I recently saw an interesting blog about omnichannel customer service recently that focuses on the way that people communicate today. This blog makes an interesting business point using examples that relate to the real world and I can relate to this entirely.
I have a friend who takes language classes on Skype. The student and teacher can see each other on video, talk to each other, can type text to each other on chat so the spelling of new words can be verified, and they can pass files back and forth, such as flashcards or images.
This simple example describes an interaction where at least three channels are being used simultaneously. Compare that to many customer encounters where organizations will ask the customer to change channel even when the customer wants to continue using the channel that they chose. Naturally where private information needs to be shared, it cannot be done openly on a public social network, but in many cases brands are forcing a channel shift just for their own convenience.
Brands need to accept that a customer operating across multiple channels is now situation normal, not the exception. They need to move on from just deploying a multichannel strategy where more channels are offered and supported, to the intelligence of the omnichannel where information can be intelligently shared across channels and customers using several channels at the same time can be identified and handled by a single agent – not spread across many disconnected agents.
There are two areas where this can really improve the customer experience:
1. Personalizing the experience; when the brands knows who the customer is because they know the channels that customer uses and even as a customer chooses to change channel themselves, for example if the customer is tired of waiting for an email reply so they call, then the agent knows about communication on other channels. In this situation the ideal is to welcome the customer then apologize that the email was not answered yet, but the issue can now be dealt with immediately – a far better response than asking the customer on the phone to explain the situation again.
2. Channel shift required by the brand; if the brand needs to force a channel shift, perhaps for regulatory or privacy reasons, then they should be able to do it without the customer losing connection with an agent, or at least maintaining the same information. For example, if a customer uses web-chat to ask a question and the organization answers, but suggests that to talk in more detail a call is required, the customer service agent should be able to initiate the call. The worst possible case would be to tell the customer they need to make a call and then explain it all over again to a new agent.
Managing the omnichannel in this way is really about meeting customer expectations and improving the overall customer experience. Every organization should be exploring and measuring the customer journey, the sum total of every interaction between customer and organization. Customers today have an expectation that they can not only define the channels they want to use for communication, but can also switch channel easily.
We see this channel-hopping taking place increasingly in our daily life, just like the Skype example I gave earlier in addition to people being comfortable jumping between voice, text, and social networks in communication with friends and family. Organizations need to take on board this shift in the way that people communicate or risk appearing to be ignoring how customers actually want to interact.