What is a customer touchpoint?
Imagine this—you leave by car from your home in Boca Raton. Your destination? A hotel in Miami 50 miles away. You stop off at two service stations along the way for gas and refreshments. Once in the city, you visit the zoo, the beach, attend a concert, buy a beach umbrella, and check-in to your hotel. Once settled, you eat with the family at a restaurant. After that, you lodge the kids in the games room and speak to the concierge for tourist advice before bed. Sure, there are more details in between, but that’s good enough to get us started.
From a bird’s-eye view, your trip from home to hotel can be called a pretty straightforward journey. However, zoning in closer on the car’s direction, we can see it wasn’t a straight, uninterrupted flow. There were numerous pauses to complete activities and transactions. We can easily connect the dots and show it as a pinned roadmap.
Coming down to earth, let’s look at each of the pinpoints on that roadmap to note what happened there (i.e., the gas stations, the zoo, the concert, etc.). We call these touchpoints—the moments of connection in the process of reaching your destination.
Your customers aren’t any different. When they have a want or need, they embark on a Customer Journey along a route (i.e., a Customer Journey Map) made up of stops and starts along the way (i.e., Customer Touchpoints) to find a solution. The essence of a market place is that, given there are numerous ways to arrive at one answer, brands compete—hoping that they will prevail and be the customer’s final touchpoint (the proverbial “Miami hotel”, if you will).
The most successful products and customer service promotions predict the customer journey’s shape by determining all the customer touchpoints essential to get the customer to the buying cart (and beyond). Management plots these out to review in a customer journey map. Through segmentation exercises, sophisticated marketers go to great lengths finding customers with the same needs (i.e., that think and act alike) and who will likely journey along the same customer route most of the time.
Here’s the thing—every touchpoint along the way must be a positive experience. Otherwise, the route followed won’t go the marketer’s way.
If one or more of the following had occurred, the journey would undoubtedly have aborted or deviated severely—maybe ending up in Fort Lauderdale instead (or back home).
- The filling station was out of gas.
- The zoo was closed.
- The concert tickets were too expensive.
- COVID-19 shut down the beaches.
- The hotel standard was disappointing.
In short, defective touchpoints in a customer’s journey have the power to change plans radically. From a customer’s viewpoint (or travelers for that matter), it will remain as a memorable customer experience (CX) for all the right or wrong reasons. Brand loyalty builds around the former. A string of customer touchpoints that flow seamlessly into one another defines a smooth CX with accolades and five-star reviews. Conversely, a bumpy ride with calamitous customer experience—even at one touchpoint—can be the rotten apple that spoils the whole barrel.
Looking at Customer Touchpoints from Every Angle
We live in the digital era with Google, the internet, and myriad SaaS apps swarming around the environment. Customers are shopping online—inquiring, seeking advice, buying, complaining, recommending to friends, tweeting, Instagramming, and returning goods. They flood the airwaves with continuous action, most of it traceable with the right technology.
Another way of looking at this is there’s a torrent of customer touchpoints coming through the virtual channels, carried on the backs of multiple customer experience journeys.
To make things more complicated, customers behave somewhat haphazardly, moving in and out of websites, going offline into brick-and-mortar stores, perusing reviews, and seeking tech advice before pulling the trigger. There may be tens of customer touchpoints in even the most straightforward customer experience journey and maybe hundreds connected to more complicated propositions.
When it gets down to B2B situations, the journey has many tributaries, deviating to decision influencers who hold much power over the final decision’s direction.
Given all the above, we can say this:
- Customer experience mapping is a science all in itself.
- Capturing all the real-time customer touchpoints in a typical customer journey is a severely perplexing methodology.
- Filling in the gaps requires vision and marketing experience.
- It boils down to two primary marketing activities:
- Predicting touchpoints and customer journeys for demographically segmented prospects.
- Tracking actual journeys, touchpoint-by-touchpoint, to assess if visions are realistic and identify the corruptive ones.
- Taking it further, we should be aware that in every touchpoint analysis, there are pivotal parties—each with unique characteristics, namely:
- Prospects (i.e., not confirmed customers)
- New customers (i.e., bought but not much repetition yet)
- Loyal customers (i.e., long-term, repeat buyers)
- Decision influencers (i.e., not pulling the trigger but aiming the gun in numerous instances)
Touchpoint & CX Influences and Impact on ROI-centric Trends
Customer churn is the biggest deflator of an enterprise’s profitability, defined as established customers abandoning ship. One loyal customer moving over to a competitor is revenue-deflating—plain and simple.
