Many articles I have read and presentations I have been to recently are claiming that, for a business to survive they have to offer more than just the voice channel for interactions with their customers. This is usually justified by statistics illustrating how social media usage has taken off across all age groups, and the infamous Generation Y only want to use non-verbal communication channels. Anyone with teenage children can relate to this!
How much of the data presented can be actually attributable to the end customer? In other words, how many consumers are surveyed to find out how they would like to deal with the companies they are customers of?
The implication that every contact centre has to offer their customers the ability to interact with them via phone, and email, and web chat, and SMS, and social media, and a custom-built smart phone app is simply not correct.
I believe it is highly likely that the idea that companies do need to offer the choice of appropriate channels to their customers – but as with everything else, the channels offered are not universal. For example, even if your customer demographic consists of a lot of technology-savvy younger people, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they all have access to the internet or a smart phone to contact you through non-voice channels.
Like everything else relating to customer service or contact centres, the only real way to know what your customers want is to find out through market research (if you ask them directly they will want everything!). Implementing a multi-channel (or omni-channel – and by the way, omni-channel is different to multi-channel) solution is a significant project so you need to be sure that your customers want it, and will actually use it or you risk adding significantly to your workload and cost with little return.
I recently heard of a market research company who recently undertook an exercise with consumers in their late 20s, tech-savvy and prefer to do things online. In this particular case the participants saw a smartphone app, email and live chat as “support” contact channels – secondary to voice, certainly not a replacement.
Before embarking on a multi-channel project, it is a good idea to look closely at your current operation and make sure it is easy for your customers to interact with you using your current channels. We have been using the term “customer service” for a long time now, but a more recent term is “customer ease” – customers really value the ability to interact with companies easily. Customers who feel they are the ones doing all the work are much more likely to take their business elsewhere.
So, before embarking in a multi-channel or omni-channel project, firstly get an independent third party to ensure your current channel(s) are working as well as they possibly can (additional channels will not fix poor customer service through existing channels). Secondly make sure your customers actually want additional channels. Market research may be better value than technology licences that your customers don’t use.
Once you have decided to head down the multi-channel path there are a lot of other challenges to consider before, during and after implementation (customer contacts and cost will usually increase markedly – not decrease) – but that is a story for another day.
What are your thoughts and experiences?
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