Are You Ready for the Customer Touch – Anywhere It Happens?

Joyce Ouellette

How often does the image a company builds through advertising and marketing match its treatment of customers through less glamorous touchpoints, like pre-sales, contract negotiations, on-boarding and billing?

If it’s not often enough, then your reputation and profitability are suffering. Any time your staff engages customers there is the opportunity to delight – or, unfortunately, to disappoint.

For example, approximately 70 percent of survey respondents confronted by ineffective document-driven processes – whether electronic or paper – said they would be less likely to do business with the company in the future, according to an IDC global survey commissioned by Ricoh. Sixty percent said that they would likely switch to a different company.

In today’s wired marketplace, disappointed customers don’t suffer quietly. More than one-third would write negative reviews about their experience on online forums, according to the same global survey. You can be certain that negative word of mouth will hurt your reputation and competitiveness.

Fortunately, the customer touchpoint dynamic works in the other direction as well. High-quality customer engagement can increase top-line revenue significantly. More than two-thirds of respondents to the IDC global survey commissioned by Ricoh reported that maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of their customer-facing processes could improve revenue by an average of 10.1 percent. This includes ongoing, incremental revenue from (more) loyal customers and additional new customer revenue stimulated by positive reviews and word of mouth.

So considering that meaningful customer contact occurs at every touchpoint, how often do companies evaluate ALL of their customer touchpoints to weigh their efficacy?

People Power

Effective touchpoints are a balance of people, technology and process, with the emphasis on the first. Technology has undeniably increased the number and variety of these touchpoints. Nevertheless, people are the axis that effective customer service turns on. Your patient employee who talks customers through processes will stick in those customers’ minds long after they forget how easy it was to navigate your online self-service menus.

Successfully engaging with customers requires using technology to give your employees relevant information and wrapping both of them in effective information flow processes. The last element is critical: If your processes are complex and convoluted then your people and technology can’t be as effective.

When was the last time you reviewed your processes for getting information to your employees and your customers? The global survey research showed that 56 percent of the businesses surveyed spent only one day (or less) reviewing processes, and a little over one-third of the respondents admitted they felt this was not enough time.

This is where companies are leaving that extra 10 percent of revenue on the table. Getting the revenue off the table and in the bank can start with re-evaluating your information processes.

Start with mapping out your processes – warts and all. Identify the places that generate the most customer complaints because of inconsistent or unreliable information. Focus on the customers’ needs rather than on weaknesses that don’t affect them. Next, enlist subject matter experts with front-line experience to help redesign your process. Don’t leave the task to IT. Their expertise is technology; they need advice from customer-facing employees to do their best work for you. This process brings together the three essential elements of effective customer touchpoints: people, technology and process.

Do you know how well you delight your customers – or frustrate them – at every touchpoint? You can’t afford not to know. Social media has made customer dissatisfaction into a spectator sport. The spectators are your competitors and your present and future customers. The stakes are higher than that 10 percent of revenue you could be adding to your top line. They are your reputation, brand equity and long-term competitive edge.

Joyce Ouellette joined Ricoh Americas Corporation in 2004 and currently holds the dual role of Director, GMG Services Marketing and Segment Marketing. Prior to joining Ricoh, Ouellette was Vice President of Sales for 3DConnexion, a Logitech company. In addition, as a founder, Ouellette held various senior executive positions managing global sales, marketing and business development during an 11-year career at Spacetec IMC Corporation.