What Exactly Is Touchpoint?


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One of the reasons why there is no consensus on what CRM/CEM really is is because there is no consensus on the definition of relationship/experience. What’s worse, there may also be no consensus on who the customer really is!

So, before trying to agree on what the acronyms really mean, it is more important to understand what each alphabet represents in the first place.

What exactly is relationship? What exactly is experience? Who exactly is the customer? What exactly does management do, and who exactly manages who?

Relationship is made up of touchpoints. Touchpoints are experience-driven according to David Armano (2006). However, Frank Capek (2007) argues that experience does not happen at touchpoints. Graham (2007) says touchpoints are the key building blocks of experiences. He further defines episodes, experience and end-to-end experience on the basis of touchpoint.
• Episodes are groups of touchpoints.
• Experience is all the individual touchpoints or episodes that make up a purposeful activity by a customer.
• End-to-end experience refers to longer experiences made up of a number of episodes.

There are more different definitions of touchpoint since 2001.

Teradata (2001) defines touchpoint as “customer interaction channels such as call centers, web sites, automated teller machines and web kiosks.

Touchpoint Metrics (2003) defines touchpoint as “every point of contact—online and off; each communication, human resource, branding, marketing and sales process initiative creates touchpoints. The quality of touchpoint experiences drives perceptions, actions and relationships.

Intervox Group (2003) relates customer touchpoint to relationship cycle and defines it as “all physical, communication, and human interactions that your customers experience during their relationship cycle with your company. Increasingly, customer touchpoints are ‘owned’ and managed by the contact center.

Touchpoint Experience (2004) relates touchpoint to time and sees touchpoint as “every point in time the customer ‘touches’ or connects with your company throughout the entire product/service delivery; pre-, during and post-purchase.

What exactly is touchpoint?

Touchpoint sometimes is also written as two separate words. So, what is touch and what is point?

How about this?

Touchpoint is a point (what/who) that is touched via any channel (when/where/how) for a purpose (why). That said, it is every point of interaction, internal and external, seen and unseen.

And in 2010, touchpoint is redefined as simply “interaction between 2 or more entities which happens anytime any place by any means for a purpose.”

This is a back-to-basics approach where 5w1h is incorporated into the definition.
what: interaction
who: 2 or more entities
when: any time
where: any place
how: any means
why: a purpose

Daryl Choy
Daryl Choy has worked with companies of various sizes, from multinational corporations to small and medium enterprises in a wide variety of industries. His responsibilities have ranged from sales and marketing to system development and human resources.


  1. Daryl

    A good roundup of the evolving practice of Customer Experience Management.

    Of the definitions you put up at the end of your post, Teradata’s displays a fundamental lack of understanding of CEM (characteristic of many technology-driven companies) and Intervox’s is wrong about the increasing role of the contact centre. If anything, it is customers themselves who are increasingly owning and managing touchpoints, not the service centre.

    Touchpoint Metrics’, Touchpoint Experience’s and your definitions all seem pretty good to me.

    Interestingly, we are not cognitively aware of many of the more subtle aspects of touchpoints. Think of sub-sonic sounds that instill a sense of fear in guests at the London Dungeon. Or the smell of leather sprayed in new cars upholstered in man-made materials. Or the thousands of ads that we experience each and every day that don’t register consciously but are still processed sub-consciously nevertheless.

    There is much more to many touchpoints than meets the eye.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  2. Graham

    I’m flattered by your comments. Thank you…

    However, my post is not about CEM but TXM, or Touchpoint eXperience Management, a concept that I’ve been working on alone since 2000.

    I totally agree with you that “there is much more to many touchpoints than meets the eye,” that’s why I define touchpoint as every point of interaction, seen and UNSEEN. Touch needs not be only physical, but can also be mental.

    There are both external and internal customers. Same as touchpoint, there are external and internal touchpoints. External touchpoints refer to those employee-customer interactions, and internal those employee-employee encounters.

    In Human Sigma, John Fleming and Jim Asplund suggest that organizations should regularly monitor their vital signs. From their perspective, “vital signs serve as diagnostic indicators of how effectively the organization is addressing its key constituencies, executing its strategies, and maintaining its economic viability and how likely it is to grow… Customer relationships, employee relationships, and overall financial vitality are the vital signs of organizations.” They further suggest that “these vital signs should be viewed and understood as interrelated and mutually dependent systems.

