Almost every company needs to manage an ongoing conversation with customers. It could be for the handling of complaints. It could be that your customers ask for a lot of information before making a purchase. Or it could just be that your customers are particularly social.
The customer service channel used to be strictly defined; customers were guided to a free phone number or email address. These defined channels were how they could get in touch and communicate with the customer service team, but in the past five years this has been turned upside down.
Now it is the customers that define which channel they want to use and if a customer makes a choice about the communication channel they prefer then any smart company will reply on the same channel. The explosion of social networks and the mobile Internet has completely changed how people communicate with each other and this has had a major effect on how brands communicate with their customers.
Think about all the different ways that you have communicated with a company recently. I’m sure that you might have used channels such as a voice call, email, chat or instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and product review pages like Tripadvisor.
You might be even more sophisticated and cutting edge than me, but even this list consists of half a dozen ways that consumers are regularly using to communicate with brands.
Managing these channels has been a challenge for many companies, but adding extra channels to the existing customer service function isn’t the only requirement. What companies need to manage is a single view on who they are – an omnichannel communication strategy.
Think of an airline customer who made a mistake during their flight booking. They realize the error and want to find out if it is possible to make a change without a heavy penalty. The customer is in a hurry so she tweets the airline this question then jumps in her car. On arriving at the office there has been no response so she emails the question and then gets on with her work. By lunchtime, with no response to the tweet or email she calls and finds that the agent has no idea that she has already attempted to ask this question twice that morning. The customer then gets angry because the agent says that any booking errors must be rectified within an hour of the booking taking place.
The customer response in this situation is likely to be a screamed “I did tell you immediately on Twitter” only for the agent to respond, “but I cannot see that information, therefore nothing can be done.”
Customer service teams need the ability to connect together various strands of data so all customer communications can be overseen, regardless of the channel used. Customers really do hop about from one channel to another today because each channel offers different advantages – often related to time.
In this example, the voice agent might not be able to answer the question any faster, but if the call is answered and the agent immediately says, “I can see that you asked us a question a couple of hours ago. I can confirm that we can change your details because you informed us immediately” then the satisfaction of the customer is entirely different to the example where the agent knows nothing about any other service channels.
But to really make the omnichannel work well, you don’t just need a way of pulling together the various channels. Two other areas of planning are critical:
- Monitoring; often the customer talking about your products on a channel such as Twitter is not directing the comment at you. You need to go out and find what people are saying on various channels so that you can respond – this needs some sophisticated monitoring of blogs, social networks, and review sites.
- Ability to change; channels are developing all the time. The texting app Whatsapp is quickly developing into a new channel that many customers are using, but if you have outsourced all your customer care to a provider that has a very inflexible contract then how can you add new channels, drop unused ones, and ensure that your customer care team is always ready to help, regardless of which channel is used?
Managing the omnichannel is about more than just adding multiple channels. It needs planning to work well and it is essential that you get this right – your customers expect it!
Executive Vice President of Marketing, Teleperformance
Amit is responsible for leading product innovation, business intelligence, brand management, public relations, demand generation, and other associated go-to-market activities for Teleperformance’s EWAP region. Amit brings a tenured history in the BPO arena having served in strategic planning, marketing, sales, product development and operations. Most recently, he served as the Chief Marketing Officer at leading BPO organizations. Amit is a contributor to various publications such as the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and BusinessWeek. He is a frequent speaker at thought leadership seminars and conferences globally. Amit has a very global perspective having lived, and being educated, in 3 continents.