Do You Have a 'Touchpoint Plan'? Remember how Anne Hathaway in 'The Intern' tested her company's customer service? Don't let her outcome happen to you.

By Karen Mishra

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Have you ever thought through your business from your customer's perspective? I love that moment in The Intern, when Anne Hathaway's character opens an order -- the way a customer would -- from her own company, to see how things look.

Related: Elon Musk Personally Cancels 'Super Rude' Customer's Tesla Model X Order

The result is, she's not happy with the wrinkled presentation she sees, and uses that experience to demonstrate to her order-fulfillment crew how to do the job right. Now, some might see her action as overly picky, but, as the owner and/or founder of a company, she is doing exactly what's necessary to keep customers satisfied.

When is the last time you "walked in your customer's shoes" to see the touchpoints they experience? What does your customer see and hear? Are those touchpoints planned, and positive? Or, are they unplanned and negative? If you've built a customer-centric culture, those points might even be unplanned, yet still positive.

Every positive encounter your customers have with your company reinforces their loyalty and keeps them from going to a competitor.

The first touchpoint with your company: positive or negative?

Try having someone call your firm on the phone or begin a live chat online with someone from your organization, and see what happens. No matter what type of products or service you provide, you want that first impression to be positive, because there are plenty of competitors ready to take your disappointed customers off your hands.

Don't let a negative first impression turn people away. I know one financial services executive who called her administrative assistant and asked, "Are you smiling?" She told me that she could hear the assistant's "smile" through the phone, and wanted to be sure that clients could hear it, too.

What happens when there is a problem?

Have you equipped your staffers to resolve problems, or do they sweep them under the rug? This could make all the difference between a repeat customer and one that you never see again. I myself recently tried to return a sweater to a major retailer when it ripped the second time I wore it.

Related: 7 Tactics That Show You're Getting Customer Service Right

Rather than asking how she could help and make things right, the clerk I spoke with quickly dismissed me. It's been six months, and I still have no intention of returning to that store.

Here's another anecdote that offers a stark contrast: I took a chance on a new pair of Beta Brand yoga pants for my daughter for Christmas, but they were really not her style. I was worried about asking for a refund, but the company was very accommodating and quickly offered to make things right.

In fact, the reality is that not every purchase will work out well. Make sure your company has a plan in place to help both your staff and customers feel confident in the outcome.

Do you have a touchpoint plan?

Just as you would prepare a crisis plan, consider creating a "touchpoint plan" for all of the touchpoints you can imagine your customers experiencing with you or your company. Get your staff involved to help you plot out these touchpoints, from beginning to end. That way, you and your staff will be well prepared for how to satisfy customers at each and every point of contact, ensuring that they return and remain loyal customers.

I recently visited Fab'rik, a women's clothing store in Raleigh, NC, for the first time after following the brand on Instagram. I noticed that on Instagram, the staffers regularly chatted with their followers, and even took orders.

I was curious to see how this customer service played out in person. The store manager, Amy, immediately greeted us, asked how she could help and even made my husband feel welcome. She was able to help my daughter locate both a dress and a gift that she needed. She also wrapped the gift quickly and beautifully. We encountered nothing but positive touchpoints from beginning to end.

Related: How to Woo a Client Back After a Misunderstanding

So, that's something to consider, right? It might take a bit of strategy on your part to consider all of the touchpoints your customers encounter with your company, but you will be rewarded with loyal customers once you take steps to ensure those touchpoints are positive.

Karen Mishra

Marketing Consultant

Karen Mishra teaches marketing at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. She also runs a leadership and marketing consulting firm, Total Trust, in Durham, N.C.

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