Over the past few years, research has shown that a positive customer experience plays a decisive role in the financial success of a company — witness the proliferation of consumer experience analytics tools and scores. Most agencies don't need complex programs and costly consultants, however, to measure their performance. The key is in identifying and optimizing customer touch points.
What Qualifies as a Touch Point?
Too often, it's easy to get blinkered and consider only the obvious customer interactions as touch points: Phone calls, a face-to-face visit, or a financial transaction. The truth is that the customer experience begins the moment he or she becomes aware of your product. Ron Shevlin, of "Everything They've Told You About Marketing Is Wrong," suggests the definition of consumer experience is the sum total of the interactions that strengthen the emotional connection and psychological investment customers have with your brand.
A touch point, then, is the name marketers apply to those interactions. Touch points are both intentional and unintentional. An email to a customer counts as an intentional touch point, while a visit to a customer review website to research your product is unintentional. To leverage touch points to manage customer experience, you first have to identify them.
Inventory Touch Points
The first step is to create a process map identifying all the ways a customer encounters your brand throughout the customer life cycle (acquisition, determination, decision-making, cultivation, profiling and even termination and win-back). Examples include:
- Websites, blogs and social media
- Emails, newsletters, brochures, product literature, advertisements
- Sales calls and presentations
- Sales contracts, onboarding materials
- Customer service and complaint resolution processes
- Loyalty and referral programs and customer surveys
Jot these on a sticky note and group them by where they occur in the customer life cycle.
Identify a Purpose
The purpose behind each touch point becomes clearer once you've arranged them in life cycle groupings. Assign a purpose to each touch point. Purposes might include:
- Develop a lead
- Solve a problem
- Support a transaction
- Influence a decision
- Build loyalty
In many cases, touch point ownership falls to entities outside the agent's control, but it's still important to identify the touch points you are responsible for, ones you can influence, and those that fall outside your scope of responsibility.
All customer touch points matter, but they do not matter equally. For example, a boring or nonexistent newsletter probably won't cause a client to decide not to renew, but poor complaint resolution and slow customer service likely will. Creating a 10-point scale, with a "1" being not much impact and a "10" being extremely important with high impact, is useful for this part of the exercise.
Rate touch points that are value drivers with higher impact. These include those with a high number of customer interactions, such as your website, social channels, customer service, onboarding, claims and renewal processes.
Once you've completed this exercise in identifying and sorting touch points, you can develop an action plan by collecting all the touch points you have ownership over and additionally rate higher than a "6" on the customer impact scale. These will be prioritized in your short- and medium-range plans.
Develop an Action Plan
It can be daunting to undertake initiatives to improve customer experience through touch points; consultants recommend starting with one area where you can score an easy win. Look for something that is easy to change or implement but has real impact in terms of how your customers perceive you and your brand.
Action items with a demonstrated impact on engagement:
- Develop an outreach plan for customers approaching renewal. Consider scripted emails or texts at one-week intervals beginning five to six weeks prior to the renewal date. Policyholders who report high levels of engagement at renewal are 61 percent less likely to switch companies.
- Improve or expand mobile capabilities. Work with a developer to optimize your website for mobile and ensure that blast emails are designed for mobile viewing; depending on demographic, upwards of 60 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device. Incorporate SMS for routine communications and updates.
- Evaluate areas for improvement in retention, such as newsletters, blogs and social media presence, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat.
- Focus on cross-selling opportunities. A recent survey showed that 69 percent of customers wanted agents to contact them about coverage they may not have, and 81 percent were receptive to information from their agent about how to save money.
Touch point analysis is a bit like looking in the mirror and hoping the face you see is the same one your customers see when they interact with you. When done right, it provides invaluable insight for improving customer experience with your brand.