When tasked with overhauling the customer experience (CX), business leaders often seek to identify the most critical customer touchpoints. The important touchpoints are a make or break–they determine whether customers choose to stay, whether customers upgrade or cancel and whether customers recommend you to their friends and family. Some moments are more important than others–but how do we know which points to focus on?

In this article, we’ll walk through a four-step process for identifying your most important customer touchpoints, from kickstarting an organization-wide conversation about the customer journey to ensuring that you have accurate customer data.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

In 2016, McKinsey and Company reported that even a slight improvement to the buyer’s experience could have up to a three-percentage-point impact on revenue. But if the customer experience is so paramount to the bottom line, why are many companies still lagging behind?

According to McKinsey’s researchers, organizations are still wired to think in transactional terms. For example, organizations focus on improving one service interaction, or one check-out experience. But McKinsey argues that it’s nearly impossible to deliver consistent service without managing the entire buyer’s journey.

Because there are more potential touchpoints than ever before, the first step to improving customer service is taking a closer look at the entire journey. Thinking deeply about the customer journey before you tackle touchpoints might seem counterintuitive. And it is.

But to help kickstart the conversation across your organization, McKinsey suggests gathering leaders from across different departments and using the following talking points:

  • Identify the nature of the journeys your customers take from the customer’s point of view.
  • Understand how customers navigate across the touchpoints as they move through the journey.
  • Anticipate the customer’s needs, expectations, and desires during each part of the journey.
  • Build an understanding of what is working and what is not.
  • Set priorities for the most glaring gaps and opportunities to improve the journey.
  • Fix root-cause issues for a better end-to-end experience.

Talking through these bullet points starts to give us a clearer idea of how your customers might feel about the experience they receive. The conversations that you have at this stage will start to highlight touchpoints that come up more often–potentially the most important ones. Let’s build on this further by walking through how you can prove these initial hypothesis.

Leverage customer feedback

Earlier this year, we explored the ways you can use Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey data to ensure that potential customers are happy at each stage of the buying process. Our advice for leveraging your NPS data included two action items. First, map your NPS survey data to each step of the customer journey. After that, read your customer comments—and take them seriously.

Leveraging NPS survey data is incredibly relevant to the exercise of identifying your most important customer touchpoints. NPS survey comments are a powerful resource that can highlight where you’re serving customers well, and more importantly, where you have the most significant opportunities to improve.

Here are just a few takeaways from our original post that we can apply to this exercise:

  • Identify comments that speak directly to points along the customer journey you mapped, and find ways to ease pain or encourage happiness.
  • If your recent surveys had a large pool of respondents, use word clouds to see which terms come up most often.
  • Pay close attention to negative responses along the journey. These often reveal the most apparent touchpoints to remedy immediately.

In the previous section, we began by asking ourselves to make educated guesses about what our customers expect at each touchpoint; NPS survey comments help us confirm many of these hypotheses with real feedback from actual customers.

Ensure that you’re collecting customer data effectively

Customer feedback is the easiest way to find out what they like, what they want, and at which touchpoints they make critical buying decisions. That might not be the most groundbreaking statement you’ve ever read, but many companies are still in the beginning stages of modernizing their approach to customer data collection.

We showcased one example in 2017 when we spoke to Myskha Sansoin of Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) about her team’s experience using GetFeedback. “In 2014, we realized that our program was getting outdated,” Sansoin told us. “Our survey invitations were sent out by mail, and we had a long survey with more than 25 questions. Response rates were low, and our costs were high.”

Not only was this outdated strategy costly and inefficient, but BRP also realized it was difficult for partner dealers to trust the few insights that it did receive. In response, Sansoin and her team turned to GetFeedback for a more straightforward way to send out customer surveys, increase response rates, and cull feedback more effectively.

“Since we launched the program, our completion rate is at 94% which is huge, because the online survey average completion rate is just above 75%,” Sansoin said. “And our costs have gone down 95%.”

This presents an opportunity for you to reevaluate your current customer data collection strategy. While you might not be sending surveys by mail, you still might discover there’s a more efficient way to collect insights such as NPS survey responses and comments—all of which can help you discover the touchpoints where customers are forming impressions about your company and products.

Add context to your customer data

The buyer’s journey is continually evolving. Companies are offering more sophisticated products to pools of buyers with incredibly nuanced sets of needs. As a result, business leaders have discovered that they need more data (and context) than ever to optimize the customer experience.

Luke Williams of the Harvard Business Review took a closer look at how organizations have collected customer feedback. Typically, businesses use what’s known as a balanced scorecard as the instrument of choice for this work, but Williams found that it falsely empowers leaders to make decisions with very little data. He added, “When leaders have even small amounts of data, it can be easy to assume they know enough to make aggressive decisions, all based on information with sources they don’t control or fully understand.”

Instead, Williams suggests adding context to your data by using what he calls an “equitable scorecard.” Unlike the balanced scorecard, an equitable scorecard forces leaders to evaluate the customer experience based on the various expectations different buyer segments have. For example, imagine that you’re running a clothing retail store. Some of your customers might seek low prices, while others expect your staff to be experts on the latest styles. And based on all of these possibilities, the equitable scorecard requires you to set unique benchmarks for each one.

So what does this scorecard ultimately enable us to do? As Williams explains, adding this level of context to our customer survey data prevents us from making blanket assumptions based on “inhumane” numbers. More importantly, it further enables us to identify our most critical customer touchpoints based on actual buyer habits.

Final thoughts on customer touchpoints

There’s a lot of research to digest in this post, and if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, you likely have plenty of company. The most important takeaway from this might be that optimizing the customer experience is hard work.

But consider that Salesforce found that 80% of consumers feel customer experience is as or more important than the products or services offered. With the competition to stand out in crowded markets at a fever pitch, it’s evident that providing top-notch support at each customer touchpoint is critical to every company’s success.

Learn how GetFeedback can help you exceed customers’ expectations—start your free trial today.