As companies around the globe enter the brave new world of customer experience management, they are introduced to a dizzying array of new concepts including the term ‘touchpoint’. While there is no shortage to the number of definitions for this term, the practical matter is that the devil’s in the details.
A touchpoint is commonly defined as any instance where a customer interacts with a brand, product, or service. Using this broad definition, the ecosystem of potential touchpoints that comprises the customer experience can be enormous. For most customer experience programs, it’s common for an audit of customer experience touchpoints to reveal 500 – 1,000 or more touchpoints.
Cataloging the entire portfolio of touchpoints in an organization can be a daunting endeavor. This challenge can become even greater when companies don’t know what they are looking for or how broad to cast the net. For example, if you were to ask a dozen people to identify the touchpoints in a typical Starbuck’s coffee shop, you’re likely to get at least a dozen different answers. At one end of the spectrum, some might argue that there is only one touchpoint represented by the interaction with the barista at the point-of-sale. At the other end, others would argue that there are a myriad of touchpoints that include everything from the menu boards, the length of the line, and the type of products on display in their display case, to name a few.
Both perspectives are correct. From a pure operational standpoint, the interaction at the point-of-sale is perhaps the most tangible and measurable touchpoint in the customer experience. This type of touchpoint can be categorized as a transactional touchpoint; it’s required to complete a customer’s order and receive payment. Other touchpoints, such as the menu board or length of the line, can be categorized as influencing touchpoints; they aren’t directly necessary to complete the transaction, but are critical for setting the stage and ambiance for the customer experience. When well-designed, the transactional and influencing touchpoints work together in perfect balance to create a unique and branded customer experience.
Effectively designing, orchestrating, and managing the customer experience ecosystem must begin with a clear and comprehensive inventory of all customer touchpoints. The inventory should include all touchpoints along the entire customer experience lifecycle from customer attraction, interaction, and cultivation and across all channels and locations. Each touchpoint should be a discrete interaction that does not overlap other touchpoints and is unique for each channel. For example, a touchpoint might be identified as ‘place order’ in a company. However, if this interaction can be accomplished in the retail, call center, and online channels, each interaction should be identified as a separate and unique touchpoint (e.g., place order-retail, place order-call center, place order-web).
The attributes identified for each touchpoint may vary widely, but at a minimum should contain a title, a short description, and unique identifiers to describe who, what, when, and where that the touchpoint occurs. Other attributes should also be identified, if available, including performance attributes (frequency, volume, duration), importance attributes (relative customer & company importance), and appropriate quality attributes.
All of the touchpoint information should be consolidated into a single touchpoint repository that can be maintained, managed, and analyzed based on the various attributes. Ideally, touchpoint performance information should be updated on a regular basis to show any changes over time. For example, the conversion rates of a web landing page should be measured and monitored to determine the relative performance of this touchpoint over time.
By creating a consolidated touchpoint repository, companies gain a better and more detailed understanding of the breadth, depth, and complexity of their customer experience ecosystem. The repository can also serve as the primary source of customer experience insights to identify customer experience gaps, issues, or improvement opportunities. Ideally, the touchpoint repository should be updated on a regular basis to keep the information current and relevant.
Touchpoints serve as the foundational building blocks that facilitate and enable the customer experience. Establishing a comprehensive and clear inventory of all customer touchpoints is a critical first step for any customer experience initiative. While the level of detail gathered for each touchpoint may vary, it’s important to start with even basic information rather than nothing at all.