A lot of people talk about the “customer journey” as though it’s a tangible object. But the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all to a customer journey. It can involve a lot of moving parts depending on what your business offers, the unique relationship that your customers have with your brand, and finally, the specific actions you’re asking your customers to take on a daily basis. This is because the customer journey is made up of these things called customer journey touchpoints—or rather, transactional moments, at key stages throughout the customer experience, that ultimately define what kind of journey a customer takes.
Because we tend to think about customer journeys in a “big picture” kind of way, it’s easy to lose sight of all of the customer journey touchpoints that feed into that experience. This is especially the case for customer service interactions where one “wrong turn,” so to speak, can easily send a once-loyal customer packing in your nearest competitor’s direction.
So, in this article, we’ll take a closer look at why focusing on these customer journey touchpoints—and continually optimising them over time—is truly the key to creating better customer service experiences, those that drive greater customer satisfaction, boost long-term customer loyalty, and also have the added benefit of reducing customer service inquiries.
Table of content
- What is the customer journey and why does it matter?
- What are customer journey touchpoints?
- What is customer journey touchpoint mapping?
- Optimising customer journey touchpoints is the key to creating a better overall customer experience
What is the customer journey and why does it matter?
There are a lot of definitions for customer journey swirling around today, but here’s one that gets right to the heart of it: “A customer journey is an entire experience a customer has while communicating with a brand. It considers the complete interaction roadmap—from brand discovery to purchasing and beyond. The focus isn’t on transactions, but rather on how the customer feels after interactions with the brand.”
Oftentimes, we think of customer journeys as simple interactions that have clearly defined start- and end-points. And while the latter may be true, a customer journey is far from a simple interaction. In fact, it’s been found that customer journeys are made up of a series of steps—sometimes lasting days, weeks, or even months and spanning across various channels, devices, platforms, and apps—that shape the relationship that customers have with brands.
However, because there are now so many ways for customers to interact with brands at virtually all hours of the day, whether they’re making a purchase or reaching out to customer service for help, it creates a lot of space for the customer journey—and more broadly speaking, the customer experience as a whole—to become fragmented and flawed. According to McKinsey, this “makes consistency of service and experience across channels [nearly] impossible—unless you are managing the entire journey, and not simply individual touchpoints.”
Unfortunately, many companies still operate in a siloed way, which means different teams are focusing on the individual transactional moments relevant to them instead of working together to create a unified customer experience across all of those touchpoints. This can create a negative “domino effect” that can have long-term repercussions undermining the customer journey and weakening the end-to-end customer experience. In other words, one kink in the chain can be enough to derail customers entirely.
“Thinking about customer journeys—instead of traditional touchpoints—can require an operational and cultural shift that engages the organization across functions and from top to bottom."
— McKinsey, From Touchpoints to Journeys: Seeing the World as Customers Do. (2016)
What are customer journey touchpoints?
By now, it should be pretty clear that customer journey touchpoints are the transactional moments or steps that dot any given customer journey. But here’s another definition of customer journey touchpoints that puts the concept into a broader business context:
“Customer touchpoints are defined as the point of interaction with the brand across three main phases of the customer lifecycle: awareness, evaluation, and post-purchase. It has a great impact on the way customers perceive your products and services. The touchpoints include various digital or customer relationship management (CRM) touchpoints.”
Simply put, customer journey touchpoints are essentially any moment when a customer is engaging with your brand. It might be reading product information on a product page. It might be requesting a demo. It might be contacting customer service for help (via your website, a chatbot, social media channels, etc.). It might be viewing the shopping and completing a transaction. You get the point. A customer journey touchpoint is merely any step along the customer journey that gets a customer closer to taking some sort of action.
Examples of customer journey touchpoints
Admittedly, this concept of customer journey touchpoints might seem a bit vague at first because, in reality, a touchpoint is basically any interaction a customer has with a brand—whether it’s online or in the real world.
Indeed has offered up a few examples of customer journey touchpoints, broken out by where customers are in their path to purchase, to help put this more into context:
- Multi-channel marketing campaigns
- Targeted landing pages
- SEO-optimised blog posts
- Customer reviews
- Website experience
- Product pages
- Brand identity (including product packaging)
- Shopping cart flow
- Purchase confirmation emails
- Post-checkout cross-selling initiatives
- Customer loyalty and subscription programs
- Omnichannel customer service (including customer self-service)
Simply understanding which customer journey touchpoints you need to deploy and optimise at different stages of your customer's relationship with your brand is an important part of cracking the code of customer experience. But one thing is absolutely critical here: The experience you create must be consistent across all touchpoints. That is the only way to build, nurture, and grow customer journeys that boost satisfaction, loyalty, and, most importantly, business growth.
What is customer journey touchpoint mapping?
According to Spectrio, customer journey touchpoint mapping outlines “each interaction a customer might have with your brand. This process looks at each step of the buyer’s journey and identifies the places where customers come in contact with or experience your brand.”
However, it’s important to note that these points of contact are not simply transactions or transactional moments when customers move onto the next step of the path to purchase—or whatever the “final destination” may be. Customer journey touchpoint mapping must also examine the points of friction that customers experience along their journey with a brand.
When all of these different experiential moments are combined, you can get a clearer sense of what the end-to-end customer experience looks like as well as the roadblocks that stand in your customers’ way that may make the journey less effective or efficient.
