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Katerina Kondrenko
Experienced content creator with a passion for research, French bulldogs, and British cats. Katerina has an economics degree but prefers letters to numbers. She has been exploring different audiences for popular culture projects, was involved in the creative development process, and now she’s playing in the CX field.

Touchpoints and channels in customer journey mapping

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Touchpoints and channels are crucial elements of any customer journey, but they tend to get mixed up when it comes to actual mapping. Read on to find out a useful way to distinguish between touchpoints and channels.

Let’s dive into these two definitions, find the difference between them, and settle this issue once and for all.

Touchpoints in customer journey maps

Let’s first take a look at touchpoints. A touchpoint is a moment in time when an interaction happens between a customer and your product, service, or business in general. This includes situations that happen on the website, through marketing, personal interactions, or a phone call. If customers find out something about the product, sign up for a newsletter, buy something, or give feedback, they do this by "touching" your business. And that's why they're called touchpoints. 🙂

Our main goal when mapping a customer journey is to find and map out all the possible touchpoints, as the touchpoint with the lowest experience defines the overall level of customer satisfaction at the end of the journey. All the possible touchpoints sound great, but is there any well-tried number that you can take as a starting point for your journey map?

We’d go with 5–7. And it’s the minimum because you will definitely find more once you start analyzing your business.

Here are a few examples of customer journey touchpoints:

  • Product demo
  • Getting help and support
  • Checkout
  • Booking a table
  • Giving feedback about one's experience
  • Collecting information about a service
  • Warranty return
  • Signing up at an online service

Channels in customer journey maps

Unlike touchpoints, channels are a medium of communication between a company and its customers. It is the environment where touchpoints occur. It can be a corporate website or the phone the customer uses when calling customer support. Some channels are interactive, that is they can give your customer a response, e.g., live chat, phone calls, social network. While others are not, e.g., billboards, flyers. Channels can be both offline (brick and mortar store, an ad at an airport) and digital (a website or a mobile app).

channels-vs-touchpoints

A few examples of channels:

  • Skype call
  • Forums
  • Target ad
  • Call center
  • Face-to-face communication
  • Mobile app
  • Social networks
  • Live chat
  • Talking to friends

The difference between touchpoints and channels

In essence, you can think of the difference between channels and touchpoints in the following way. A touchpoint happens when a customer has a certain need. E.g., they want to learn more about a service,  make a payment, or they arrive at a hotel to stay for a few nights. And they're looking for ways to satisfy this need. Whereas a channel is a means provided by a company to meet this customer need.

And while one and the same touchpoint might happen across different channels, some channels support only a certain set of touchpoints.

For instance, a customer can pay for the order (touchpoint) through the website, via bank payment, or by handing cash to the delivery man. At the same time, customers can use their smartphone to access the website to pay for the chosen item, order delivery, and give a phone call to the support team.

Note: not every channel can provide good support for a certain touchpoint (e.g., you're trying to send emails, whereas your customers may prefer calls; according to GlobalCallForwarding, 57% of customers ranked call support as their first and most comfortable preference for communication). If you don't have enough resources to support all of your channels, it's better to focus on the ones you can support in order to keep customer experience consistent across all the stages. So keep that in mind when (re)designing your customer journey.

To learn more about customer journey mapping or polish your mapping skills, be sure to check out the UXPressia Academy course.

Visualizing touchpoints and channels in UXPressia

Now when it comes to actually placing channels and touchpoints on a customer journey map, you can do it in a few ways by using our CJM tool.

First off, there’s a Processes and Channels section with over 160 channels for different domains to choose from.

You can also have separate sections both for touchpoints and channels, where you can easily add them to your map. 
As for touchpoints, once you set up them in your Team Library, you can reuse them in different projects:

Add as many touchpoints per stage as seems necessary. The result may look like that:

touchpoints on the customer journey map

Pro tip: On the touchpoint page, you can add not only touchpoint-related information but also channels associated with this specific touchpoint.

In the channels section, you can add background icons and describe them in plain text if you want.

By the way, you can also visualize touchpoints and channels associated with your persona right in the Persona Online tool. Here is what it can look like:

persona with touchpoints

And that’s all there is to it. Hopefully, these two key concepts of customer journey mapping are a little clearer to you now and you will easily tell them apart when creating your CJMs.

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Alice
Alice
1 year ago

This was insightful. I finally get the difference between customer journey touchpoints and channels, but still have a question about applying that to personas. Should I add all channels they generally use even if my company is not present there?

Sofia Grigoreva
Editor
Sofia Grigoreva
1 year ago
Reply to  Alice

We’re happy that you found the article useful, Alice! The channel section of your persona should have all their mediums of communication and research, including the ones that are yet to be covered by your company. You can then look into closing the gaps to:

a) be present where your customers expect to find you,
b) reach out to them through the channels that they prefer.