Customer approach today can be summarized as “I want to buy products that suit my requirements, will buy them when I want, buy them in a way I want and most importantly, will somehow find someone who will sell the way I want”
And the customer experience process encompasses the moment the customer becomes aware of your company and is comprised of multiple independent interactions, transactions, and contacts along the way.
Managing these customer expectations and experience is an ongoing and evolutionary process that takes time and cross-functional commitment if it is to deliver significant results.
Though the task is a very challenging, we do not see many companies investing in this crucial area. Certainly, analysis of their own business practices comprehensively through the lens of their customers can lead to significant benefits over a period of time. This can include process redesign, inputs to product changes/up gradation, profitability and sustained competitive advantage.
Customer touch-point management and adding value to each one of them can show us the way forward. By strategically leveraging these touch points, developing better understanding of customer needs, responding to their suggestions and recommendations and building tailored experiences, companies can create a win-win situation for both the company and the customer.
Let us explore this journey today.
Step 1: Understanding Customer touch point
Touch point (also contact point, point of contact) is business jargon for any encounter where customers and business engage to exchange information, provide service, or handle transactions.
A Customer touch point is any time a potential customer or customer comes in contact with your brand–before, during, or after they purchase something from you. Some examples of touch points at each stage could be:
Pre-purchase: The pre-purchase stage can be said to be one of the most important stages of the consumer decision making process as it is where the consumer recognizes that they have a requirement for this product or a service. This stage can be further split into Awareness and consideration.
In awareness stage, customer would actively search for information can be conducted via advertising, social media, internet, word-of-mouth and family and friends’ experiences etc. In consideration stage the search is likely to more specific to his/her requirements and communication may be more specific as well (like direct mails) or reviews etc.
Purchase: Obviously at this stage communication also involves evaluation of what has already been collected as information from previous stage..Choice will involve comparison of options too. The touch points then are the people from the company…mainly sales, catalogs etc. but could also be specific promotional advertisements, stores as well.
Post-purchase: This stage is a matter of living up to the promises made during earlier stages, mainly Purchase stage. Customer needs reassurance of having made right choice. Installation and service support, warranty commitments etc. are very important. In hotel kind of industry even billing/ check out processes are also an example.
It is then crucial to map these touch points to understand the whole process: Summary may look like this.
It is possible that this step itself may be a great revelation on how things work and may lead to areas of improvement.
Step 2: Create baseline
Key questions to ask would be:
· What is the nature of interaction at each point?
· Have you defined process owner for each one of them?
· Is there a repetition in the process step?
· Does the interaction guide customer to next level in decision making process?
· Does each customer interaction live up to the brand experience that the company is trying to create?
· Are you providing a more consistent and relevant customer experience than your competitors are?
· Which interactions are the most powerful for creating customer loyalty?
Answers to these questions will provide a critical baseline from which company can start to evaluate itself through the eyes of its customers and make small improvements to enhance the customer experience.
Step 3: Setting correct expectations /targets
In 1960, Prof. Theodore Levitt gave marketers a huge dose of reality when he made this famous statement: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want to create a quarter-inch hole.”
He was talking about customers wanting the outcome they could obtain by using the tool and not the tool itself. Taking it to next level, what can you do with a handful of the holes?
May be to create a book shelf…may be a platform to keep some flowerpots… Desired outcome will always be much beyond what we can see in just buying a product.
Take another example of filling petrol. People actually do not buy petrol. They cannot see it, taste it, feel it, appreciate it, or really test it. What they buy is the right to continue driving their cars.
Understanding the value drivers, especially by customer segment, will help the company target the areas which will improve value for your customers. So, put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask yourself the following questions:
Where do you go (and how do you get there) when you:
· Have a problem that needs to be solved?
· Discover the product or business that will solve that problem?
· Make your purchase decision?
Then there is whole set of questions to define the experience as customers set out to do what they want:
· What do the customers value in an experience?
· Which experiences will enhance my relationship with my customers?
· How do these experiences differ by customer segment?
· What are the needs of my most-profitable segments?
· How are we going to align the organization to improve the customer experience?
· Who do we need buy-in from?
Together this will define what the company has set out to achieve
Step 4: Gap analysis
Knowing your touch points is only half the battle. To improve customer satisfaction, you need to make sure each touch point leads to a good customer experience, and that the journey as a whole delivers on customers’ expectations.
Real-time data also gives the opportunity to alter one’s marketing approaches faster than the competitors, to deliver impactful and engaging campaigns. It also helps the company align all functions to a common deliverable. The overall story is a win-win situation for both the marketer and the customer.
The vast number of touch points associated with the overall customer experience makes management of these touch points a complex process. Therefore it is important to understand how each touch point contributes to the overall customer experience because an issue encountered at any one of these points can dramatically influence the overall experience
By measuring each touch point independently you can determine its contribution to the overall effectiveness as well as more effectively measure the total customer experience.
Effectively managing the customer experience requires effective measurement and management of a portfolio of metrics, including touch point effectiveness, to gain the insights into what is—or is not—working.
· Take stock of your touch points
· Create the chain
· There is a time for each pouch point
· Every touch point has a purpose
· Identify ownership
· Rate the touch point’s impact
· Complete the map
· Score your effectiveness
· Analyze what is and isn’t working
It is an iterative process and can mean different solutions for each customer segment as well. Maruti having “Nexa” dealers for few car models is a classic case of optimizing customer satisfaction and enhancing customer experience for certain segment
Step 5: Action plan
Some of the key performance indicators to measure improvements in customer experience could be cost of acquisition of customer, lifetime value, retention rates and customers’ willingness to recommend you.
When we create a touch point inventory, we actually end up with clarity on its need and purpose as seen by customer, its owner, its position in the chain and also its effectiveness to deliver. It is best to create a grid of these points with importance on one axis and effectiveness on the other of a point on the grid. That will help to not on to prioritize but also get the best out of available resources.
The goal of this type of effort is to enable you to use these touch points to reinforce your value proposition with customers and employees. EVERY interaction matters. Delivering great customer experience everybody’s concern and everyone in the company needs to be contributing to it.