Keep in mind that the consumer journey may not necessarily be linear in nature, even though each journey will have a defined start- and end-point. For one reason or another, they may backtrack after hitting a wall at a specific touchpoint or even skip over a step (or two) altogether to get to their final transactional moment faster. And in this era when digital customer journeys may skip from one digital touchpoint to another—for example, from social media to your website—the process of going from point A to point B can become complicated.
Now, how can you get this birds-eye view of the customer journey? Easy. You need to build a customer journey map that takes all of these elements into consideration.
7 steps for mapping customer journey touchpoints
There are a lot of different ways to go about creating customer journey touchpoint maps. The method you use must be relevant to your business and to the kind of journey your customers take when they engage or interact with your brand.
However, before you carried away and start outlining every detail of your consumer journey, there are a few customer journey touchpoint mapping best practices to think about first:
- Set objectives: This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. To ensure that you’re focused on the right end goal from the very beginning, simply ask yourself the following question: Why are we doing this in the first place? This is an important question to ask because it will help guide the process you take to get to your desired outcome.
For example, you may simply want to know, with granular detail, what the path to purchase looks like for someone landing on your website after clicking through an online ad. Or you may be curious about where customers experience the most friction. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to know, early on, what you’re trying to get out of going about this process, otherwise, you risk going around in circles.
- Identify personas: The next question you need to ask is: Who are my customers and what are their expectations when engaging with my brand? Oftentimes, understanding the wants, needs, expectations, and motivations of your target personas (aka, customer profiles) requires a bit of research. Questionnaires are a great way to unlock relevant customer insights related to the objectives you’ve established in step one above.
Just one word of caution: As you go about gleaning customer insights, avoid casting a wide net and, instead, focus your outreach only on your existing customer base or prospects (who have a good chance of becoming a customer one day). This is the only way you can avoid having outliers dilute the insights of your true customer personas.
- Pick a persona: Different customers take different journeys. When building a customer journey touchpoint map, you are essentially charting the path that a specific customer (buyer persona) takes from a specific start-point to a specific end-point. Not all customers will take the same journey, even if the desired end-point is the same for them all. That’s why it’s important, at this stage, to identify the one or two (at most) target personas who are likely to take the path that you’re mapping out.
- Define your touchpoints: Now that you’ve identified your goals and your target customer personas, it’s time to map out all of the touchpoints that your customers may come in contact with along their journey. Here, you’ll want to get into as much detail as possible to make sure you’ve left no stone unturned. But don’t worry, you won’t need to include every touchpoint in your customer journey map—only those that are likely to inspire an action and encourage customers to continue progressing along their journey.
Once you’ve whittled down your list of touchpoints to those that you’ll focus on in your customer journey map, be sure to identify what actions customers take at each touchpoint, what their emotions or motivations are (which will likely influence how, why, and when they take action), and what obstacles or pain points create roadblocks along that journey. Doing this will help you put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
- Assess resources: If this wasn’t obvious from the start, the goal of this exercise is to not only understand what your customer journey looks like but also identify where the journey can be improved. This will likely require the input and support of various teams across your organisation in order to make these enhancements come to life.
In some cases, you may learn that you don’t have the necessary human or tech resources in place to see those changes through immediately. However, the good news here is that by identifying these resource gaps early on, you can start building a plan—and setting aside a budget—to get the wheels into motion.
- Give it a test drive: The best way to validate the work you’ve done is to put yourself into your customers’ shoes and go through every step of the journey you’ve mapped out just as your customers would. And as you do this, be sure to jot down both the positive and negative aspects of each touchpoint. This will provide further insight into what’s working and what’s not—and likely help you prioritise the improvements that need to be made in order to reduce friction that could easily derail customers along their journey.
- Measure and optimise: Remember, as customer needs change, the journeys they take with your brand can change, too. Your number one goal, at all times, should be to ensure that their wants, needs, expectations, and motivations are mapped strategically to the experience you create for them whenever they interact with your brand. So, be sure to solicit customer feedback regularly and also pay attention to what your other data sources (like Google Analytics, for example) tell you.
As a rule of thumb, your focus should always be on removing pain points and other obstacles that create less-than-stellar customer experiences. Make a point to revisit your customer journeys regularly—quarterly, at the very least—to identify any new points of friction that emerge based on changing customer behavior or actions.
Optimising customer journey touchpoints is the key to creating a better overall customer experience
If you’ve been following along up to this point, it should be pretty clear by now that customer journey mapping is an intricate process—one that requires you to hone in on each of the touchpoints that your customers have with your brand as they navigate their path from point A to point B (whatever those start- and end-points maybe). And once you’ve closely examined what your customers do at those touchpoints, including any friction they feel along the way, you will be in a better position to optimise the customer journey for effectiveness and efficiency.
Suffice it to say that optimising the customer journey—via customer journey touchpoint mapping—is one (of many) tactics that brands can leverage for improving the end-to-end customer experience. After all, by ensuring that customers have a consistent and consistently good experience with your brand, regardless of the touchpoints they’re interacting with, you will be in a better position to create an experience that drives customer satisfaction and loyalty while also increasing revenues and reducing the number of inquiries into customer service.
Knowing just how important customer experience is to the success of any business, perhaps it’s about time to map out your customer journey touchpoints to see where you’re exceeding customer expectations as well as where you might be falling flat.
Check out these customer service stats to learn more about the impact that customer journey touchpoint mapping can have on creating a better customer service experience.