The image you carefully craft through expensive advertising can unravel with one aggravating call to customer support. The marketing campaign that brought in all those new leads is worthless if the customers get frustrated by your convoluted contract negotiation process and walk away.
Customer support, contract negotiations, billing, on-boarding, post-sales support – these are the lunchpail customer touchpoints. They lack the glitz and glamour of sales, advertising and marketing, but they weigh just as heavily in your image.
That’s not a revelation to most people in business. Though hard to define, we all intuitively know what a customer touchpoint is: any communication or interaction with your prospect or customer that helps them form an impression of your organization or brand. The range of touchpoints has grown in recent years because of digital channels in marketing and sales: e-mail, social media, and even mobile device campaigns.
Understandably, there’s a lot of buzz about the importance of, and opportunities presented by, digital touchpoints with customers. In addition to online interfaces for e-commerce transactions, many organizations engage with customers through social media (LinkedIn, Facebook (News - Alert), Twitter, etc.), mobile device campaigns and other digital channels (like instant messaging) to connect with them as often and as easily as possible and share the information they need (and we want to give them). Technology has undeniably increased the number and variety of these touchpoints, but is it really the most important driver in creating high-quality customer engagement? Is technology what sets your brand apart from your competitors?
In a word: no. Just as we intuitively know what a touchpoint is, we know that all touchpoints are created equally because digital or otherwise, they have the potential to delight or alienate customers. Nevertheless, we don’t often do much to streamline and refine the processes behind these touchpoints.
For example, approximately 70 percent of survey respondents confronted by ineffective document-driven processes – whether electronic or paper – said they would be less likely to do business with the company in the future, according to an IDC global survey commissioned by Ricoh (News - Alert). Sixty percent said that they would likely switch to a different company. Clearly, paying more attention to this basic touchpoint would pay huge returns, but how often does your organization overhaul its processes?
As if leaving you for a competitor weren’t bad enough, disgruntled customers now have the ultimate platform for influencing other customers to do the same. More than one-third would write negative reviews about their experience on online forums, according to the same Ricoh-commissioned global survey. You can be certain that negative word of mouth will hurt your reputation and competitiveness.
“If you’ve been in business for more than a week, you know that if someone is happy they’ll tell two friends, but if they’re unhappy, they’ll scream to 200. So it is with your businesses’ online reputation, and how it’s built,” marketer and journalist Steve Faber wrote in 2012 on the blog Business to Community.
However, as social media taketh away it can also giveth back. More than two thirds of respondents to the same IDC (News - Alert) global survey commissioned by Ricoh reported that maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of their customer-facing processes could improve revenue by an average of 10.1 percent. This includes ongoing, incremental revenue from (more) loyal customers and additional new customer revenue stimulated by positive reviews and word of mouth.
So considering that meaningful customer contact occurs at every touchpoint, how often do companies evaluate all of their customer touchpoints to weigh their efficacy?
Effective touchpoints are a balance of people, technology and process, with the emphasis on the first. Technology has undeniably increased the number and variety of these touchpoints. Nevertheless, people are the axis that effective customer service turns on. Your patient employee who talks customers through processes will stick in those customers’ minds long after they forget how easy it was to navigate your online self-service menus.
Successfully engaging with customers requires using technology to give your employees relevant information and wrapping both of them in effective information flow processes. The last element is critical: If your processes are complex and convoluted, then your people and technology can’t be as effective.
When was the last time you reviewed your processes for getting information to your employees and your customers? The global survey research showed that 56 percent of the businesses surveyed spent only one day (or less) reviewing processes, and a little over a third of the respondents admitted that they felt this was not enough time.
This may be where companies are leaving that extra 10 percent of revenue on the table. Getting the revenue off the table and in the bank can start with re-evaluating your information processes.
Start with mapping out your processes – warts and all. Identify the places that generate the most customer complaints because of inconsistent or unreliable information. Focus on the customers’ needs rather than on weaknesses that don’t affect them. Next, enlist subject matter experts with front-line experience to help re-design your process. Don’t leave the task to IT. Their expertise is technology; they need advice from customer-facing employees to do their best work for you. This process brings together the three essential elements of effective customer touchpoints: people, technology and process.
Joyce Ouellette is director, GMG services marketing and segment marketing at Ricoh Americas Corp.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi