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The Million-Dollar Opportunity: Optimizing Your Customer Journey Touchpoints

Thirty-two percent.

That's the percentage of buyers willing to pay entirely through digital self-service channels for purchasing products in the $50-500K category. According to a survey from McKinsey, buyers are increasingly opening up to make substantial purchases online entirely remotely without any human interaction. The survey also found that, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, B2B decision makers have opened up to spending big budgets through a self-serve digital touchpoint, with up to 27% of buyers willing to spend more than $500,000 without any in-person interactions.

What does this mean for you? Suppose you are in the B2B space where sales were primarily driven through in-person interactions or assisted selling. In that case, it could mean you have to spend more time optimizing every occasion your prospects come across your brand, otherwise known as a customer journey touchpoint. But, hold on—what is the customer journey exactly, and for that matter, what’s a touchpoint? I’m about to cover each of these terms with relevant examples so that you understand what they are and how to use them effectively. 

What is the ‘Customer Journey’?

In simple terms, the customer journey (also known as the buyer's journey) is a set of interactions that a potential customer or prospect has with your brand. In a B2B scenario, prospects might take multiple interactions with a brand until they feel confident about investing in a purchase. As a brand, you must provide them with a consistent customer experience whenever they come across your business. When you consistently show up with your messaging and the social proof that they desire to engage with, they become increasingly confident in their intent to buy your products. Knowing where and how they would interact with us as a brand is why every business should be aware of their customer journeys. 

Let's look at how you might lease a car, specifically an electric hybrid Volvo XC60:

  1. You might ask your friends and family about the car they own. Then you might browse through a few car aggregator websites and find glowing reviews about the XC60. Then, perhaps by pure chance, you find yourself staring at a billboard heralding its features and awards won.
  2. You are convinced that this is the car you and your family needs.
  3. You visit a Volvo dealer where you have a great experience with the sales guy, who patiently answers your questions as you take a test drive.
  4. You sign up for a three-year lease at the dealer. 

Even as businesses become increasingly aware of the entire journey, some might only be interested in the customer journey only up to the point when the prospect decides to make a purchase. Therefore, the optimal approach to using customer journeys to your advantage is to go beyond just the buying experience. To build stronger loyalty to your business, give careful consideration to the post-purchase and renewal experience. Being aware of these interactions from end-to-end builds brand trust—and customers who trust you will happily spread gleeful word-of-mouth recommendations to the next set of prospects.

What are Customer Touchpoints?

We’ve now established the set of interactions that our prospects might use to engage with our brand. Each of those interactions is known as a customer touchpoint. A touchpoint is an opportunity for your potential customer to decide whether your product is worth their time and money. Every interaction is a chance to prove value to your customers, so every touchpoint needs a critical investment from your end as a business.

Not all of these touchpoints need to happen in person. More than ever, purchase decisions are being made online—so how effectively you show up in every online touchpoint will work in your favor. Each touchpoint adds its own set of nuances that needs to be well-executed to be effective. For example, if your customer engages with your website, consider providing them with an interactive chat interface to resolve their queries—the online equivalent of a retail employee asking “can I help you find something today?”

On the other hand, if the touchpoint is taking place on a customer review platform, such as Yelp or Google Reviews, the interaction requires a different set of nuances. Responding to each customer review individually, especially the critical ones, is essential for following up and resolving these unfortunate incidents.

In the Volvo example above, each occasion you were reminded about the car by an ad or a review is a touchpoint. We will cover touchpoints in the digital domain as we move along in this article. 

The Importance of Mapping your Customer Touchpoints

So that covers what customer journeys and touchpoints are, but we have yet to answer the overarching question—why is it important to take a good look at them? The primary mistake most businesses make is to pay undue time and attention to one or just a few touchpoints while considering the entire customer journey. For example, some companies might think it is enough to convince customers to buy once they walk into their storefront. However, in most B2B scenarios, customers would only get on a call or schedule a demo once they are ready to purchase and not when they are still doing due diligence about the product. In the Volvo example, you must map out all the possible interactions a customer might have with your brand, like an ad or a review on a car portal, before you can expect them to walk into a showroom.

When we map out each touchpoint, we need to understand where these potential customers hang out and where we need to establish a presence. If you are proactive about your presence as a business, you get the chance to ensure a consistent experience for every appearance. It could be a YouTube video testimonial, a review on the App Store, or even a community mailer describing your benefits against the competition. 

How do you go about being consistently excellent at each touchpoint? You must start by zooming out and looking at the entire customer journey from a visual perspective. Then we plot all the touchpoints across this visualized customer journey, thus creating a customer journey map with all these touchpoints mapped at the instance they occur from the customer's point of view. Once we have mapped out all these touchpoints, we analyze what has been working well and what needs improvement at each interaction. 

