A touchpoint is a place wherein the customer literally "touches" your institution via your delegate, usually at the lowest common denominator. Like a bank teller, waitress, customer service rep, and others.
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This shortcoming or hole in the works usually occurs when an organization grows very quickly (like after a merger or acquisition) or is overly large and ends up in a posture wherein they have many channels for customer interaction and revenue influx, and then this creates an environment wherein that institution doesn't take advantage of their full potential for marketing delivery, image infusion, or messaging capacity. The ignorance of this capacity/delivery gap leads to a descending coefficient of drag wherein the law of diminishing returns kicks in and reminds us of it's existence and the outlay of resources has a correspondent-diminishing effect.
I am a student of history and in addition to that, a recent friend has taught me to be more attentive to the naturally occurring patterns in things. That having been said, I suggest you visit Stratfor, a commercial, strategic forecasting organization that will teach you to think more deeply and strategically and 3-dimensionally, and to think like an intelligence analyst.
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My father, God rest his soul, was a contract C.I.A. special operations asset. In that context, he used to repeat something that I now repeat to others as rote; "Stephen, there is no such thing as coincidence." Wow, how that resonates through the years!
The take-away here is you need to always have a "real-time" feel for what is happening at the bottom-line of your outreach and/or delivery network. Assuming it will work perfectly, status quo, forever is being blissfully ignorant. If you are a bank, you need to know, intimately, what the dynamics of interaction are that take place where the money switches hands at the teller level. This touchpoint needs to be monitored and tweaked just like any other business-maximizing tool.
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If you are a casino, same thing, but at the dealer and cashier level. If you are a fast-food joint, know what is going on where the burgers get flipped and passed across the counter. Leveraging the opportunities afforded where "the rubber meets the road" will afford you tremendous opportunities to communicate more efficiently, and cost-effectively without distraction, competition, repetition or clutter.
Example: Let's say you are a restaurant or hospital that has valet parking. Use, leverage, and monetize that "touchpoint" to disseminate your messaging and manage your identity and proactively craft your customer service perception. If you outsource valet service, you sure better make sure that they are on the same page with your culture and your messaging agenda. Make sure that valet-contractor meets your customer service guidelines, and if not, manage them up or show them the door.
Use that "touchpoint" as an opportunity to further disseminate and distribute your messaging and as a furtherance of your communication agenda. Engage them in your success!
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I have probably visited and called on more hospitals across our great and grand country than many can imagine. In the course of counseling these institutions and as a precursor to our meeting, I would usually have to check in at an information desk. Those information desks are usually manned by volunteers. The reason being that volunteers are "free" labor. The vast majority of these volunteers are ill suited (as well as ill-tempered) to serve in the most helpful, friendly, or knowledgeable customer-service capacity.
My suggestion is to continue to leverage that free labor, but use it in a more tactical application.
And if you are spending money on marketing or advertising, and you aren't prepared for the touchpoint-capture of the fruits of that marketing, you may as well throw the money out the window. I have an ongoing client consult with a large healthcare interest (which will remain confidential due to contractual obligation) that happens to be doing a good amount of mass media advertising to promote a specific service line. This institution is not leveraging the business influx at the touchpoint of these marketing efforts and was not taking advantage of the potential cross-selling opportunity here. That was until Amplification, Inc. came along.
"Every touchpoint brings the brand to life." Thanks to Cohn Marketing for that line.
Written by Steve Cabeza, Idea Man / Marketing Ninja at Amplification, Inc. Click here to see part of an interview with Becon-TV wherein Steve speaks social media.