When you take a walk in your customer’s shoes and start looking at ways to improve their customer experience, one crucial element to look at is touchpoints – those moments where a client may come into contact with you.
Touchpoints occur across all stages of the buyer journey, from a customer accessing information online, to speaking with an employee over the phone and anything in between.
Historically, these touchpoints were usually fairly straightforward to manage and you could assert a certain level of control. However, in today’s digital world this is no longer the case. Anyone can ‘touch’ a company in a variety of different ways and the process is far from linear.
A quick glance at your company LinkedIn page, or seeing a tweet from a sales rep all counts as a touchpoint. It is, therefore, crucial to examine everything you’re doing to ensure the experience you provide is not only positive but, truly outstanding.
Customer Experience Management (CEM)
With CEM, what we’re talking about is the entire process of finding, defining, evaluating, improving and managing the various ways and means by which a person may interact with your company.
While at first glance it may sound similar to customer relationship management, there is one big difference. Both involve gathering information about touchpoints, but with CEM you won’t be tracking a person who has already entered into the sales system and has started a relationship with. You’re looking at people who are unknown to you.
It is about assessing ‘what do people think of us?’ rather than ‘how do they interact with us as customers?’
Tracking customer experience
The way you track your customer experience will depend on the various touchpoints you want to look at. Sometimes simple behaviour metrics will be all you need – such as engagement levels for your company Facebook page or Twitter account, whilst at other times you may want to use a survey to reveal what people who interact with your company really think. Just bear in mind that data collection isn’t always easy and great care needs to be taken when you’re deciding which data to include and how you’re going to get it.
Another consideration, if you’re to use a survey, is whether you want to generate lots of data to wade through, or just need a couple of simple responses. The answer to this question will depend on the nature of your business and also which touchpoints you want to track and monitor.
Finally, consider whether you want to track and analyse data on an ongoing basis, or just want to conduct a specific project over a set period of time.
The customer journey
Touchpoints exist at all stages of the customer journey, from before someone becomes a client, to during their time with you and afterwards. At each of these moments, different things will matter to the customer. The more complex your business structure is, the more complex your customer journey and touchpoints are likely to be.
One of the biggest issues that large corporates face is battling the silo effect, whereby different departments won’t communicate or share information very well, so they don’t know what each other are doing. For the customer, this can mean they are passed about from person to person, repeating themselves and getting more frustrated by the second.
A truly customer-centric approach will provide a seamless experience for the customer. To them, it doesn’t matter if they talk to sales, accounting or warehousing, it’s all one company with one face and one brand.
The biggest challenge when analyzing touchpoints
To accurately analyze your touchpoints you need to put yourself firmly into your client’s shoes and forget you already know the company. What do they see and experience when they get in contact with you?
A good place to start is when listing all your touchpoints, instead of thinking in terms of different departments, try to work your way along the customer journey. So, think what interactions take place before a customer finally makes a purchase. What happens on social media? Via email? Over the phone? In-person? Look at what may be helping or hindering the sales process.
Make sure you’re thinking about all the big things, like the branding of your company, as well as the little things, like your email signature. Did you design them with what you wanted in mind, or thinking what a recipient may want and need?
Let’s take an automated email reply as an example. When you send out an automated message telling someone that their email has been received and within what timeframe they can expect an answer, are you truly honest, or do you try to look good? Consider whether it is better to say you need 24 hours to get back to them, then actually do it within 12, or for the opposite to happen and you break you word.
Keep your promises
Every time someone interacts with your company you will be making some sort of promise to them. When you provide information on your website, you promise that it is accurate. When you send a rep to talk to them, you promise they know how to handle the transaction. What are the promises you make and more importantly, do you keep them?
Negative customer experience will usually happen when the expectations of a client aren’t met. If there’s a mismatch between their expectations and what you can actually deliver as a vendor, then you’ll get very unhappy customers. In reverse, exceeding customer expectations will put you in a great position.
One time to be particularly aware of this issue is during a sales conversation, where all sorts of things are promised. What happens with these promises? Do you deliver on all of them? If not, how can you become better at doing so?
Moment of truth
Once you have listed all your touchpoints, think what the ‘moment of truth’ is for all of them. This links closely back to the promises you are making. Specifically, it’s about whether the recipient feels you have delivered on those promised (not just whether you think you have).
For example, you may be offering a whitepaper for download that you are convinced is the best out there. However, the people who read it may think differently. The moment of truth in this example is when the reader doesn’t agree, finds the information is lacking, or too much. What they then do is key to whether you are able to gain them as a client, or manage to retain them.
Do you have mechanisms in place to check what’s actually happening? You may believe your customer experience is strong because you don’t hear any complaints, but once you start tracking behaviour it may be shown as anything but. People may simply be turning away and forgetting about you.
Delighting your customers
What are the touchpoints that really delight your customers? Do you have any and are you designing them specifically with this purpose in mind?
These are the moments when you exceed a client’s expectations and leave them going ‘wow’. The goal is to create them in as many places as you possibly can. An under promise and over deliver strategy can work wonders when you’re looking at ways to make an improvement to all your touchpoints.
Analyze, evaluate, implement
The key to getting your customer experience right is to thoroughly analyze the current situation and evaluate it to form conclusions about what may need to change. Once you have developed a strategy based on your findings, you need to implement it and keep checking the results.
The digital world we’re all now operating in is fast-paced and customer behaviour is fickle. The good news is that by providing a fantastic customer experience you will be putting yourself well ahead of the competition. It may take a lot of time and effort to get it right and strategically improve the experience people have when interacting with your brand, but it will all be worth it in the end.