Decoding the customer journey: Touchpoints versus channels

By Anders Björklund

Decoding the customer journey: Touchpoints versus channels

The critical elements of customer journeys, touchpoints, and channels often become entangled during mapping. This article aims to untangle these elements and elucidate their differences, addressing a critical aspect of customer journey design.

Understanding touchpoints

In the context of the customer journey, a touchpoint is any interaction between potential or existing customers and your business, product, service, or solution. Examples of touchpoints may include a visit to your company's online knowledge hub or website, an inquiry via live chat or social media, or a telephone call to your customer service department. When customers learn about a product, sign up for your newsletter, provide feedback, or make a purchase, they interact with your business through various touchpoints.

The central challenge in mapping your customer journey is identifying and delineating all potential touchpoints. The weakest touchpoints in the user experience often define the customer's overall journey and ultimate satisfaction level.

Examples of common touchpoints

  • Product demonstrations
  • Help and support interactions
  • Checkout process
  • Feedback provision
  • Information gathering about a service
  • Warranty return
  • Registration for an online service

Understanding channels

A channel serves as a conduit for communication between your company and its potential or existing customers. It represents the environment in which touchpoints exist. For instance, a channel could be a website or a phone a customer uses to connect with your support team. Certain channels, like live chat tools, phone calls, and social media platforms, are interactive, enabling customers to engage with your company. On the other hand, offline channels such as brochures and flyers are typically non-interactive.

Here are several examples of channels:

  • Forums
  • Phone calls
  • Targeted advertisements
  • Face-to-face communication (both online and physical)
  • Mobile applications
  • Social networks
  • Live chat tools
  • Conversations with colleagues or friends

Distinguishing between touchpoints and channels

The distinction between touchpoints and channels can be conceptualised as follows: A touchpoint represents a customer's specific need, such as registering on a website, finding a product, or making a payment. In contrast, a channel is the tool that the business offers to meet this need, whether it be a registration form, a product directory, or an eCommerce platform.

The same touchpoint can occur across different channels. However, not all channels support every touchpoint. For instance, a customer could pay via your desktop website or mobile app or even contact your support team to discuss delivery options over the phone.

Bear in mind that not all channels can effectively support every touchpoint. For instance, most customers will likely be restricted to calling your company from their desktop devices. If you want to provide and keep the customer experience consistent across all channels, it's best to focus on the most common and easily manageable ones. This distinction will help you design a more effective and seamless customer journey.

To dive further into your customer journey, look at our detailed guide. And remember to download our free customer journey map template below once you're ready to start assessing and improving people's journeys when they do business with your company.

Get the free customer journey map template

Get the free customer journey map template

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Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B.
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