to the moment of completing or fulfilling that need.”

We could apply this to many needs a customer has with your company. Whether they’re filling out a form, trying to make a purchase, or wanting to learn how to do something new with your product. 

If we pick trying to make a purchase, the stages might include: visiting your website, browsing for products, making a search, adding to a basket, entering payment details, the confirmation email, and so on.

Customer touch points examples

Typical customer touch points for most businesses include an element of bricks and mortar, a website, a call centre, post, email, customer service/support and sales.

These touch points can then be multiplied by the number of indirect touch points such as social media, written and other media content, marketing, indirect partner channels, third-party review sites, market research, third-party industry regulators, and the list goes on.

In the example pictured below, we’ve used the SentiSum customer insights platform to identify touch points and understand how customers feel about each one. We’ve found that in the last six months, 297 customers mention ‘tracking of orders’.

Customer touchpoint uncovered using analytics

This is a great example of a customer touchpoint. For an eCommerce brand that sends parcels to their customers, the parcel tracking (a host of touch points) really makes a difference to reassure customers it’s on the way.

In this example, 91% of customers mentioned “tracking of orders” in a positive way. Phew. If we dig one step deeper, we can see that it was ‘communication’ that mattered so much to customers. They were happy at each communication touchpoint, these could be:

  1. When the customer receives an SMS saying their order is out for delivery.
  2. When the customer receives a confirmation email that sets their expectations for arrival time.
  3. The phone call update to let the customer know the driver is going to be late.

Moving to another industry: fashion. The clothing industry, in particular, felt the pain of this COVID-19 pandemic. Their touch points were both physical and digital, and the digital portion dropped off the map almost entirely. Here's a list of touch points aligned with a customer journey map.

Customer touchpoint map
Clothing industry customer buying journey

Here's a more general list of brand touch points. The touchpoint map in this image has been largely simplified to pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase.

Customer Touch Points branded
Source: SentiSum

Customer journey touch points

The pre-purchase touch points

The pre-purchase touch points are often described as producing unknown results. They are defined as all the moments of contact a potential customer has with a business before they interact with the business themselves. Even though their individual effects on customers can not be translated into data all the time, they are still a valuable part of the customer journey.

There are plenty of different forms that a pre-purchase touchpoint can take, for example:

  • Social Media Adverts
  • Social Media Posts
  • Displayed Advertising on Websites
  • Word of Mouth
  • Reviews
  • Employee Generated Content
  • Media
  • Content Sponsorship
  • Marketing

Knowing which of those touch points are the most significant to you and leveraging their influence is an essential part of crafting a good customer experience. Search engines are often a key part of the customer journey. If your website is SEO optimised you can answer specific queries potential customers might have, adding value to them before they know who you are. There are a ton of SEO case studies out there that can help you focus your content on pre-purchase customer queries.

pre-shop touchpointspre-shop touchpoints
Source: Qreuz

The purchase touch points

The purchase touch points are all the interactions the customer has with the business whilst they are purchasing the advertised service.

Years ago, the main touchpoint of this most likely took the form of physically going into the shop to make a purchase. However, now there is much more to consider in terms of purchase touch points, for example:

  • Website
  • Sales Team
  • Customer Service Team
  • Physical Store
  • Events
  • Through distributors or retailers

Ensuring that the experience customers have at this point is vital a good way to increase the likelihood that this customer will become a customer for life. Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer, hence it is in the best interest for a business to ensure that this part of the customer journey is as smooth as possible. 

The post-purchase touchpoint

Assuming that the customer journey is over once they have made their purchase is a mistake that can cost businesses time and money. The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5-20%.

Here are a few examples of post-purchase touch points:

  • Forms
  • Social Media (Making sure that you don't forget about your existing customers on your social media is crucial if you want to create a community around your business)
  • Email
  • Newsletters
  • Customer Service
  • Loyalty Programs
  • Billing

Customer Journeys are becoming more varied and complex due to the increasing number of touch points. For a business with the desire to improve their customer satisfaction, they need to be aware now more than ever of what their touch points are and whether they are aiding their businesses or not.

Related read: 8 unique customer service improvement ideas

Why are touch points important in the customer journey?

The most important thing about touch points is that they are where people form opinions about your company.

Often a customer interacts with your brand 20 times before they purchase. Each one of those leaves an impression. And each one is an opportunity to leave a favourable impression that ultimately leads to a sale.

Effectively monitoring and perfecting your touch points is now a competitive act. They create the opportunity to win a customer from a competitor, retain more loyal customers, and influence purchase consideration.

The link between customer satisfaction is why managing touch points is so important. But it's also why a large number of customer journey touch points make CSAT so complex. Feedback on every single one needs to be monitored, no easy feat at scale.

Why is optimising customer touch points online beneficial for businesses?

Most businesses have one main goal: maximising profit (we’d also like to add a second goal: making the world a better place). Profit is made up of two parts: revenue minus cost. Every customer touchpoint will have an impact on these two parts, optimising the touchpoint, therefore, will help businesses hit their goal.

A particularly important online touchpoint is your website. Most businesses will optimise their website depending on their own needs, for example, a software business may optimise their website so that visitors click to buy the product or sign up for a trial. A supermarket may optimise their website for easy ‘find what you want and check out’.

Either way, the more optimised every touchpoint is, the easier it will be for your customer to take the action you want them to take. Ultimately, this will help you hit your goals as a business.

Touch points are even more important in 2022

2022 is a new era of customer-centricity. More than 66% of companies now compete primarily on customer experience. Showing that customers want to be wowed by their interaction with your brand.

Successful businesses in the next decade will focus on innovating across multiple touch points.

Winning the tech-savvy customer will require the building of a brand story at each touchpoint and then weaving them together.

