Another problem is that customers may interact with organizations at different contact points. A contact point is the method a customer uses to communicate with an organization. For instance, consider the different ways customers may interact with an organization:
- In-Person Assistance – Customers seek in-person assistance for their needs by visiting retail stores and other outlets, and also through discussion with company salespeople who visit customers at their place of business or in their home.
- Telephone – Customers seeking to make purchases or have a problem solved may find it more convenient to do so through phone contact. In many organizations a dedicated department, called a call center, handles all incoming customer inquiries.
- Digital Networks – The fastest growing contact points are through electronic communication over the internet and through mobile networks, including through mobile apps. The use of these networks for purchasing (i.e., electronic commerce or e-commerce) has exploded and is now the leading method for purchasing certain types of products, including music. These communication networks have also become the primary area many customers look to first for help with their purchases such as seeking online help, product usage information, and recommendations for additional products.
- In-Person Product Support – Some in-person assistance is not principally intended to assist with selling but is designed to offer support once a purchase is made. Such services are handled by delivery people and service/repair technicians.
- Kiosks – A kiosk is a standalone, interactive computer, often equipped with a touch-screen, that offers customers several service options including product information, ability to make a purchase, and review of a customer’s account. Kiosks are now widely used for airline check-in, banking, making in-store purchases, and much more.
- Financial Assistance – Customer contact may also occur through company personnel who assist customers with financial issues. For instance, credit personnel help customers arrange the necessary funds to make a purchase while personnel in accounts receivable work with customers who are experiencing payment problems.
The challenge of insuring that customers are handled properly no matter the contact point they use is daunting for many companies. For some organizations the customer contact points cited above operate independently of others. For instance, retail stores may not be directly connected to telephone customer service. The result is that for different contact points many companies have developed different procedures and techniques for handling customers. And for some firms there exists little integration between the contact points so customers communicating through one point one day and another point the next day may receive conflicting information. In such cases customers are likely to become frustrated and question the organization’s ability to service its customers.