Our panel of experts share their thoughts on how to provide good and consistent multichannel service.
1. Respect the Customers’ Channel of Choice
Focus on the channels that are most important to customers and optimise those channels. Try to resolve customer issues within that channel. For instance, don’t respond to a Tweet by asking a customer to call in.
If the contact centre is going to set up a new channel, make sure to properly educate customers on how to use it effectively.
Remember, customers will learn the most efficient way to handle an issue and stick to it, so make sure new channels are easy to “take-up”.
2. Maintain Context Across Channels
If consumers do wish to change channels, businesses should also make sure to maintain context across their various service channels, so that customers don’t have to repeat their problem each time they change channels.
This also helps to personalise the customer experience, enabling an organisation to identify where a customer is in the buyer’s journey, when answering queries.
Thanks to Jane Price at Interactions
3. Don’t Measure Channels in Isolation
All too often we manage our customer contact channels in isolation. Each channel is dealt with by different departments, who rarely talk to each other. Reports and insight are produced independently, and we pigeon hole our customers by channel.
However, some of the most valuable customer insight we can gain is by looking at the point that customers switch channels and asking why. This can highlight process failures and where we are not meeting the expectations of our customers. By addressing these, we can improve customer satisfaction while reducing costs.
Make the effort to link data for all channels by customer, then ensure that the contact centre has an insight function with the remit to map out multichannel customer journeys, investigate the pain points and the influence to drive improvements wherever they are needed.
Thanks to Ian Robertson at The Forum
4. Focus on Optimising the Customer Journey
All businesses should be asking themselves: how do we give the customer what they want quickly and easily?
All businesses should be asking themselves: How do we give the customer what they want quickly and easily?
To answer the question, they first need to know the age and profile of the customer; the devices they typically use and the problem they are trying to solve. This process will help them understand the optimal customer journey and what systems, solutions, people, policies and processes need to be in place to deliver it.
Most businesses know the top five reasons customers are likely to want to interact with them. They can anticipate many of the questions their customers are likely to ask.
Focusing on optimising these journeys should enable them to achieve productivity gains and customer satisfaction uplift.
5. Crowdsource Customer Service
Organisations today should be aware of the opportunity that social service can provide. Their customers can act as an extension of their customer service team.
These organisations first need to ensure that they are creating the right self-service platforms to enable social service. Then, they need to build user forums, FAQs and social media, monitoring to enable customers to interact and work together to solve common queries and problems.
However, businesses should not only be aware of social media conversations but also be able to react quickly as and when required, stepping in to address concerns and shape the debate.
6. Change Company Attitudes Towards Multichannel
Typically, the biggest issue businesses have in transitioning to multichannel customer service is not around the technology, rather it’s around the policies they have in place; the prevailing culture and the personal agendas of employees. Most customer journeys run horizontally from A to B, but most businesses have a vertical hierarchical structure in place.
Within many organisations, there are frequent disputes about which individuals are ultimately responsible for which elements of the customer journey. Businesses must look to break down the legacy policies and all the politics.
Often, the best approach is to start from scratch with a blank piece of paper and ask: what does the customer want, and what does the optimal journey look like? and then start to map people to that journey.
Thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive
7. Don’t Lose Sight of Great Customer Service
If the contact centre can’t deal with a customer query effectively and consistently across all its channels, then what is the benefit of having multiple channels? If it can offer great customer service across two or three channels, the organisation will recruit and retain customers. However, confuse them and deliver poor customer service across four or five channels, and some customers will leave.
So, be clear on strategy. Have the right systems, a central plan and the support of well-trained employees. When the customer chooses a channel, be able to deliver first time.
Make it easy for the customer to switch channels. The customer sees the advisors as the face of the business, irrespective of internal complexity. The customer doesn’t want to have to repeat themselves and they don’t want to wait too long.
Thanks to Paul Jackson-Moss at The Forum
8. Use Channels That Are Most Appropriate to the Customer Base
Organisations should use channels that its customer base is comfortable with and that they use regularly and trust. If the user base is younger, then social media or messaging platforms may be the right choice, and if they’re older, then a letter or call may help.
Remember that certain messages may be suited to certain platforms, so ensuring appropriate delivery is key.
Along with ease of communication, customers are more likely to see messages and become engaged with them if the correct channel is picked.
Due to their reach and ease of use, messaging apps also offer a compelling stage for automated self-service, particularly chatbots.
Thanks to Keiron Dalton at Aspect Software
9. Understand Demand and Get Staffing Right
Understanding the demand and profile across all channels is fundamental to an effective planning cycle. With multichannel customer service now commonplace in most contact centres, having an accurate and suitable forecasting method is more important than ever.
