Improve Relationships Through Improving “Touchpoints”

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What could be more important to your business than improving relationships with prospects, partners and customers? Today, there is a fast-growing movement among leading organizations to improve these critical relationships through a better understanding of customer interactions—or touchpoints.

At Touchpoint Metrics, we call this movement, which is evolving into an industry, “Customer Touchpoint Management,” or CTM. Haven’t heard of it yet? You will.

CTM reflects an organization’s concerted efforts to improve relationships through the management or optimization of touchpoints. In other words, CTM efforts improve the quality and profitability of key business relationships touchpoint by touchpoint.



But what exactly is a touchpoint? We define touchpoints as all of the communication, human and physical interactions your customers experience during their relationship lifecycle with your organization. Whether they come as an ad, web site, salesperson, store or office, product or service, touchpoints are important because customers’ (prospects, partners and customers) perceptions and actions are driven by their cumulative touchpoint experiences with your organization. Remember, to them, you are your touchpoints!

So how does CTM work? First, you must inventory all touchpoints and map them along your Customer Relationship Lifecycle stages. Second, uncover the needs that your customers have in each lifecycle stage, along with their levers, or motivators, to subsequent stages. Last, optimize touchpoints to better meet the needs and levers.

Not interested in touchpoints or CTM? Your competitors love to hear it. They are busy optimizing touchpoints to improve sales conversions, shorten sales cycles, improve customer loyalty and retention and motivate advocates—all of which makes your job at your company harder.

And while your competitors are optimizing their touchpoints, your prospects and customers are encountering:

  • Touchpoint gaps: unfulfilled areas of customer need that require a new touchpoint

  • Redundant touchpoints: those that your customers view as wasteful or spam and that need to be eliminated or combined; think most company brochures

  • Ineffective touchpoints: those that don’t even come close to meeting customer needs and need to be modified; think most automated phone answering systems

  • Incompatible touchpoints: touchpoints that should work together for a common cause (convention, sales, collections) but don’t

A key component of CTM is touchpoint optimization, which addresses these opportunities. Optimization can focus on individual touchpoints or groups of related touchpoints, such as those that make up processes like sales or collection.

The heart of the relationship

These days, savvy organizations understand that customer relationships can no longer be considered exclusively the domains of sales or customer service because no one person or team controls all of the touchpoints. Think about it. You can take your customers to all the games they want and play the finest golf courses, but if the invoices are always wrong or customer support isn’t supportive or the product doesn’t function properly, then the relationship suffers. The truth is that it is the organization that truly owns the relationship and is responsible for its quality and profitability.



CRM and CTM

I am often asked how CRM fits into CTM. In my opinion, CRM is an important component of Customer Touchpoint Management. CTM encompasses all customer touchpoints, while CRM focuses on a subset, typically direct customer communications. In the end, CRM is a technology solution that can aid CTM efforts.

Powerful results

Organizations that have applied CTM recognize that they can best enhance relationships with customers by improving touchpoints across the entire enterprise. Early results demonstrate that CTM efforts deliver powerful benefits. For example, after seeing the impact of consistently great touchpoints with her local Lexus dealer on her brand perception and purchase decision, the marketing executive of a $5 billion division of a Fortune Five conglomerate decided to apply CTM to improve the customer-centricity of her own organization.

The results? Voice-of-customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction scores increased dramatically. These indications of enhanced customer-centricity will have a positive impact on key financial measures such as sales and profitability.

Similarly, Avis implemented a CTM initiative to understand and improve key customer touchpoints. As a result, Avis gained market share in key travel markets and became a leader in customer loyalty and satisfaction, as measured by Brand Keys and JD Powers.

Customer Touchpoint Management efforts can also be directed to solve specific problems. By mapping the post-purchase Touchpoint Paths—the specific sequence of touchpoints encountered by individual customers—a Fortune 30 telecom was able to identify touchpoint redundancies. To address these redundancies, they created a CTM plan, which included consolidating their “welcome” letters to new customers. Their savings on postage alone will result in an annual return on the cost of the initiative of more than 2,500 percent.

Large organizations

Many movements start with small, nimble organizations. Yet the early adopters of CTM efforts are large organizations. While CTM can benefit any organization of any size, large organizations have the greatest difficulty getting their hands around the myriad ways in which they touch their customers. It is not uncommon for a large organization with multiple product lines serving multiple segments to have tens of thousands of touchpoints.



Large or small, forward-thinking organizations can apply the concepts of Customer Touchpoint Management to improve key relationships, touchpoint by touchpoint. The resultant improvement in relationships creates happier customers and employees and improves the financial metrics that create happier owners.

So what can we learn from the efforts of these CTM early adopters? First, the organizations that have applied CTM philosophies are those that have the most to gain. Because of their scale, small improvements in touchpoint performance can have a positive impact on large sums of money. Second, despite their size and leadership positions, these organizations have sought out experts in this new field to help them with their CTM efforts. Third, CTM isn’t just an initiative or fad but a productive new way of viewing and improving key relationships.

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