Touchpoints: There must be 50 ways to leave your message

TouchpointA few weeks ago, I was faced with needing to find a new dentist. So, the search began and the more I looked around, the more it showed just how many touchpoints came into play prior to – and after – a selection being made.

As we know, customers experience your brand in numerous ways and each of these touchpoints molds the customer’s impression of your company’s brand. If the brand is a promise you make, then the customer experience is the fulfillment of that promise. The customer experience can’t be left to chance. It has to consistently reinforce the brand promise across every customer touchpoint or the value of the brand itself is at risk.

So, after thinking about what your brand stands for and what sets it apart, it’s time to look outward. After all, if a brand is built and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? In not-so-distant marketing past, reaching consumers meant connecting through just a few channels: a catalog, a radio spot, a store visit, a customer service line, a salesperson…You get the idea. However, the number of channels for reaching customers has exploded in recent years. Think about it: when was the last time you made a major (or even not-so-major) purchase decision, personal or for business, whether a product or service, through a single channel? In fact, it’s more likely that your purchasing decision was made after being reached through a variety of interconnected touchpoints, from social media, to word-of-mouth, to advertising messaging, to conducting research online, to comparison shopping in the store.

Despite the desire to “silo” marketing channels, they’re far more effectively used together than individually. In a Forrester’s research report, it was noted that 33% of new customers involve two or more “trackable touchpoints,” and nearly 50% of repeat customers visit three or more “trackable touchpoints.” And despite the fact that nearly a 50% of the surveyed people believed that social media channels are a great place to discover new products, less than 1% of sales resulted directly from a social media referral. Online search (i.e., Google) and email were much more effective at closing a sale.

That said, your ultimate goal is to have each touchpoint reinforce and fulfill your marketplace promise. The best way to do this effectively is to look at each of your marketing, selling, and servicing processes which then allows you to create a simple touchpoint chart or map that defines your customers’ experiences with your brand.

Keeping this in mind, let’s use the process in looking for a new dentist:

  • Influencing Touchpoints: You ask friends for recommendations on Facebook and look around trusted review websites (Yelp, Angie’s List) for patient ratings and testimonials. Maybe you remember seeing a local dentist on the news commenting on a new dental procedure. (Touchpoints: Social Media, Patient Ratings, Word of Mouth, Testimonials, Referrals)
  • The Pre-Purchase Experience: You check out the web pages of some of the dentists that have piqued your interest. You decide to call one and are thrilled with how pleasant the receptionist is and how quickly you’re able to come in for an appointment. (Touchpoints: Marketing, Appointment making interaction, PR, Online video, Blog, Website, Phone System)
  • The Purchase Experience: You arrive at the dentist’s office and are greeted by the receptionist who has a smile on her face. You sit in the nicely decorated and comfortable lobby before seeing the dentist. The dentist knows her stuff and answers all your questions. On the way out, you stop at reception desk to pay and the scheduler, dressed in a uniform with the doctor’s office logo on it, smiles and tells you to have a great day. (Touchpoints:. Building Exterior, Office Lobby, Receptionist/Office surroundings, Examination Room, Employee Uniform)
  • The Post-Purchase Experience: The office staff sends you home with a card containing useful information. On the card, you see the dentist’s blog and social media pages which offer dental hygiene tips. Someone from the staff calls after your appointment to check on you, and a couple of days later, you receive a handwritten card with a small token of appreciation for becoming a new patient. You go to a rating website and share your experience with others. (Touchpoints: Thank You Card, Follow-up Call, Online Bill Pay, Billing Statement)

That said, all touchpoints are not created equal. Some will naturally play a larger role in determining your company’s overall customer experience.  To determine the touchpoints driving your customers’ overall experience, your organization can use a wide array of techniques ranging from quantitative research to institutional knowledge.

Yes, it’s simple….almost absurdly simple. But stepping into consumers’ shoes is an exercise absolutely too many executives neglect when marketing. We forget to become our own customers–with real, day-to-day concerns–and in the process, we lose sight of the most valuable touchpoint opportunities. Each one is a chance to present your brand and what you stand for.

In other words, having a more refined sense of “touch” has a big impact on how your prospects feel.

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