    If the authors of Human Sigma are right, then touchpoints are key vital signs since relationship is made up of touchpoints.

    Daryl Choy
    Make Little Things Count

  3. Here comes a definition by Oxford.

    The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English | Date: 2008
    touch·point / ?t?ch?point/

    1. Commerce any point of contact between a buyer and a seller.

    2. Comput. on some laptop computers, a device like a miniature joystick with a rubber tip, manipulated with a finger to move the screen pointer.

    3. a time, condition, or circumstance that is vulnerable or unstable enough to precipitate a highly unfavorable, possibly devastating outcome: so much remains to be done to take the fleeting opportunities there may be still in the Middle East to make it a safer and less terrible touchpoint for world conflagration.

    4. Psychol. the time in a child’s development that precedes an appreciable leap in physical, emotional, or cognitive growth. This phase is often associated with outbursts of uncharacteristic behavior.

    So, what is a buyer and a seller?

    Daryl Choy
    Make Little Things Count

  4. Dear Daryl;

    Thank you for quoting us in your quest to determine a common definition of touchpoints. In reading your comments, it seems that your goal of defining and managing touchpoint experience is rooted in the principles of our Touchpoint Mapping process, which aims to do exactly that.

    I founded Touchpoint Metrics (now a part of MCorp Consulting ) and began “Touchpoint Mapping” in 2001. And while what we do today follows several of the same core principles, the process has evolved considerably, as has our definition of touchpoints. If anything, it has expanded:

    “Touchpoints occur every time audiences come into contact with, or “touch” your brand, and anything associated with it. From a sales call, written contract, website, third-party blog or marketing activity, every interaction between you and your audiences (whether you control it or not) is a touchpoint. These touchpoints—individually and in groups—define customer experience, and populate the landscape between the customer’s world and yours.”

    On a related side note, you may also be interested to know that Intervox’s definition of touchpoints was from Touchpoint Metrics as well. And since they licensed our content for a white paper targeted to Call Centers, the addition of those as a key touchpoint in their definition was expected, though unjustifiably limiting, as noted earlier by Graham Hill.

    You can learn more about our current perspectives and approach at http://www.mcorpconsulting.com, or by checking out our blog at http://www.touchpointinsights.com.

    Michael Hinshaw
    Managing Director, MCorp Consulting

  5. Michael

    Thank you for your comments. However, the way I define touchpoint is simply based on my own 10-year research, and it definitely has nothing to do with the Touchpoint Mapping process whatever that is.

    As defined in my original post, touchpoint is every point of interaction, internal and external, seen and unseen. It’s just that simple, and intuitive. If there are other definitions that do not relate touchpoint to interaction but something else, then that is not the touchpoint I am referring to.

    It’s actually interesting that people like to claim that they are the first in this and that. To me, it is not important. I am more interested in searching for the origin, because I believe all changes come from the same origin.

    Daryl Choy
    Make Little Things Count

  6. Hi
    One of the essential requirements of any marketing or customer relationship is perception management of the customers – not let the customer form or build perceptions but manage to get the required perception –
    for this good understanding of TP action- consequences- Impact analysis of each touch point are very useful.

  7. “If anything, it is customers themselves who are increasingly owning and managing touchpoints, not the service centre.”

    If you read James Grunig (the father of modern public relations)-it becomes obvious that successful (or ‘excellent’, as he puts it) companies increasingly have to adopt a more ethical two-way symmetrical “conversation” rather than overt “selling” (one-way) by means of hoodwinking the public (asymmetric) largely due to the democratic nature of the internet.

    In fact, the academic theory was already in place (1984) before the internet came into being. Public relations manages the “conversation” or relationship between business and consumer but these days are forced to do it ethically, symmetrically and over the long haul.

    So, for instance, B2C commerce (business to consumer) now has an active C2B component with the buyer involved more directly and intelligently in the purchase than previously. A one-time purchase is now replaced with a long-term relationship that involves business stewardship, and selling itself is replaced by “conversing.” Business has to go where the customers are, and at the places they are likely to meet: the touchpoints. It is almost as if both business and consumer are generating touchpoints for their mutual convenience. That is, the touchpoints are not exactly business-driven anymore but generated through convenience by business and consumers together.


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