Getting into the details to optimize each interaction would require tremendous time, effort, and resources from your entire team. Therefore, the sections below have been created as a template to help you better understand the typical touchpoints you would interact with, with tips and techniques for excelling at each one. 

Let's get started with these customer touchpoints based on when a typical prospect would experience them during their customer journey.

The Top 10 Customer Touchpoints (and How to Optimize Them)

The touchpoints your prospects and customers typically experience could be classified by their stage in the customer journey. Before your customer fishes out their credit card, they could be in the consideration, evaluation, or purchase decision stages. Once they purchase, they would move to the experience and loyalty stage, depending on the quality of their interactions. Let’s go through each touchpoint, stage by stage, with some inspiration for making each one memorable.

Customer Touchpoints - Consideration Stage

During this stage, a prospect is only just realizing they have a need that might necessitate a purchase. Here are the typical touchpoints a potential customer in the consideration stage would experience with your product or brand.

Social media

This one should not be surprising. Across different customer segments, a significant part of the discovery and awareness process begins on social media. A Google executive also remarked that TikTok and Instagram have usurped up to 40% of the market share from Google to become the first touchpoint for brand awareness and consideration. The following tips should help you optimize your social channels to attract your customers. 

  • Move to interactive content formats like short-form video
  • Collaborate with relevant influencers in your niche
  • Engage with your audience and followers regularly with live events (and remember to post about the time, date, and time zone when you’ll be going live!)

Newsletters

Audiences, especially in the B2B category looking to discover new products, have moved away from the traditional sources of industry insights like Gartner and Forrester to more subject-matter-expert-led content for insights, specifically in the SMB and media sectors. So, if you have been procrastinating on finding a great way to engage with a focused audience that is high-intent but is not ready to buy yet, it is an excellent time for you to start a newsletter. With every send, you can continue educating your audience on your niche and keep nurturing leads to the point that they are ready to commit. To do this successfully:

  • Write and publish consistently on a given schedule
  • Take feedback from this audience and use their questions and comments to inspire future content
  • Repurpose snippets of the newsletter content for social media distribution

Ads

If you have been skeptical about using paid media until now, you are not alone. Many brands are apprehensive about budgets, especially in the current economic climate. For example, suppose your organic content efforts on social media and newsletters have been performing well but are stagnating in terms of reach. In a case like this, it might be worthwhile to use paid media to amplify the reach of your existing content. Once you can see early results, it is good to extend your budget to consistently expand your audience's awareness and then re-target them over an extended period. You’ll make the most of your spend if you:

  • Use a paid media expert to be able to understand your audience
  • Tie your paid media campaigns to appropriate landing pages
  • Guide the audience to a clear Call-To-Action (CTA) to convert 

Customer Touchpoints - Evaluation/Purchase Stage

Prospects at this stage are on the brink of a purchase—they just need to overcome the last hurdles on their way to your point of sale. They could be hesitating to commit to you over a competitor, not completely convinced that your product will fulfill their needs, or they might simply be unmotivated to get off the couch to fetch their wallet. Your job at this stage is to find ways to motivate them to cross the finish line.

Website/e-commerce storefront

Your site and/or online e-commerce storefront is your best sales team—it’s working 24/7 in your favor. First, ensure that your prospects and customers are designed to funnel from your newsletters, ads, and social media to your site or storefront. Then, once they arrive, ensure that you address everything that might make them pause before ordering your product or scheduling a demo call. 

  • Use client logos and testimonials to demonstrate social proof and customer satisfaction
  • Align your site content to address all functional objections—for example, by setting up an FAQ page.
  • Make it easier for them to convert with a clear Call-To-Action (CTA) on every page

Product demos

Eventually, all these awareness channels would make your customers curious about how your product performs and if it serves their current needs. However, even if your product has the best technology infrastructure and an excellent visual interface, it does not help if it does not resolve the reason customers are arriving at your site. Remember that they are purchasing your product or service to solve their pain point, so align your product walkthroughs by visualizing how they would use your product to solve their problem. 

  • Use the Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) framework to align your product demos toward customer needs
  • Capture product demos on video to create content for social media
  • Organize live webinars and online events to address customer queries interactively

Email Offers

If you already built a sizable email list from your newsletter efforts earlier, now might be the time to utilize the list for sending out occasional pricing offers for experiencing your product. Make good use of these high-intent subscribers to spread the word when you launch new pricing updates. Just keep these best practices in mind: 

  • Use the email list sparingly for product offers and promotions
  • Provide a way for people to unsubscribe instead of them pushing you to spam
  • Make sure you improve and monitor email deliverability

Customer reviews

There’s nobody a customer trusts more than other customers. Customers listen to customer feedback and are much more likely to use reviews than branded content to make purchasing decisions. You may spend a fortune on ads, but ultimately, a customer will only drive away with that new Volvo once they’ve seen glowing reviews from peers with no skin in the game. If you are selling software, especially in the B2B space, ensure that you have built a robust presence on platforms like G2, Capterra, or Trustpilot. If you have a mobile app, monitoring and tending to app store reviews is necessary for customer satisfaction and retention.

