Seizing the multi-channel opportunity
Customer service operations often struggle with the reality of multi-channel service. It isn’t easy. Done right, however, the benefits can be considerable, with improved first contact resolution, improved customer satisfaction and ultimately increased customer retention.
Some organisations already receive over half of their customer contact by email, and consumers are broadening their own channel use. According to recent research, over 10 per cent of consumers have already used web chat to communicate with a contact centre, one in five have used SMS messaging, while almost a quarter suggested they would like to have the option of using online chat instead of voice. Consumers also clearly have strong views about the channels they use, and most of us react negatively when we feel that the companies we deal with are forcing us down our least preferred channels.
Integrating your channels & adopting the right approach
Many organisations overlook the importance of approaching channel integration from both a strategic and a technology perspective. The good news is that there aren’t many significant technology barriers to effective multi-channel integration. But just because you can support a channel doesn’t mean you necessarily should from a business perspective. For example, a mobile phone company might have a large volume of customers on pre-pay plans, but their customer management goal for these customers is far more likely to be directed towards self-service rather than the expensive and real time handling of SMS texts by agents.
It’s also important to make sure you operate a coherent and consistent approach across multiple customer channels. It’s fairly simple to set up triggers to let you know if a customer that you’re about to target with an outbound call has contacted you in the last few days or weeks. Technology can play an important part here in helping to break down many of the silos that used to exist between distinct parts of the business such as Collections and Customer Service.
Taking a more joined-up service approach
One of the key reasons that organisations are investigating the multi channel route is because they’re looking to reap the benefits of offering a more positive, joined-up experience for their customers, retain customer loyalty, and benefit from its cost-effectiveness.
Many businesses have successfully taken the first key step to multi-channel by opening up their operations on the web. However, most are still some way behind the curve when it comes to offering a fully blended inbound and outbound experience across key channels such as email & SMS.
Yet it’s difficult for a business to justify offering a high quality email response service if it is going to cost more per interaction than a traditional voice call. Every business needs to make their own judgement calls – channel by channel. We also need to acknowledge that any multi-channel experience should be evolutionary and co-exist with a business’ existing IT and telephony infrastructure
Moving away from traditional ‘silo’ structures
Part of the challenge for organisations is that separate functions such as the call centre and e-business operations have been treated as distinct business operations, often removed from core corporate functions such as sales, and marketing. Quite often the contact centre isn’t viewed as an essential hub for all a company’s customer-facing activities. The good news is that this kind of traditional thinking is changing.
Another key requirement is to ensure that a new channel will be properly resourced and handled in a way that’s appropriate to the channel itself. With IM and webchat, it’s pointless and potentially brand damaging to offer the service if the response isn’t going to be real time or delivered by agents trained to communicate through these channels.
The increasing importance of real time channels
it’s easy to understand why some businesses leave newer channels to one side as they wait for their markets to recover from the downturn. That would be a mistake. The different devices that customers use as their primary communications channel will invariably impact channel take-up. A growing percentage of mobile phones can now handle email and Web, and will provide a useful tool for organisations in delivering ‘assisted’ service to customers, potentially across multiple channels.
Addressing the challenge of web forums and social networking
Customer service organisations need to move away from thinking they can ‘police’ or control forums, and instead adopt a model that focuses on positive engagement.
Real-time short messaging services such as Twitter also have a place in the multi-channel puzzle, along with successful social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. However, these channels are in their infancy and sites such as Twitter are still evolving as the business realises the impact of its ingenuity and moves to build on its initial success. Organisations need to consider which channels are most important for their own business, and work out how much effort, resource and cost is needed to support their key channels.
Post produced by Call Centre Crier