Hi all, languagehat pointed me to this forum. For the past week or so I’ve been trying to research the origin of the term “touchpoint” as it’s used in this 2003 McKinsey Quarterly quote:
Brands are delivered at touchpoints, which for a hotel include reservations, check-in and checkout, frequent-stay programs, room service, business services, exercise facilities, laundry service, restaurants, and bars.
Today the term is widely used within the service industry to describe all the ways a customer comes into contact with a business, but I can’t pin down exactly who coined it or how early it came to be used in this way.
I’ve been able to trace back examples to 1993 but there’s no smoking gun. No book or academic paper or journal article that proposes this use of the term (the literature had been using the terms “tangibles” or “service evidence” for this concept in the 80s and 90s). Early citations generally refer to it in quotes as “touch point” or “touch-point.” In a few cases authors (or their editors) feel obliged to briefly define the term but the earliest references are offhand. No one seems to frame it as a new concept or bother to reference its source.
OED traces the term touch-point to a 1602 text on astronomy but that’s not what I’m looking for. I can also find plenty of appearances of the term before 1993 in other contexts but not used to describe the points of contact between a customer and a business.
By 2003 it was common enough to appear as touchpoint, without quotes, in McKinsey and many other publications though as late as Feb 2007 Harvard Business Review still put it in quotes as “touch point” and defined it. Is it possible that this term doesn’t have a particular source? That it simply evolved into common use sometime in the mid-nineties?