When you run a business, you need to ensure that every customer interaction with your brand is a positive one. Each point of contact represents an opportunity for the customer to develop a favorable overall impression of your business.
A great customer journey results in a longer business relationship, more revenue, and a more significant potential for referrals. There are many methods for optimizing your customer journey, but touchpoint mapping is one of the most effective.
What are touchpoints, and how does mapping them help to improve your customer journey? Read on to find out more.
What are customer touchpoints?
A customer touchpoint is any interaction between the customer and your business. It might happen before a purchase, during a purchase, or even after a purchase.
Customer touchpoints can be direct or indirect. A direct touchpoint is when you have some control over the customer experience, such as an advertising campaign or your e-commerce checkout process. An indirect touchpoint is when you have no influence, such as when a customer leaves a review of your business on Yelp.
You will never have complete control. Touchpoints are a two-way street, and you cannot account for every possible variable in your customer’s experience. However, your job as a business owner is to make each touchpoint as satisfactory for the customer as possible.
In the next section, you’ll learn what touchpoint mapping is and how to do it.
What is touchpoint mapping, and why do I need to do it?
Touchpoint mapping is the process of tracing each interaction between your brand and your customers. It involves pinpointing all the points at which customers come into contact with the business.
Each customer journey is different, which means you’ll need to consider different touchpoints based on the various ways people interact with your brand. Touchpoint mapping allows you to visualize these journeys and identify opportunities for improvement in each customer interaction.
Now that you know what touchpoints are, you can start drawing up a strategy for mapping them. I follow a few simple steps, which I’ll outline for you in this section.
Identify the customer touchpoints
I usually start touchpoint mapping by identifying every interaction customers have with the brand. To make things easier, you can divide the experiences into three phases: pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase.
Here are some examples of the types of interactions you would typically see in each phase:
Customers research your product at the pre-purchase stage. So they may check out the product website and look at the price list there. Reviews–whether on Google, social media or Yelp–are a good source of information for them, too.
This is the phase where customers actively seek contact details for your business and start inquiring about your products. It is also possible that they’re checking out your competitors, so being readily available is key here. If your landing pages are always down or your phone number on Google My Business is not up to date, you are likely to miss out on a lot of business.
At the point of purchase, your job is no longer to convince them that your product is better. Instead, your main goals are to assure your would-be customers that they won’t regret their purchase and to make the buying experience as quick and as painless as possible.
Touch points during this phase include things like product pages, checkout pages, point of sale systems, staff engagement, the appearance of the showroom, and product demos. All of these should be designed to create a purchase experience that convinces the customer that they will receive or have already received premium service from your brand.
After a customer makes a purchase, many businesses consider it the end of their relationship. But touching base with your customer even after the purchase is crucial if you want to create a long-term relationship with your customer. If you do well at this stage, you not only help combat buyer’s remorse. You also increase the likelihood of your customer buying from you again.
Sending a message to your customer three to five days after the purchase is a great way to start. You can thank them for their purchase, and give them a link to your customer care hotline or resource center. You can subsequently invite them to sign up for your loyalty programs, or give them product recommendations for their next purchase.
Make sure you balance promotional content that encourages them to make another purchase with you, and post-purchase content that is of value to your customer. You don’t want your customer to think you’re only all about making sales. But you don’t want to squander the opportunity to sell either. It’s best to go for a 50/50 or 60/40 consumer-to-company ratio then so you can both benefit from the process.
Many of these touchpoints may overlap. However, dividing the touchpoints into categories will help you visualize them and identify how they are all connected.
Map the touchpoints
As you identify your touchpoints, place yourself in your customers’ shoes. Imagine that you are a prospective buyer in your store, following a sequence of tasks that will end in your purchase being delivered to your door. Here are the four critical phases of this process, and the touchpoints they might involve:
Step 1: Drive Awareness of Your Brand
Your goal at this stage is to familiarize the customer with your brand. This includes making them aware that you exist and increasing brand awareness. At this stage, touchpoints include online and offline advertising, content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, blogging, and word-of-mouth promotion.
