How to Differentiate and Build a Defendable Advantage: The Power of Touchpoints

Some people get customer-centricity.

Gavin Merritt is in his usual first-class seat. Despite the fact that other carriers are occasionally less expensive on this route, Gavin chooses this United flight due to the probability that Captain Flanagan will be its pilot. Captain Flanagan hands out fun facts about his plane, writes personal notes to frequent flyers, calls the parents of children flying alone, and delivers many other amazingly customer-centric actions.

It’s not about how to build an organization of Denny Flanagans. It’s about how to build the competencies and structure so that all employees consistently develop and deliver touchpoints like Denny Flanagan.

Today, more than ever, it is important to be customer-centric. Captain Denny Flanagan is customer-centric. He gets it. These touchpoints are powerful in their ability to generate positive results from customers. But today, it is not about a single employee delivering great service. Today, as organizations seek to differentiate themselves and gain competitive advantages, it is about how to build customer-centricity into the very fabric of your company’s DNA. It’s not about how to build an organization of Denny Flanagans. It’s about how to build the competencies and structure so that all employees consistently develop and deliver touchpoints like Denny Flanagan.


Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. Which differentiator to choose?

There is a need to differentiate, but which differentiation option is best? The ability to differentiate has historically filtered down to bucket into one of three options:

–          Quality
–          Price
–          Service/Experience


Quality and price are differentiators that can be purchased. As such, they are typically not a long-term competitive advantage. On the other hand, service/experience cannot be purchased – it is cultural.


The Touchpoint Economy of Customer Service and Experience

This leaves customer service and experience. More and more organizations are starting to look to differentiate through customer experience (CX).

Touchpoint Economy

The macro environment whereby the economy of individual organizations, brands, or products is highly impacted by the increasing power of customer touchpoints.

As the title of this article implies, individual touchpoints are powerful in their ability to impact customer decisions, perceptions, and an organization’s finances. With economic pressures and the exploding use of social media to spread the word – both positive and negative – regarding products and companies, it is a brand new world out there.

In this new economy, this Touchpoint Economy, businesses large and small are facing a growing need to improve customer touchpoints and experiences in order to compete.  Many savvy organizations are turning to improving customer experiences as their means of differentiating. This is especially true for small businesses where there is often a greater opportunity for a personal connection with customers.

Maybe you have never heard of the word “touchpoint”. Maybe you hear it all too often.  In 2007 I was the first to define touchpoint on the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Since then, my definition has gone through a natural evolution to land on the following:


Touchpoint: Each interaction – physical, communication, human and sensory – with and within your organization.


“If you take good care of the customers, they come back. If you take good care of the products, they don’t come back.”

Stanley Marcus, former President Neiman Marcus

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are made in the mind.”

Walter Landor, Founder Landor Associates

If your organization makes a product, that product is an example of a physical touchpoint, something you can feel. Your ads, e-mails, and brochures are all examples of communication touchpoints. Your sales, service, and accounting employees are examples of human touchpoints. The music you play or the aromas you create are your sensory touchpoints, much like the smell of popcorn in a movie theater.


Three Outcomes of a Touchpoint

As a result of a touchpoint or touchpoints, one of three things can happen. Your customer can:

–          Say something good
–          Say something bad
–          Say nothing at all


Logic dictates that the more good touchpoints you deliver the greater the chance your customer will feel and say good things about your organization and its products or services.

To your customers, you are your touchpoints.


The Three Customer-Centricity Competencies™

In studying organizations that are recognized as iconic customer-centric organizations, I uncovered what I call the Three Customer-Centricity Competencies™: Identity, Intelligence, and Consistency.  Companies that have built these competencies are reaping the growth and profit rewards that accompany differentiating through cultural customer-centricity.

customer centricity

Identity: Define and live your Identity. Customer-centric organizations have clearly defined their values and Identity and incorporate these in all that they do.


Intelligence: Right information to the right people at the right time. Customer-centric organizations generate timely and relevant employee and customer data and feedback. This Intelligence is applied to immediate action, root cause solutions, and planning.


Consistency: Standardize touchpoints. Customer-centric organizations consistently deliver touchpoints that meet customer needs and that also reflect their Identity.


Many organizations can define their Identity and generate Intelligence, but few can consistently deliver positive touchpoints. Consistency is the customer-centricity differentiator.


touchpoint bookExcerpts from TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013), foreword by Peppers & Rogers.

hank brigmanHank Brigman’s methodologies and tools have helped drive over a billion dollars in additional sales with organizations from sole proprietorships to five companies in the Fortune 100. A sought after consultant, coach, and speaker, Hank has inspired audiences on four continents. The first to define “touchpoint” on Wikipedia, Hank is known as the Touchpoint Guru. For more information,, or


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