Defining Customer Touchpoints

What could be more important than improving sales and your customer relationships? Today, there is a fast-growing movement among organizations interested in improving their customer-centricity through a better understanding of customer interactions, or touchpoints. Called "Customer Touchpoint Management" (CTM), the goal of this new movement is to improve customer experiences, and as a result, improve customer relationships. By improving customer relationships, organizations improve market share, sales, and both customer and employee loyalty and advocacy.

But what exactly is a touchpoint? A touchpoint is defined as, all of the communication, human and physical interactions your customers experience during their relationship lifecycle with your organization. Whether an ad, Web site, sales person, store or office, Touchpoints are important because customers form perceptions of your organization and brand based on their cumulative experiences.

These days, savvy marketers and advertisers understand that customer relationships can no longer be considered exclusively the domains of sales and customer service. If the accuracy of invoices, or the professionalism of installers or cleanliness of your store or office is lacking, then the relationship can suffer no matter how well the marketer, salesperson or overall owner of the relationship performs. CTM-oriented organizations know that they can best enhance relationships with customers by improving touchpoints across the entire enterprise.

In fact, improving your customer relationships can deliver powerful results to your organization. For example, after seeing the impact on her brand perception and purchase decision of consistently great touchpoint experiences with her local Lexus dealer, the marketing executive of a $5 billion dollar division of a Fortune Five conglomerate decided to improve the customer-centricity of her own organization. We helped her to improve touchpoint performance across the organization. The result? Voice-of-customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction scores increased dramatically, and these indications of enhanced customer-centricity are expected to translate into added sales and profitability. 

Similarly, Avis implemented a CTM initiative to understand and improve key customer touchpoints. As a result, Avis gained market share in key travel markets and became a leader in customer loyalty and satisfaction as measured by Brand Keys and JD Powers.

Organizations fall into four basic categories when it comes to CTM: observers, followers, leaders and visionaries. Here is what those different categories mean:

CTM Observer: While your firm may be doing well, there are opportunities for dramatic improvement in the customer-centricity of your organization. If your approach to better understanding and improving customer touchpoints has been to observe or monitor customer service trends in your industry, you may be finding it more and more difficult to compete. New clients and strong sales may be masking poor customer satisfaction and retention issues, which could lead to a serious problem down the road. You know that improving customer-centricity will help, but your organization may be having trouble getting its hands around just how to accomplish this -- you're not sure exactly where to start. Previous efforts to improve customer experiences have generated mixed results.  As a consequence, your organization's employees are highly skeptical of new programs and their ability to effect change. A change of culture may be required to improve customer-centricity dramatically. 

CTM Follower: Your organization is making progress on improving customer experiences and is generating some positive feedback as a result. However, you are still following the Customer Touchpoint Management leadership of others. You appreciate that you are more customer-centric than some of your competitors, but worry that you have significant hurdles to overcome to catch up to the customer service leaders in your industry. You are proud of the improvements made to date and you want to continue the organization's positive momentum.

CTM Leader: A Customer Touchpoint Management revolution leader, your organization is benefiting from being ahead of the customer experience curve. You excel in comparison with the majority of your competitors. Your sales are increasing, and you have improved the retention of both customers and employees. Customers who advocate your offerings are helping to fill your sales pipeline and employees who advocate your company are helping to attract outstanding staff. You are committed to improving touchpoint performance through a dynamic CTM plan, and have systems in place that enable your organization to surface and apply touchpoint best practices. Not satisfied, however, you continually look for opportunities to improve customer touchpoints in order to improve your customer-centricity and to stay ahead of your competition.

CTM Visionary: Your organization is the inspiration for the touchpoint revolution both within and outside of your industry. You have established benchmarks and best practices for developing and implementing a comprehensive CTM plan. You have developed a system of two-way communication that encourages ongoing and honest feedback from both customers and employees. Based on customer and staff input, you have established touchpoint standards and manage to those standards. Your customers consistently experience excellence in every touchpoint they encounter. Outstanding talent is clamoring to work for you and your competitors covet your employees. You are able to charge a premium for your products or services, and your corporate leaders are invited to speak about the customer-centricity of your organization. Happy to share your CTM story, you know that your success is based on an ingrained culture of relentlessly looking for better ways of understanding, improving and measuring your customer touchpoints in order to strengthen your position as a customer service leader, and to further distance yourself from your competitors.

Want to see how your organization scores with regard to Customer Touchpoint Management? You can take a quick six-question quiz to find out.

Hank Brigman is author of the forthcoming book "Touchpoint Power!" and President and CEO of Touchpoint Metrics, the research consultancy that pioneered Touchpoint Mapping™. Based on their proprietary methodology, Touchpoint Metrics delivers data, insights and recommendations that serve as a foundation for Customer Touchpoint Management (CTM) efforts. Hank can be reached directly at 415.258.8524, via email at: hbrigman@tpmetrics.com, or online at www.touchpointguru.com.

 

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