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The multi-channel challenge

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By Martin Conboy

multi-channelThe ability to offer customers the ability to communicate with a brand via a variety of channels has been the Holy Grail for the contact centre and BPO industries for quite some time. Now days customers are multi channel shoppers and business as a whole are struggling to meet the multi-channel expectations of their customers.

But how do you do this while maintaining consistency in the level and quality of service being provided. Adding new channels without a coherent and integrated channel strategy can lead to a chaotic and uncontrolled experience for customers. The exact opposite of what you want.

The goal of multi-channel customer service is to give customers a seamless experience irrespective of the channel they use to contact the organisation. Most companies recognise the importance of it, but acknowledge that they don’t have the systems or processes in place to do it effectively . Thus technology investment is critical to enabling exceptional customer experience. The ability to offer a multi channel experience is now a brand differentiator.

The challenge within

Most organisations cite internal structure as the main challenge. Silos within an enterprise means that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. One may well find that serious departmental brick walls, or silos, exist in the organisation that can hinder its progress in terms of process effectiveness and efficiency – or worse, profitability.

The help desk handling support questions via live chat is not integrated with customer complaints or billing enquiry phone lines. Each departmental silo has its own view of the customer, that’s very different to how the rest of the organisation views them. Attitudes can differ significantly between different sets of departments and industries around a wide range of categories – including timeliness, information quality, trustworthiness, professionalism and impact of service.

As such the customer may feel they are dealing with a different organisation depending on the channel and the type of interaction they require. Adding another channel can more than likely fragment that view even further and frustrate the customer rather than improving their experience.

The complexity of trying to integrate these various channels is enormous, where organisations lose site of the forest because of all the trees. Just maybe it is better to have 2 or 3 channels that are highly effective than a dozen or so that aren’t working so well.

The data challenge

Customers themselves are fickle creatures. They don’t all want the same thing and what they want changes over time. Organisations have access to vast stores of customer data stored in transactional databases, surveys and feedback forms, on emails, social media platforms etc., that can be used to better understand customer behaviour and expectations. But unifying these data sources to provide actionable insight can be tantamount to searching for a needle in a haystack.

Continuous Partial Attention (CPA), is the process of paying simultaneous attention to a number of sources of incoming information, i.e. customer feedback, warehouse withdrawals, and website hits, but at a superficial level.

Linda Stone coined the term in 1998. Author, Steven Berlin Johnson, describes this as a kind of multitasking: “It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data; picking out the relevant details and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially. CPA lets you cast a wider net but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish”.

Operating under such a value network might lead a company to “listen too much” to its main customers. As a result, it will not recognise potentially disruptive innovations that serve only marginal customers. Secondly, large companies will not be interested in small markets; they hardly offer significant growth opportunities. Again this will lead companies to completely ignore the disruptive innovation or to wait until the market is “large enough to be attractive”. That is exactly when new entrants attack incumbent’s turf, and by that time it is usually too late.

Don’t try to be all things to all people all at once

Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is multi-channel customer service. Take the time to evaluate the performance of each channel and how it can be improved and integrated with your other channels based on customer feedback and preferences.

Improve gradually over time rather than attempting too much all at once. Customers are more likely to be impressed by constant gradual improvement than a massive project to re-engineer everything, which might fall by the wayside for being too difficult.

https://econsultancy.com/reports/multichannel-customer-experience-report
June 2, 2015
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