Digital vs. Human Brand Touch Points

When you take a moment and think about the word ‘touch point’ it’s hard not to be left with a very personal, human feeling. With the rise of new media, marketers are discovering new variations on our brand touchpoints that we now have at our disposal in the digital world. Much is also made of finding the right balance between these new touchpoints and our more traditional, face-to-face touchpoints.

Variety adds spice to life and to brands. When mapping out your brand experience it’s always advisable to have a good mix of touchpoints including both digital and personal, face-to-face. While the best social media, email, or webinar works to be targeted, personal, and relevant like a face-to-face conversation, sometimes it’s just not an effective substitute. Managing touch points is definitely more art than science. Sometimes you have to go with what feels right.

I thought it might be helpful to take a look at a few situations when digital touchpoints might be more appropriate than human touchpoints and vice versa.

When the Robots Make Sense

Small, routine, and recurring touches are a good fit for the automation of the digital world — confirmations, thank-yous, and informational updates. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with these automated touchpoints as well. Even something as simple as an out-of-the-office autoresponder can offer a fun yet personal digital touchpoint.

For example, when I checked out a reserved movie from Redbox I immediately received a thank you email. This is a perfect example of an appropriate digital touchpoint. Could it have been made better with some sort of personal card? Of course. However, this isn’t realistic as it could ultimately damage a lean model that delivers customer satisfaction effectively.

Touchpoints that are a good fit for digital automation are post-sale, when a client needs a little less hand-holding, such as thank yous, quick starts, and light support (the easy, FAQ/troubleshooting stuff). Please note, I’m not advising that you turn your new customers over to robots and never talk to them again. Rather, these instances represent people who are in a different mindset.

Touchpoint #Fail = Hiding the Humans

Contrast this with a platform purchase our agency considered recently. When I submitted a lead form asking for a demonstration I received an email directing me to a mass webinar that is held every week. If you can’t make that (which I couldn’t) they have posted a recorded version for on-demand viewing. Doing as instructed I completed the webinar and had a few follow-up questions and inquired about scheduling a call. I was told upfront that there is no phone support. Ever.

We see this often online. That support forum with an endless relay of prompts before it finally coughs up the phone number (props to smart businesses that plaster their phone number loud and clear online —Zappos gets this). While there may be models that cannot offer phone support on an ongoing basis it seems that some front-end phone support for the basic benefit of closing a few additional sales could be valuable. Forget the fact that you now know upfront that no one will ever want to speak to you. That’s certainly a questionable way to begin a relationship. Hiding the humans is a touchpoint fail.

The irony? Often times the reluctance to include a phone number is one of cost savings and not wanting the phone to ring off the hook (an odd “problem” but I digress). You can often offset this concern by having an engaged social support channel as well. Will everyone call? No, some will tweet, others will email, and others still will take care of themselves on your knowledge base. But some will prefer a call. And another subset won’t move forward without one. Personal, human touchpoints should be available at critical, high-stakes points in your relationship such as new customer acquisition and complex support issues.

However, no two brands are alike and sales processes can differ by industry. Map out your touchpoints and do what feels right.

Bottom Line: “I Love Technology”

Technology is great and ultimately gives us more tools as brand builders than we’ve ever had to make an impression in the hearts and minds of our community. It’s also true that some automated touchpoints have allowed small start-ups to grow to formidable businesses by avoiding massive personnel. However, it’s important to make sure that you have real people who can provide a human touch behind the tech. Be sure you have variety in your brand’s touchpoints so there’s something on the menu for whoever shows up at your store.

How do you manage your brand’s digital and human touchpoints? Is there balance or do you hide the humans?