How to optimise your touchpoints

Summary: Optimising touchpoints is crucial in enhancing customer experiences. It essentially involves guiding customers using subtle cues, much like Disney’s approach in Disneyland. Retail and government sectors can learn from this, shifting from a forced help strategy to a smoother, more backgrounded ‘nudging’ strategy.

What’s a Touchpoint?

To begin with, let’s not confuse touchpoints with Channels. Channels are where customer experience happens: mobile, web, store, customer support, chatbots and more.

Instead, touchpoints are interactions, conversations, or exchanges customers have with your business, brand, or channel. Let’s define these further:

  • Interactions: Digital, Physical, Brand or Sensory (Touch/See/Hear +)
  • Conversations: Customer service representative, Sales, etc
  • Exchanges: Meeting Sales, Cust Service, Brand experience

Touchpoints are points where customers interact to solve a problem, get help, clarify or complete a task. Confusing touchpoints with channels is normal: I’ve made it myself a few times.

See What are Touchpoints?

Importantly, touchpoints must be led by how users are trying to solve problems. Don’t build it in a channel, “and they will come.” Instead, bring your experience to your user’s channel of choice.

Why optimising touchpoints matters: Many touchpoints are eroded, missing, or needing reinventing. Ineffective touchpoints cause friction, overload channels such as customer support, and weaken overall Digital or Service Transformation efforts.

The Service Design approach is first to differentiate touchpoints from channels. Next, offer redundant channel access, or if user research shows one channel makes more sense than another, then optimise that.

Stop wasting money chasing channels, start optimizing your touchpoints first

How to optimise your touchpoints

The following five guidelines are intended to overlap to create a more streamlined and less disruptive customer journey.

1. Subtle nudging over barking instructions: Steer people with cues during a touchpoint encounter: avoid herding customers. Instead of setting users up for failure, guide or nudge them with visual prompts. Supermarket self-checkout systems often get this wrong. You are supposed to know where to put your basket and where to bag your groceries. In a hurry, with multiple people around you, this touchpoint requires a quick decision. It requires an explicit design affordance: “Here’s how you interact with me.”  Some systems wait for you to fail first and then bark stern audio commands: “Place your item in the bagging area!”.  Instead of designing a smooth touchpoint, they wait for you to make a mistake– to instruct you. With many people experiencing the same thing, you can have multiple kiosks barking the same audio command in what sounds like “the machines are angry with the customers.”

Instead of relying on the failed product management strategy of “user education” this simple touchpoint requires more subtle nudging. Barking an audio command can be replaced with a basket icon (see Before/After mock-up below). This nudge should suffice without the instructed audio. For accessibility, the entire experience ought to be auto-guided, but this too can be subtle: “Start on the Left; Bag on the right”.

self checkout, before and after showing no indicators of what to do with and without

2. Multi-sensory cues: Incorporate visual, verbal, and other sensory signals to enhance a journey sequence. Think icons, signage, and auditory cues that guide without overloading a customer with ‘signal’ demands.

Be sensitive to inclusion needs:

  • Cultural Sensitivity: Cues must be culturally appropriate and sensitive.
  • Accessibility: Touchpoints should cater to all, including those with disabilities.

3. Information Design: Clarity in information design is critical. It’s not just about what information is presented but how. Clear, concise, and visually appealing designs can make a significant difference. See the zoomed-in example of the self-checkout instructions below. Think: how might your experience benefit from more evident information design?

self-checkout icons clearly illustrate steps

4. Design of social spaces: When people are together, the goal is to create a feeling of belonging and pleasantness. You don’t want people feeling like they are competing for space, resources, etc. You don’t want them to feel threatened or unwelcome. In essence, it lowers social stress by factoring in sociability. For example, confusion or chaos can ensue if there is no clarity for queuing or sharing physical spaces.

5. Overdependence on Digital: While digital is efficient, it shouldn’t replace all physical and social touchpoints. A blend is often the most effective. As mentioned above, the channel of choice is the rule. If you want to force digital, you will invariably overload a channel or create friction in your customer experience.

What doesn’t work: Forcing digital interactions followed by no contact option or “burying” Contact Us options in circular navigation paths. Digital Transformation shouldn’t the forced ‘digital self-help’ strategy we’ve seen from many corporations. Hiding human contact options is a downstream symptom of poorly optimised, broken or non-existing touchpoints.

Disney’s Mastery: A Case Study

Think of your service experience the way Disneyland designs the Visit. Hint: Disney exemplifies touchpoint optimisation. They use:

  • Visual Storytelling: Every sign, map, and icon tells a story, guiding visitors subtly.
  • Ambient Nudging: Directional cues are integrated into the overall design, making navigation a part of the experience rather than an interruption.
  • Emotional Connection: Disney’s cues often create an emotional resonance, making compliance more of a choice than a chore.

Queuing is a big problem at theme parks like Disneyland. So they developed VIP “skip the line” rules (perks). They extended this with the Magic Band+, which remembers Resort guests’ tickets and more…

Disney Magicband service design

“These colorful wristbands…allowed you to not have to carry paper tickets or FastPasses, avoid worrying about keeping track of a room key, skip having cash and credit cards at the ready and much more. (And yes, they did allow Disney to keep an eye on where you made purchases, where crowds were forming, etc.)” – PointsGuy

By optimizing their Park journey touchpoints with MagicBand+, we get the question:

What is your MagicBand strategy?

Let’s turn to retail and government, two areas that need default smooth touchpoints.

Examples of how touchpoints can be optimised in Retail and Government

  • Retail: Stores should focus on intuitive layout and signage. Simplify navigation and product discovery. Use visual cues to guide customers through a journey, not just to products.
  • Government Services: Often bogged down by complex procedures, government touchpoints should simplify processes. Clear signage, straightforward forms, and intuitive online interfaces can make a huge difference.

Much of touchpoint design comes down to clearly indicating what you want the customer to do, where specifically, and how best to go about it. As simple as that sounds, executing a coordinated touchpoint offering requires a deep appreciation for Service Design.

The bottom line
Optimising touchpoints isn’t about using directive measures. You need to ditch the “help” mentality and instead focus on providing informed, empowered, and smooth experiences, touchpoint by touchpoint. Touchpoints are not after-thoughts; they represent an opportunity to empower users and streamline a well-designed experience.

What touchpoints does your organization have that need a tune-up? What terrible touchpoints have you encountered lately? (Please comment below)

Go deeper: How to Conduct a Touchpoint Mapping.

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