An effective workforce management (WFM) tool will help the contact centre to forecast a realistic baseline for contact volumes and build seasonality trends specific to the organisation, allowing for proactive preparation in the long and short term.
Moreover, WFM tools will allow the contact centre to better understand demand across available channels and enhance customer experience by identifying training requirements to up-skill advisors.
Thanks to Neil Draycott at Business Systems
10. Extend Best Quality Processes Across All Channels, Not Just Voice
Most organisations are not able to extend their best quality and training practices to channels beyond voice and are not able to understand the whole customer journey, due to lack of efficient capture.
Organisations that have successfully achieved their customer service objectives across channels have done so through the alignment of people, processes and technologies.
In other words, they have done so by continually coaching their advisors, ensuring that all channels are monitored and evaluated according to dedicated KPIs and using technology that empowers them.
Thanks to Pearl Lieberman at NICE
11. Ensure Customers Can Speak to a Human Being When They Want To
According to Microsoft’s Richard Peers, by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without people.
However, while customers clearly value self-service or multichannel offerings, removing the human touch from consumer ‘conversations’ can be a risky approach – particularly when they are unhappy. This is because 53% of customers still prefer to engage with businesses face to face or over the phone. So, by removing the opportunity to speak to someone, the contact centre risks upsetting over half of their customers!
Therefore, it makes sense to analyse every interaction to identify when the ‘human touch’ is essential to delivering a perfect customer experience. Armed with this analysis, the contact centre can optimise advisor availability and route customers accordingly.
Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
12. Don’t Rush Into Implementing New Channels
Irrespective of whether customer interaction is via voice, webchat, social media or a messaging app, customers want and expect the same level of service.
So, don’t rush into implementing a new channel. Research is important – choose the right channel.
Profile customers and consider what products or services are sold. Are enquiries straightforward or in more complex areas is a voice call inevitable?
The secret to a successful omnichannel strategy is to incorporate the right channels for the business – not just add the latest one and hope for the best.
Thanks to Colin Hay at Puzzel
13. Consider Integrating All Contact Centre Channels
One of the biggest drivers of repeat contacts is customers picking up the phone because their first attempt to resolve their issue using another channel has failed.
Adding multiple channels and options without integrating them will lead to confusion, as advisors will not have the ability to access all previous customer interactions and will therefore be unaware of the customer’s history, which will lengthen the time it takes to resolve the issue.
If all of contact centre channels are integrated, then advisors will have access to all previous communication regardless of the channel used, and this information can be used to resolve issues first time.
14. Understand Customer Communication Preferences
Web self-service is something that most consumers welcome for simple interactions and straightforward enquiries, while SMS can be a great way of keeping customers informed of any updates. This can free up time for advisors to deal with the more complicated inquiries.
However, not everyone in a demographic will have the same communication preferences. In fact, most customers no longer fit into the traditional age or gender groups either.
Therefore, it is essential that all customers are given a choice in terms of their preferred communication method and customer profiling must become intuitive and dynamic, in order to understand customer preferences and anticipate their future needs.
Thanks to Enda Kenneally at West Unified Communications
15. Be Consistent Across All Channels
Organisations should consider embracing multichannel customer support and be prepared to solve problems quickly and effectively through any channel, even predicting which channel customers are most likely to use.
If organisations can’t provide the highest levels of service to customers across multiple platforms, customers are more likely than ever to go and find a rival company that can.
So, it is helpful for organisations to have the ability to tie all channel interactions to an advisor, so that, regardless of who handles the individual case, the advisor is fully aware of what has happened before.
By doing this, companies can give customers a sense of continuity and increase the speed of case resolution.
Thanks to Tim Pickard at NewVoiceMedia
16. Combine the Right Technology With Training
Having multiple customer service channels, such as social media, email and webchat, is extremely beneficial for customers. However, 34% of customer service agents say they’re not confident working in this omnichannel environment.
To offer truly multichannel customer service, businesses require a combination of training and technology. Training advisors to be confident and competent in every channel is crucial, as is technology infrastructure that makes it easier to interact across multiple channels simultaneously.
Thanks to David Rowlands at 8×8
17. Enable a Unified Approach to Customer Experience
Organisations that use a number of different systems for customer service often struggle to live up to customer expectations.
Due to a lack of modern infrastructure, these organisations are not able to gather all the customer information they need. This often results in both agent and customer frustration.
To improve customer satisfaction, organisations need to increase productivity among agents and the back office. This can be accomplished by providing collaboration tools with an intuitive single-view interface or dashboard, to provide customers with a seamless experience.
Thanks to David Paulding at Genesys
For more on the future of the multichannel contact centre, read our articles: