“If Opportunity doesn't knock, build a door; Milton Berle …"

Welcome back for part two of this epic three-part series breaking down the foundations of customer experience! The last blog we explained how important it is to talk to customers about things that are relevant to whichever point of the “lifecycle” they happen to be. In this blog, we will discuss how a company communicates with their customer - through touch-points.

A touch-point is any point of contact with a potential customer that your organization projects out in the marketplace: advertisement, website, reviews, word-of-mouth, anything that might bring an individual’s attention to your company. Every company controlled touch-point should be looked at as a call to action, or as I call them, a CX value gate.

There are two types of managed touch-points your company can have; dormant and active. A dormant touch point is like a door with a knob. Everyone knows that turning the knob, more often than not, brings them to a new space. We must see the door and have an expectation of value on the other side to interact with it. An active touch-point is like an automatic door. We could be walking past and not even notice it, but when the sensor is triggered, we feel the rush of wind as the door opens. We can then choose to enter or not. Our expectations are different because the active touch point beckons us in.

When a customer comes into contact with a touch-point, they have three options. The first is to move forward and Act, kicking off an interaction with it. As a business, we hope our touch-points are compelling enough for them to perceive value on the other side of the gate. The customer’s second option is to Don't Act and walk away. Maybe they didn’t see any value on the other side of the gate, maybe that touch-point wasn't in context for where they are in the lifecycle, or possibly experience has taught them that the other side is full of Value Erosion instead of Value Realization. Whatever the reason, they walk away.

The third option a customer has when faced with a touch-point is to React. This can manifest in anything from a negative Yelp review to a homemade promo for your company. This third path is perhaps the most important to consider in the socially connected world we live in because as our customer's experience a touch-point, they could choose to amplify them for other potential customers. These reactions result in 2nd, 3rd and 4th degree 'sponsored' touch-points that reflect your brand (good or bad).

In the fall of 2012, I attended a Forrester Chief Experience Officer roundtable at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital, hosted by Dr. Jim Merlino, their CXO. He shared a story about an important man who traveled from the other side of the world to the Cleveland Clinic to have a unique heart surgery. The procedure was difficult, but the surgery was successful. The following day, the surgeon visited his patient and their family, and instead of finding them relieved, they were furious. When asked why they were so upset, the family replied that there was a dust bunny under the man’s bed. At that point that the surgeon realized how important every touch-point was, especially considering the family’s global influence.

On the positive side of React, is the 3.6+ million views on YouTube of Apple customers opening their new iPhone 6 box for the very first time last year.  People were thrilled to be a part of the global phenomenon that Apple's brand influenced. That slick, white box was a touch-point that had the anticipation of immense value on the other side of it.

Every CX Practitioner must be mindful that customers always have the third option available, they can take to social media and file a complaint or a rave, and depending on how a company anticipates for this, it could lead down the path of company failure or success.

One way to ensure that customers take Act is to ensure that every touch-point should be designed as the ‘path of least resistance’ for them to realize the value at the end of their journey. One company that is excellent at creating touch-points that compel a customer forward is Disney. They run their company with the idea that they can take any ordinary experience and make it something memorable and exciting, through every touch-point. “The importance of guest experience can be summed up in two words: Everything speaks,” says the Disney Institute.

As your customer’s piece moves around your Monopoly board, the question to ask is which touch-point is the most important? Some companies will say Board Walk without thought, no matter where their customer is. However, the truth is that the most important touch-point is whichever one a customer’s ironing board game piece is on. Value gates constantly change depending on where a customer is, and what brand impressions they are responding to. Jeff Bezos famously said, “Brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Understanding that there are touch points in our direct control and ones that aren’t, we can use our company’s actions to demonstrate our brand intentions to influence every touch-point.

Part 3 of this series will wrap up my look at customer experience foundations by discussing what comes when you engage a touch-point for a customer interactions. Be sure to come back and find out what happens when your game piece lands on “community chest” or “free parking.”