Does Your Business Have What It Takes to Handle the Multichannel Customer?

Posted by Rebecca MacLeod

2/11/15 2:35 PM

Communication_Channels_ImageGone are the days when a customer’s only option for reaching a company’s customer service department was to pick up the phone and dial an 800 number. Thanks to the Internet, consumers now have a breadth of communications channels—such as email, live chat, SMS and social media—from which to choose.

No two customers are the same; different people prefer different methods of support. According to a survey of 8,000 consumers conducted by Ovum, 52 percent of consumers use three or four communication channels when engaging customer service. While 56 percent of participants still favor traditional phone calls with agents, 44 percent prefer non-voice channels—such as email and social media—as their first choice for customer service.

From the customer perspective, having several options for communicating with a brand is beneficial because they have more control, demanding service anytime, anywhere via the channel of their choice. From a business perspective, however, the emergence of the multichannel customer poses a significant number of challenges.

Consumers have come to expect consistent service across multiple channels. They want to be able to start a customer service interaction in one channel and complete it another seamlessly. Delivering a consistent experience across multiple touch points can be difficult for companies, especially when they don’t have the right technology infrastructure in place.

What’s more, each communication channel is unique, meaning agents must have a wide range of skills both verbal and written. For example, agents that communicate with customers via email or live chat must have solid grammar and syntax, while an agent using social must be up to speed on the latest social slang.

Given these challenges and the rapid development of new communication channels, companies must prepare themselves to meet increased consumer demand by learning all the fundamental steps needed to effectively manage a multichannel operation and adopt a comprehensive strategy. Below are some important tips and tricks for launching a successful multichannel strategy:

  1. Choose your channels wisely: From mobile to live chat to video, there is an abundance of communication channels available. Just because all of these channels exist, however, doesn’t necessary mean they are all appropriate for your business. Do some research and mine through existing data to determine which channels your customers frequently use when they have an inquiry.

  2. Onboard the right technology: One of the biggest obstacles holding companies back from delivering a seamless multichannel experience is a lack of data integration. When data is trapped in various silos, it can be difficult for agents to access the customer information they need to effectively and efficiently service a customer. Make sure you adopt a technology platform that helps integrate data from multiple channels to create a single view of the customer.

  3. Provide ongoing training: Communication trends come and go. Everyday there seems to be a new social media platform or acronym added to the already long list. It’s important for agents to say on top of these emerging trends as it will help them deliver a seamless experience, so be sure to provide agents with continual training.

Customers are becoming ever more demanding, and those firms that want to keep retention rates high need to adopt a solid multichannel strategy. So, does your company have what it takes?

Topics: agent coaching, agent performance, coaching and training

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