Everywhere we look today brands are constantly trying to grab our attention. Some carry on like nagging four year olds while others engage & deliver. What makes these two interactions so different? Why do some brands build trust & loyalty while others break it down? What can we learn from brands that truly value customer interaction?. This post looks at various contact points or touchpoints that influence customer perception about a brand and why its important to refine these points of contact.

THE CONTACT PLANNING PROCESS
According to Klopper and North (2011:155), a point of contact is any moment at which the brand performs or expresses itself and influences what stakeholders think, feel and believe about the brand.

A year or so after I met my wife, I mentioned the lack of customer service experienced with my current financial services provider (FSP) and that I needed to switch but dreaded the admin involved. Tired of my complaining, she emailed her banker at Investec, informed her of my situation and within a couple of hours they contacted me and opened my eyes to a new way of banking. Being the first and most important point of contact between Investec and myself they immediately took charge of the situation and made me feel like a somebody. Ad advert below captures the heart of this interaction and one that truly reflects their brand promise “We know you want solutions relevant to your needs and ambitions, so we fashion everything we do around you, the client.”

STEPS INVOLVED IN THE CONTACT PLANNING PROCESS
Every touchpoint is a pivotal moment that makes or breaks the customer experience. From telephone conversations with (now) our personal banker, receiving my bank card, the benefits as an account holder, their website and access to the airport lounge. Each of these reflect their brand promise and values.

A good checklist brands could use to ensure they maximise the influence of each contact point involves asking the following questions:

  • Have all product points of contact been identified? From the consumer's viewpoint these include design, packaging, performance, pricing and distribution. Investec's black, white and light blue colour palate, their iconic zebra, their logo and their tone appears on all their touchpoints be it online or offline. This identity has stayed consistent throughout their marketing collateral allowing the brand to grow from strength to strength.
  • Have all service points of contact been identified? This relates to all people interactions a customer will encounter when engaging with the brand. For me this was when I spoke to ours personal banker on the phone and the professional manner in which she assisted me in.
  • Have all planned points of contact been identified? Similar to the advert above "More than data" Investec planned to communicate their brand to their audience. Other examples of planned contact points include: marketing campaigns and sponsorships.
  • Have all unplanned points of contact been identified? These are created by outside sources not related to the brand, for example word-of-mouth. This post is a great example of WOM - luckily it speaks positively about the brand. Certain WOM scenarios can negatively impact the brand. They are known for being a distinctive and specialist bank.

How internal marketing is used to shape a brand.
The brand's leadership and management teams are responsible for the development of the brand's identity, higher-level planning and management of the brand contact cohesion strategy. Furthermore, they are also responsible for delivering on the brand's promise to consumers, stakeholders and their employees too. Investec’s internal and external brand is so powerful that you don’t have to be an account holder to experience it. They successfully changed my perspective on banking, and continue to do so.

BRAND ALIGNMENT THROUGH EMPLOYEES
Every time a consumer engages with a brand, and vice versa, it is an opportunity for the brand to influence the way the consumers and stakeholders perceive it. Although this brand positions itself as a distinctive specialist bank and asset manager, they treat all their customers – both professionals and non-professionals - the same. Today, after a good couple of years of being a client of Investec, I still enjoy the respect, efficiency and professionalism they serve up wherever, whenever I interact with them.

A couple of days after the telephone conversation I had with Investec, their courier company contacted me to find out where I would like to receive my new bank card. My bank card was delivered the following day at my house, enclosed in a white cardboard envelope with their Logo, Iconic Zebra and a light blue metallic line on the front. The envelope, the personal letter inside and the bank card all embodied the brand and was like a handshake that said “welcome to the Investec family”.

Investec has truly considered all their touchpoints and ensures that each one communicates their brand values, promise and personality. Ensure your brands contact points leave memorable first impressions, because it really does last forever. Even though you might not be able to identify which contact point our customer chooses to engage with you first, you have more control on the outcome than you think. Throughout all your brand's contact points ensure that there's brand cohesion that builds trust with respective stakeholders.

Whether you find yourself waiting in an Investec lounge, transacting with your card, transferring money online, engaging with them telephonically or driving past a billboard; you get a good sense of who they are and why they matter.

Sources
Investec Rewards Travel. (Source: http://bit.ly/2va3iY3)

Klopper, H.B. & North, E. 2011. Brand Management. Pearson: South Africa

Muller, G. 2007. Media Planning – Art or Science. 3rd Ed. South Africa: AMASA (Advertising Media Association of South Africa)

Investec Private Bank - More than data (Source: https://vimeo.com/205031712)

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