The Dictionary.com definition of touchpoint is “the point of contact, esp. when products or services come into contact with a customer”
This word feels weirdly modern to me, so I checked my 1996 Concise Oxford English Dictionary and there it isn’t.
So I did a quick check using Google ngrams, which looks at the instances of words in published books. I’ve compared it here to the word “touchscreen”. You can see that both terms come into use from about 1980.
The word means any point at which a company or organisation interacts with customers, and since the word applies to real world and online it’s useful for companies when they’re considering the customer journey. But too often companies consider the touchpoints in isolation, equating it to channels or (worse!) their organisational chart.
A company might list their touchpoints as billboards, tv ads, banner ads, shops, service offices.
But’s important to consider this from the customer perspective, and a customer might think more about how your receipt is presented rather than that ad you purchased. One of the smart things retailers such as Apple are doing is emailing your receipt to you – which means both parties have the same record of the purchase details. This means more to me than all their TV ads.
In marketing circles there’s a commonly held belief that the more interactions, the more touchpoints you can create with your customers the better. This is illogical and untrue, here’s why:
- Your customer’s attention is limited, there must be an upper limit of the the number of times you can contact them before you become annoying.
- Not all touchpoints are happy, your complaints service phone number is also a touchpoint, if I have to call your complaint line five times that doesn’t mean your marketing is working.
- The more utilitarian your product or service is the less likely it is that your consumer wants to have “interactions”. The local cinema theatre introduces online ticket purchase but you can’t print tickets – you need to download them at the cinema – why? I can print a bar code at home or have it on my screen for scanning.
The first time I heard this word used I thought it was a nonsense invention, but it turns out to have a useful meaning as a catch-all for all interactions a company has with customers. Just don’t invest in increasing the number of touchpoints without understanding which ones the customer values.