Your company’s relationship with your customers is made up of different “touch points.” These are the times that your customer interacts with your company, and these are the moments that build your brand identity 一 for the good or for the bad 一 in your customer’s mind.
Depending on your industry, your customer touch-points might include interactions with your salespeople, account managers, or customer-service techs; your company’s website or mobile app; your physical store or office; your product, the product’s packaging, and the instructions that come with it; and forms, contracts, or agreements the customer is expected to read or sign.
Any time that a customer interacts with your brand, you have the chance to portray your brand as “decent” or to upgrade it to “incredible.” Isn’t the extra bit of extra effort worthwhile?
If your product meets a functional need, it can be easy to assume that its aesthetics don’t matter. The truth, though, is that the look of the product makes a loud-and-clear statement about your company.
Coca-Cola realized this way back in 1915. The company challenged glass companies to design a bottle that customers would instantly recognize—even in the dark! That’s how the distinctly contoured Coke bottle was born.
Apple, creators of the Mac Computer, has followed this approach flawlessly for years now. Its brightly-colored translucent PC has always outshined its rivals’ products, even from its early days. Although its desktop’s look has evolved into a sleeker model, it remains as iconic as ever.
Another example: PEZ candies. How many other simple candies does everyone know by brand name? The secret is in the dispenser. PEZ candies have been around since the 1920s, although they were originally round rather than oblong. The PEZ dispenser, however, which has a unique mechanism that dispenses just one candy at a time, was designed in 1948. It was introduced at the Vienna World Fair the following year, propelling this company into the prominence that it enjoys today.
Perk Up Your Packaging
If you sell CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods), you have already put time and effort into designing the packaging. But design is important for anything that customers will interact with, even if you sell B2B supplies or wholesale. You need some sort of packaging for these products; why not make your packaging more distinctive than any of your competitors’?
But making the packaging eye-catching is just the first step. Does your packaging also represent your brand? For example, look at this creative way to package earbuds:
Or consider this shoebox for Nike Air, which perfectly matches the product name:
Both of these do much more than just grab your attention. They showcase the brand’s identity in a creative and memorable way.
You’ve Got It in the Bag
If you have a retail store, you should be building brand identity through your bags. Think a shopping bag is just a plastic or paper monstrosity that’s going to get thrown out anyway? Think again.
Who hasn’t seen Lululemon’s reusable shopping bags? They’re plastered with healthy life advice and inspirational messages, which dovetail perfectly with the brand’s health-centric identity. In trendier neighborhoods, you’ll see women sporting these bags in place of a purse; they’ve become a symbol that many people want to identify with.
Drowning in Documents
And then there are all the documents that inundate customers. Does a user manual have to be boring and tedious? Does a catalog have to look like all the others out there? Does a contract have to be ugly? Or is there a way to make yours unique and striking?
Think of Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. This publication is, at its root, a catalog. It pitches products, new and old. How is it different? It’s actually entertaining and funny! It has a consistent brand voice, skintight hooks to reel the reader in, and some fantastically on-target pop culture references.
The tone depends upon your customer base 一 humorous, luxurious, or straight and to the point. Regardless of the tone you choose, make it clear and easy to use. If you have to provide lengthy instructions for setup or troubleshooting, provide a search option, add a table of contents that is actually helpful, and provide links to how-to articles or videos. And give an option for users to provide you with feedback.
The same applies to contracts, forms, and anything paper or digital that customers or prospects will ever interact with. Why not take the extra time to make them stand out from the crowd?
Next up: your company’s website. Have you taken the time to really consider the user experience and to try to make your website stand out in functionality and form?
Allbirds did (they sell wool shoes and sneakers). For the most popular shoes on their website, you can view each product from multiple angles and then watch a model video that demos how the soles bend and adjust while you walk. Their reviews are easily searchable by various fields, from the usual (newest/oldest, star rating) to the more specific (typical size, typical width, size purchased, self-reported overall fit, and activity level).
So did ban.do (quirky clothes and accessories). Most of its product pages sport copy that has an artsy, young vibe—perfect for their client base. Even a set of colored pencils is described as something that will help aspiring writers reach their dreams.
From Failed It, to Nailed It
Every touchpoint in which your customers or clients interact with your business is a chance to fail it, or nail it. Sit down and map out the process that each customer goes through on their journey from prospect to customer and beyond. For example, some of the steps a customer might go through would be…
- Signing up for your service
- Paying a bill
- Downloading a form
- Asking a follow-up question
- Getting technical assistance
Which touchpoints does your company already nail? In other words, which steps would a customer find easy to accomplish? Which ones would improve their overall opinion of your company?
Next, which touchpoints do your company currently fail? In other words, which steps would a customer struggle with, and why? Which ones would have them walking away wishing that they had chosen a different company for their business?
Let’s assume that your company provides IT services to other businesses. You map out a typical customer journey, speak with some of your current clients, and you realize that…
- Many clients balked at the number of forms they had to fill out at the beginning of the process.
- Downloading your required software was frustrating for some clients.
- Many clients didn’t feel like you kept them in the loop when troubleshooting an IT problem.
Your next step is to target each of these touchpoints and try to improve them. Consider if there are aspects of your “nailed” touchpoints that you can apply to your “failed” ones. Look at how other companies 一 even in different industries 一 tackle these touchpoints more successfully. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can about how to improve these touchpoints, and then take action.
Does your company have any other touchpoints besides the ones we’ve listed? What about the restrooms in your store? The storage containers outside your warehouse? The music or messages you play when your customers are on hold? Every industry will have its own touchpoints, and every touchpoint is a customer experience opportunity 一 good or bad.
From products to packaging, from customer service to websites… these are just a few touch points that contribute to brand experience. You know your current and future customers are going to see/hear/experience them, and you know that they will change the way they think about your company. So why not make them awesome?
This is Part 3 in The Stand Out! Series about how to make every single aspect of your company stand out. This post looks at your company’s touchpoints, and how to redesign them to stand out from the crowd. Part 1 focused on improving the “face” of your company (e.g., uniforms and truck wraps), and Part 2 examined the locations related to your company (e.g., retail stores, warehouses, and showrooms). See all the posts in this series here.