It takes more than five customer recruits from the prospect pool to replace one lost loyal customer. The volume of promotion behind convincing an interested party to convert to a customer significantly exceeds the funds allocated to maintaining someone convinced of the brand’s value. Another huge disappointment is ushering prospects through touchpoint junctures only to find them aborting. Not only is it defeating but also hugely expensive.
On the positive side, customer retention is a massive boost to ROI.
What’s the point of making these observations? Customer touchpoint tracking and evaluation hold the key to understanding the churn and retention factors, guiding programs to minimize and maximize them, respectively. The best way to explain the depth and breadth of customer touchpoint dynamics is through examples.
Customer Touchpoint Examples
The most vulnerable customer touchpoints converge in the same areas for most businesses. In our view, they are as follows:
- Technical assistance
- Customer service across a range of inquiries.
- Communication with the buyers (in B2B situations particularly)
- Confusion and navigation hiccups on websites
Here 4 typical examples:
I was a client of AT&T for 23 years. The monthly bill sent was repeatedly confusing. There were always some small extra charges that were more than frustrating. The issues required phoning into customer support, going through the AI prompts, sometimes waiting ten minutes, then no less than another thirty to address the same. Often, the same expenses repeated, notwithstanding that agent assurances provided that said they wouldn’t. It went on for years.
The last straw was a special promotion that turned out to be a semi-scam from their outcall center in the Philippines, promoting new devices for “free.” The accounts jumped from around $140 monthly to over $300. The rectification process, with all the ins and outs, was a convoluted mess that went from one inept customer agent to the next. Supervisors were at a loss.
I investigated T-Mobile for the same services as AT&T, discovering I could secure it for $65 monthly without the ongoing hassles. A few relative disadvantages but not kill-points. It was a no-brainer to make switch. I left AT&T and haven’t looked back based on: (a) suspected company lack of integrity and (b) abysmal customer service discovered through multiple customer touchpoints going awry.
Webchats have become popular. However, there’s often a big gap between the fact-based responses that bots can offer to routine questions and the more in-depth and nuanced responses that humans can provide to the unique and complex questions that real humans often present. When this gap is too broad — or if it takes too long for a real human to get involved — prospects and visitors are likely to drop off, look elsewhere, and/orgive up. How much sales potential is disintegrating in this way?
With the COVID-19 hitting us in February 2020, our favorite dine-in restaurants have swung over to curbside pickup or third-party deliveries. The virus changed the name of the game. Although the compelling customer touchpoints pre-virus were top-notch (e.g., personal greeting, a table on the balcony overlooking the lake, attentive waiters, etc.), all that has left the stage. Instead, we have:
- Confusion at the curbside location with delays
- Inadequate payment processes
- The food standard dropping off considerably
- The same prices with a 20% tip
Meanwhile, the delivery and take-out specialist eateries have lifted their game, exposing these deficiencies in their competitors. The customer churn in hospitality has been mindboggling and devastating to long-standing institutions.
Buyers in B2B companies have been on the wrong end of the pandemic, watching their customers (i.e., the consumer) lose their jobs and buying power. The entire selling process has moved to Zoom conferencing, and committees have been brought into the mix. Customer touchpoints are going awry as everyone tries to shift their orientations. With these changes, only the most agile and sales-sharp organizations can prevail.
Getting in Touch with your Customer Touchpoints
Of all the CX areas, customer journey mapping methods, and gaining a competitive advantage, it’s in this field that professional guidance is imperative. Feedback and fast survey methods are crucial indicators of touchpoint failure or proficiency. Management must define the customer touchpoints, fill in the offline gaps, and build a customer journey map that makes sense. Sogolytics fits the bill with cutting edge software and expertise highly pertinent in the CX arena these days. They will save you time and effort, hitting at the heart of your CX performance and cutting customer-churn off at the knees. When there are thousands of touchpoints involved in a sales enablement program or tens of thousands in a portfolio, Sogolytics brings things into a manageable format. They create order in a discipline that requires structured thinking to the max.