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From SMS to face-to-face: Using touchpoints to build better customer relationships

Romantic comedies have taught us all the wrong things about relationships. We’re told that the way to win someone’s heart is with the big, dramatic, running-through-the-airport moment that will guarantee not only instant love, but happily ever after.

Actually … that’s not how relationships work, is it? Whether we’re trying to win someone’s heart or someone’s business, building up that relationship takes time – and a million little touchpoints that strengthen the connection.

But it’s how you use those touchpoints that can make all the difference.

Relationships, the customer lifecycle, and the business dilemma

Whether it’s a romantic relationship or a business one, everything starts from that first moment of awareness (after all, you can’t fall in love with them if you don’t know they exist). When we talk about the customer lifecycle, we’re talking about a journey that begins from that first moment, all the way through to advocacy or influencer.

And during that lifecycle, every single interaction – every touchpoint – that the customer has with you is another opportunity for the relationship to strengthen. As our friends at Salesforce put it, “Customers see one company, not separate departments, and expect connected engagement across their various touchpoints.”

That’s a lot of pressure.

And it’s leaving businesses scratching their heads as they try to find the perfect strategy: Too much, too soon (or the wrong message altogether), and customers will run for the hills. On the other hand, if you don’t make enough contact, or the message goes unheard, the relationship could wither and die on the vine before its even begun.

You’re not alone in worrying about this – when we talked to business leaders for our 2023 Trends Guide, “Improving the customer experience” and “Effectively communicating with customers” took the top two spots on their list of priorities for 2023.

It makes sense: Wooing customers used to be a bit more straightforward, and a big romantic gesture (like a full-page ad spend in the local paper) was guaranteed to at least be seen and remembered by the right people. Now, with an almost infinite number of potential touchpoints scattered across a rapidly increasing number of channels, businesses are baffled about how, when, and where to aim.

Where can you find – and win – customers these days?

DID YOU KNOW: 49% of business owners are “very concerned” about effectively communicating with customers.

Choices and channels: The new way to look at customer relationship touchpoints

The thing to remember is this: When you peel back the talk of companies and brands and customers, at the end of the day, your customers are simply people … just like you. If you want to build strong relationships with your customers at every touchpoint, you need to craft a communication strategy built around them and their needs.

So, when developing your strategy, first, start with empathy — consider what questions and concerns your customers may have, or what friction they might be experiencing.

For instance, one common source of friction is a lack of responsiveness: 32% of consumers told us they expect an immediate response when they reach out to a business. And while that expectation might make business owners break out in a cold sweat, it’s important to consider things from the customer’s perspective – if their actions for the rest of the day hinge on your answer, an end-of-day response will be much too little too late.

In addition to wanting your immediate attention when they reach out, customers have specific preferences in what channel they use, with the majority preferring SMS and email, but with phone calls still bringing in a respectable number of fans.

What channel would you prefer businesses use to communicate with you?

Consumer survey Q5 preferred channel for business comms
Consumer survey Q5 preferred channel for business comms

In other words, winning over a customer these days is less about big flashy gestures, and more about simply being there for them. Provide multiple channel options for customers to reach you – and make sure you can respond quickly via whichever channels you’re going to support.

The secret to showing you care is how you show up in your touchpoints

While there may be more channels than ever, the fundamental relationship rules still apply. Listen to what your customers want, demonstrate that you care, and show up when — and where — they need you. Taking these steps doesn’t just improve the experience you create for your customers. It also deepens the relationship you’re building by earning their trust one touchpoint at a time.

After all, while those big Hollywood moments look great on screen, they’re not what real relationships are about. You’re in this for the long haul, building a great customer relationship that will last.

Want a peek into the hearts of your customers?

Our 2023 trends guide delves into what customers want, when they want it, and why.