Customer Touchpoint vs. Customer Journey


One of the most fundamental differences between a touchpoint and customer journey is how they conceptualize the customer experience.

Customer experience is vital to success in pretty much every sector. If customers have a positive experience, they’ll come back for more. But how do you deliver that experience? Customer touchpoints and customer journeys are two of the most crucial factors. Learn how the two relate and which is more important for your customers.

Defining touchpoints and journeys

For the uninitiated, touchpoints refer to each individual interaction between a customer and a business. That could include how consumers engage with your marketing materials, find you on social media, visit your website, make a purchase or contact customer services, to name just a few.

So, what about the journey? That’s the bigger picture – the overall experience a customer has with a brand, from the very first impression to the weeks, months or even years that follow. It comprises several touchpoints. But more importantly, it should account for the experience in-between those touchpoints – and how it all comes together as a whole.

The difference between touchpoints and journeys

One of the most fundamental differences between touchpoints and customer journeys is how they conceptualize the customer experience. Touchpoints are isolated. Focusing on them too much, working on one touchpoint at a time, can result in an isolated experience for customers. Think a glossy new social media profile that links to a slow, subpar website.

On the other hand, the customer journey is all-encompassing. It allows organizations to assess bigger successes, or failures, with the customer experience and monitor how well they deliver on customer needs. Not just “did they purchase?”, but “were they happy?” and “will they purchase again?”.

Another key distinction is where they end. If you map out the touchpoints a customer encounters, they account for a single buying cycle – from their first site visit to the eventual purchase or abandonment. In contrast, the customer journey covers the entire lifecycle of a relationship between a customer and a brand.

Needless to say, taking this perspective is beneficial to both businesses and customers. It goes beyond customer acquisition to look at retention and advocacy. Let’s not forget that customer acquisition costs five times more than retention, and increasing retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25-95%.

Which is more important?

From a customer standpoint, there’s no doubt about it – the overall journey is more important than individual touchpoints. That’s simply because customers don’t think in touchpoints. They discover, engage with, and interact with a brand to achieve their end goal, whether that’s to buy goods, subscribe to services, or ultimately move away.

Let’s say someone has to continually contact customer service for assistance with a product they’ve purchased. The actual touchpoint – the call itself – may be a positive experience. The call handler might provide all the information they can. But what about the experience? After making several calls to customers service, each one as positive as the last, most customers wouldn’t be content with the service they’ve received.

Moving away from that specific touchpoint allows you to consider that customer’s journey overall. Could clearer instructions be provided from the start? Can support be offered in a better format than over the phone? Is there a product that’s better suited to the customer’s needs, but that they weren’t aware of?

How to improve the journey

Because touchpoints make up a significant part of the journey, most organizations focus on them to improve customer experience. That’s useful to some extent. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If a high proportion of site visitors are abandoning their cart on your website, the issue needs to be addressed.

But here’s the difference. Touchpoints can be examined by basic data, such as bounce rates, cart abandonments or call volumes and durations. Again, these will go some way to making sure each step of the journey is performing well. However, getting to grips with experience requires more in-depth insights.

It calls for better customer engagement to solicit feedback, with qualitative data about why they have or haven’t made a transaction or stayed loyal to a company. This kind of information can help you enhance the journey for other customers. It can also improve the experience for those who are part-way through their journey, by opening up a two-way dialogue between you and your customers.

Above all else, however, focusing on journeys rather than touchpoints demands a cultural shift from your business. It involves putting customers’ requirements and preferences first, and allowing them to shape what you do going forward. While it may take some getting used to, the rewards can be well worth it – from time and cost savings to better customer satisfaction and retention.

michael fisherMichael Fisher, Ed.D, is CEO of 3radical. He is also a board member at TheCustomer and a frequent contributor to this site.


Photo by Duane Storey on Unsplash

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