Contagious loyalty and brand advocacy come from authenticity and trust at every point in the customer journey. So it's essential businesses know which touch points are letting them down or causing mistrust so that time and effort can be directed there.

Customer touchpoint analysis: How to do a customer touchpoint analysis in 5 simple steps

Managing your customer experience is an ongoing process and one that is a team effort. If CX is not a cross-functional effort, you risk inefficiency, siloed customer insight and doing double the work.

Stage 1: Planning your touchpoint analysis

Get ready for customer touchpoint analysis by doing preparation and planning. Identify which personas you want to analyse the touchpoints for, outline your objectives, and plan your research methods. Will you be interviewing customers? Running a workshop with internal stakeholders? Gathering touchpoint data manually or using the software?

Stage 2: Measuring your consumer touchpoint baseline

Map each customer touchpoint you know using the templates above. Identify every touchpoint a customer interacts with pre-purchase through to purchase, and lay it out using an online platform or on a whiteboard.

Stage 3: Gather & analyse customer feedback data

Collect data to build out your knowledge of each customer touchpoint. Interview your customers and collect feedback to understand how your customers feel at each touchpoint.

If you're planning on using surveys to gather data, make sure they don't suck. If the output of your surveys isn't actionable (unbiased, statistically significant and insightful) then they're a waste of time. Here's our view on what makes great customer feedback surveys.

There are plenty of other ways to gather feedback. If your company uses a help desk like Zendesk, we have a Zendesk sentiment analytics tool or you can check out our guide for manual customer support ticket analysis.

However, if you don’t have time for manual analysis, we suggest using a voice of the customer tool like SentiSum. You’ll work with the SentiSum team to automate the tagging of every support ticket, survey and review across your company, which will make identifying and analysing touch points simple.

Touchpoint analysis tool

The platform will map sentiment (using AI-powered text analytics) to each touchpoint so you’ll have a clear understanding of touchpoint performance.

Whatever method you use, it’s important that by the end you know:

  • Which touch points are causing customer friction
  • Which of that customer friction actually matters. Not all friction is equal, some make customers churn instantly, and others are small annoyances. Tie pain to revenue
  • How many customers are affected by the friction point?
Related read: Support ticket insights: Why support tickets are your most valuable insight channel.

Stage 4: Take action on your analysis 

Develop a plan that revolves around your findings from stage three.

Low-hanging fruits are a great place to start. Ask yourself, which problems are having a large impact on customers but are easy to solve?

The rest of your plan should focus on eliminating or improving underperforming touch points. The ones that are most important to your customer should be prioritised.

You cannot do this alone, so it's important to articulate your plan clearly and back it up with evidence. Always try to speak the language of the business: growth. If you can tie your proposals to revenue outcomes you're likely to get buy-in from more company stakeholders.

The goal for all businesses needs to be a single source of customer truth. This will be the place where all customer feedback from all channels, direct and indirect, can be connected to provide a dynamic and real-time customer journey satisfaction view.

Stage 5: Measure improvements made to each touchpoint

From your baseline measurements, you'll want to track movement in CSAT, NPS and CPO that resulted from your projects. KPIs like the lifetime value of the customer and retention rates should also be measured and linked back to change.

What makes customer feedback actionable?

In our view, actionable customer insights have these characteristics:

  • Detailed enough that you understand the root of the problem.
  • Unbiased data; collected in a way that does lend itself to falsehoods.
  • Data that is fresh. As discussed, customer expectations evolve rapidly. If data collection was done months ago then a problem may have evolved making the change you make potentially damaging.
  • Clear ability to prioritise. Qualitative data lone struggles here. How do you know which problems are more important? Which issue at each customer journey touchpoint should you focus on first? Consider quantifying through the volume of topic mentions or manually assigning a severity number. This way you know what is driving customer complaints the most.
  • Highly accessible. We've seen siloed data time and time again and it must stop. If you conducted a customer touchpoint analysis, the relevant team must know before they can work with you to reduce negative sentiment at their touchpoint. At SentiSum, we've built a daily digest feature so every day all users can have their finger on the pulse of customer complaints. Accessibility like this ensures your organisation is aligned around your customer's true expectations.

Touchpoint FAQs

What is a brand contact point?

A brand contact point is just another name for a customer touchpoint. There needs to be no more explanation than: a brand contact point is a potential point of interaction between a customer (in whatever lifecycle stage they’re in) and your company.

What are brand touch points?

Brand touchpoint is just another name for a customer touchpoint or brand contact point. There needs to be no more explanation than a brand touchpoint is a potential point of interaction between a customer (in whatever lifecycle stage they’re in) and your company

What is a touchpoint in the customer journey?

Take again the example of calling customer service. The touch points in this customer journey are the automated questions, the agent, the post-call follow-up, the chatbot used, and so on.

What are touch points in customer experience? Customer experience touch points.

We’ve just defined this question above. Touch points in customer experience are the same thing people are talking about when they say ‘customer touch points’. Customer experience professionals typically want to make every touchpoint (especially those causing customer churn or preventing customer acquisition) the best it can be.

What is the purpose of customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping is a way of creating a visual representation of the experience your customers go through when trying to achieve a goal with your brand, product or service.

It's a bit like a graph, which you use to make data easier to understand and digest. Likewise, the customer journey map makes your customer's experience easy to understand and easy to digest for people across your company.

A 'customer journey map' is usually an Excel document that outlines key events, motivations, customer satisfaction and experience scores at each touchpoint, which is ultimately presented as something that can be a resource for the wider organisation to use.

Read our complete guide to customer journey mapping here.

What are some automations that might help?

We have lots of automation tools that might help optimize the customer journey.

  1. Automated ticket routing
  2. AI ticket triage
  3. Automated customer service analytics
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