Step 2: Make the Customer Consider Your Brand
Your next goal is to get the customer to either visit your physical location or browse your website. At this stage, you want them to check out your products and compare them to your competitors’ offerings. This step includes touchpoints such as reviews on Google My Business or Yelp, your company website, email promotions, product demos, and webinars.
Step 3: Close the Sale
The customer is in your store or on your website. How are you going to convince them to click the “Buy Now” or swipe their credit card? Factors like the length of the queue in store or the speed of your e-commerce checkout page can make all the difference.
Step 4: Generate Repeat Business
Congratulations, the customer has made a purchase! Now it’s time to convince them to buy again. This is the phase where you turn a one-time customer into a loyal fan. Generating repeat business includes touchpoints such as loyalty programs, customer care, product manuals, online community management, follow-up and thank-you emails, and post-purchase surveys.
Use these stages to form a template for your touchpoint map. You might end up with more than one variation to account for the different types of customers. If you have both a physical store and an e-commerce site, the customer journeys will look different.
Optimize the touchpoints
Once you’ve mapped out your touchpoints, you can identify to improve them. The customer experience is the sum of all the customer’s experiences with your brand, and one poor touchpoint experience could ruin the entire journey. Even if your advertising materials are top-notch and your product flawless, a poor post-purchase experience with your customer service team could cost you that five-star review – and, more importantly, the customer’s repeat business.
Therefore, you should try to optimize every single touchpoint and even the spaces between them. Can you shorten the waiting time from order to delivery? Does your checkout page need a makeover to make it more user-friendly? Can you use a reminder email service so that you never miss a follow-up email?
When I undertake touchpoint optimization, I focus on the following attributes:
- Appropriateness. The customer experience should fit their interests and make sense within the broader context of the sales channel.
- Relevance. The experience should be useful and match the customer’s expectations.
- Simplicity. The experience should be easy and painless at every stage.
- Appeal. The experience should center the customer’s needs and wants and strive to deliver on them.
If you ensure each touchpoint meets these four vital criteria, you’ll be well on your way to an optimized customer journey.
Keep your touchpoint map updated
The customer journey is not static, and therefore neither is your touchpoint map. Every customer interaction is different, and you should be continually learning from your customer feedback.
As your business grows and you reach new markets, you’ll need to add new touchpoints to your map and remove the ones that are no longer applicable. At every stage, ask yourself if each touchpoint meets the four criteria I listed above.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a lot of changes in the ways brands connect with their customers. Many physical stores remain closed, and others are reopening in a limited capacity. More consumers are shopping online than ever before. If you have not already altered your touchpoint map to reflect this new reality, now is the time to do so.
Your touchpoint map should be descriptive, not prescriptive. Keeping it updated will ensure that it accurately reflects and allows you to keep improving upon your customer journey.
Start mapping your customer touchpoints now
As you start thinking about your customer journey, you may find it has more touchpoints than expected. Every one of these represents an opportunity to optimize your customer journey and give your customers the best possible experience. The earlier you start touchpoint mapping, the better prepared you’ll be to exceed expectations.
To start touchpoint mapping, identify the different ways your brand interacts with customers. I recommend sorting them into pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase phases. Next, map these touchpoints in approximately chronological order.
After you’ve mapped the touchpoints, you can start optimizing the customer journey. Take a critical look at each touchpoint to identify which ones could be improved and how. Focus on appropriateness, relevance, simplicity, and appeal to deliver a stellar customer experience every time.
The world is changing quickly, and your relationships with your customers will need to evolve if you want to stay ahead of the curve. Take advantage of touchpoint mapping to improve your processes continually. By doing this, you’ll be well-positioned to offer a fantastic customer experience, no matter what the future may bring.
Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.