Chances are, you’ve spent a lot of time worrying about customer service channels.
Multi-channel was the big buzzword for awhile. Now, it’s omni-channel. The questions remain the same:
- Which channels should your company use to serve customers?
- How should you manage, staff, and train for various channels?
- Which department owns each channel? (Marketing? PR? Customer service?)
Unfortunately, your customers don’t care.
Customers care about something much simpler, yet much more difficult to achieve. They want a seamless experience.
How Omni-channel Fails
Omni-channel experiences end up in service failures when there isn’t a seamless handoff from one channel to the next.
You may have heard agitated customers ask:
- Why do I have to DM my information when I Tweet a complaint?
- Why do I have to remember my confirmation number?
- Why don’t you already know what the last employee told me?
- Why can I do some transactions online, but not others?
- Why do I have to give you the same information I just entered into the IVR?
The list goes on.
Behind the scenes, these questions arise for a variety of reasons.
- Technology used to manage different channels might not be integrated.
- Different departments might manage different channels.
- Companies might be blind to their customers’ journey.
How Customers Think
Customers don’t think in terms of channels. They think in terms of convenience.
A great example is to look at how you communicate with your own friends. Chances are, you seamlessly communicate over multiple channels without ever losing the narrative.
I took this exercise a step further and asked some of my omni-channel friends how they communicate with me. Their responses were illuminating.
My friend Amber responded quickly to my email. She said:
My decision on how to contact people depends on my relationship with them and what the communication is regarding. If it’s personal, and just something to share, I’ll use social media. If it’s personal and I want a response, I’ll text. If it is business and I want a response but it’s not urgent, I send an e-mail. I’m not a phone person - as a Gen X-er I use phone calls as a last resort – when it’s business related and I need a quick answer.
My friend Jeremy is my most omni-channel friend. I counted ten different channels we’ve used to communicate over the past several months:
- Office phone
- Cell phone
- Disqus (comments on my blog)
- WordPress (comments on his blog)
- Face to Face
Here’s what Jeremy said:
My initial thought is that I communicate over the channel that requires the least time and emotional investment. That means email or text because I can very quickly send it and forget it. There’s no substitute for phone and face to face for cultivating a more dynamic relationship with another person though. The most profound thing for me when I see this list is the relationship. Regardless of the channel, that is the underlying theme. The channel is secondary and determined based on the circumstance.
My friend Larry is most likely to initiate a multi-channel conversation. He might ping me on Facebook and then send a Direct Message on Twitter when I respond. Here’s what he said:
With so many channels available to connect with each other it is important to be aware of what works best for the person in which you are trying to communicate. I have found that the best way to reach you Jeff, is to use e-mail. I know if it is not important or an FYI that you are on Twitter, I know you are active on certain tweet chats, I follow you on Facebook as well. But when I know I want to share something with you that I expect feedback, e-mail is the way to go.
But, there are some consistent themes that guide how my friends communicate. I suspect you’ll see similar themes if you do this exercise too:
- What works best for the message?
- What works best for the audience?
- Can the conversation continue seamlessly across channels?