  • Ensure you have at least as many reviews as your nearest competitors on the platform
  • Incentivize customers to leave a review with an appealing offer, such as a one-time discount on a future purchase or a free “bonus” item
  • Respond and follow up with critical reviews to improve ratings and reduce churn
  • Display your review ratings in all social media channels and on-site to reflect customer trust

Customer Support Touchpoints - Post Purchase/Experience Stage

Your customers have finally decided to purchase your product. Does this mean you can finally stop worrying about customer touchpoints once the purchase is complete? 

Absolutely not.

Unsurprisingly, it is easier to enhance your revenue from repeat loyal customers than acquire new customers, especially for subscription-based products. Improving the post-purchase experience during customer onboarding and subsequent usage is critical to customer retention. So, how can you reliably and regularly improve at that stage? Let's think about how customers engage with your brand once they have made a purchasing decision.

Chatbots/Live chat

Suppose you have built a site and are trying to provide a self-serve support experience. In that case, you might have invested in a chatbot platform or integrated with Messenger or WhatsApp for customers to reach out to you for support queries. 

Many companies might make the initial error of relying entirely on chatbots for their customer interactions. Depending on the personalization offered by the chat platform, customers might be disgruntled and eventually shift to alternate support channels like email or phone calls, which could lead to missed opportunities to serve them better. 

However, when used effectively, chat platforms can be a great way to engage and serve your customers—preferably if the customer can engage from an app they already frequent (think WhatsApp or Messenger). For reference, you can take a look at this extensive guide on improving customer experience through chat software.

Choose a chatbot platform that can:

  • Intercept a known issue by providing a knowledge base for frequent issues
  • Allows your support team to take over the conversation when needed
  • Enable your customers to continue chatting over email if an extended resolution period is needed

Feedback surveys

Indeed, your customers have purchased your product for the first time. As mentioned earlier, the key to improving revenue opportunities is to continue serving your customers well for repeat business over time. A great non-intrusive way to continue engaging with your customers would be through event-driven feedback surveys. Typically these surveys could be triggered within your mobile app or site after they have completed a specific activity successfully. These surveys could also be tied to successful outcomes by asking for external reviews, like App Store reviews or G2 reviews.

  • Tie your feedback survey activation to successful goal completion on your product
  • Allow selective external reviews to be activated only on favorable feedback ratings
  • Make the act of filling out surveys quick and sporadic without nagging them too frequently

Customer loyalty programs

If you have patiently waited for that free beverage at Starbucks, you have witnessed firsthand the power of customer loyalty. When done effectively, customer loyalty programs can transform your customers into long-term fans who would willingly be your spokesperson where they go. Ensure that you nurture and appoint a dedicated team that can onboard, serve, and gamify the entire customer experience for your loyal customers. The idea is to coax customers to engage with your brand by incentivizing repeat buying using regular tokens of appreciation. Loyalty programs can require a massive investment in resources and effort, so ensure that you have the right team and support aligned for your product to leverage this touchpoint effectively. To make your job easier, this article should guide you through customer engagement programs to foster loyalty

  • Build a loyalty program when you have a considerable customer base
  • Ensure that critical product reviews have been addressed before starting a loyalty program
  • Make sure you appreciate the customer for every interaction through meaningful appreciation tokens

Optimizing customer journey touchpoints: The gift that keeps on giving

By now, you would have realized that optimizing all these customer touchpoints and interactions will be a herculean effort to lift off the ground. To make it even more challenging, you cannot afford to drop the ball on any of these touchpoints or risk losing a steady stream of customers over time. If you are wondering if it is truly worth your time and effort to optimize every touchpoint, keep in mind that all these touchpoints kick a virtuous flywheel into effect. It might seem like a lot to begin with. But once your team can lead with empathy and sincerity to serve your customers, your touchpoints will become the moat that your competitors would have a hard time challenging.

If this article helped you better understand customer touchpoints, don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter! Subscribe here to get the latest on all things customer experience.

By Renganathan Padmanabhan

Renga advises and works with startups at the intersection of product, marketing, and content. He also teaches product and design courses at Pluralsight and OnDeck. You can find him at anushkaventures.com.

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