Gary Bennett, VP UKI/MEA/Northern Europe at Enghouse Interactive discusses the role of multichannel contact centre and self-service platforms.
Round-the-clock customer service has become an expectation as digital consumerism has grown. Today, that digital revolution shows no signs of slowing, with the e-commerce market projected to expand from $4.28bn in 2020 to $6.39bn in 2024. As a result, it’s no longer shop opening times that define a 24/7 service. In an always-on world, organisations need to know what their customers want, whether that’s instore or online.
In an increasingly digital environment where consumers expect prompt product delivery, driven by the convenience of online-only corporations such as Amazon, effective customer service across all channels is critically important. Delivering it with the help of web engagement tools such as web chat, video chat, and screen sharing capabilities will enable organisations to ensure their brand is linked with great customer service.
Even those businesses that moved to a completely online approach out of necessity at the beginning of the pandemic are now also seeking that hybrid middle ground between the virtual and the physical world. They need to define their customer service strategy with care, because customers will still visit stores, despite the balance shifting to online. The joined-up approach of the business needs to cover every mode of interaction and all channels whether physical or online.
Customers will expect that if they have started an interaction with an organisation in the virtual world and then walked into a shop, for example, the business should know who they are instantly and the status of their interaction.
Mapping out the best route for customers
The secret of getting all this right is putting in place a digital by design approach supported by customer journey mapping. To do this effectively, organisations need to think about segmenting their customers into different groups and then focusing on working out what channels are best suited for each type of customer, taking into account their preferred device and the nature of their interaction. They need to consider: what is going to give each customer type the fastest journey time, with the least amount of effort and the highest degree of reliability and then work back from that.
This ultimately is what we might call a digital by design approach. Unfortunately, in the past, we have too often seen instances of business opting for digital by default, simply layering in new digital channels for the sake of doing so. Sometimes, that stems from a misguided perception that they must have the capability merely because one of their competitors has it. Approaches like this, however, because they are driven by quantity of channels, often fail to maintain the quality and consistency of the service they offer across those channels.
Instead, their priority should always be to get their backbone customer interaction channels working to an optimum standard. Those channels should always include voice and email, but they may also encompass web chat; web self-service, and capability within their own applications, for example.
Increasingly too, in the retail context, video is likely to be one of these channels. When people are considering buying higher value items, they may appreciate the consultative approach that customer service agents can deliver while at the same time visually demonstrating how the product looks and works and what its key benefits are. Over time, we may also see applications here for technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality, for example, that are capable of showcasing products in a variety of different contexts and scenarios.
Whatever the new channel concerned, however, it’s critically important that it is fully integrated with those channels that have already been implemented so as to ensure that the customer always receives a seamless experience, regardless of the method of interaction. Otherwise, the business runs the risk that it generates customer frustration rather than customer satisfaction.
The classic example of the latter is when the customer starts the interaction with the business on the web by typing in detailed information about themselves and their query. The interaction then fails and they have to resort to calling the contact centre directly only to be asked for exactly the same information. All the effort they have made and all the time they have taken filling in details of themselves and their problem online, all of that contextual information is lost – and the customer is once again back to square one.
Rather than wasting time and effort in this way, organisations should be looking to ensure that by fully integrating their channels, they are able to capture the necessary context and present it to the customer service representative at the point of interaction. Ideally, that agent should have the full 360˚ view of all the emails the customer has sent, the webpages they have visited, what they have filled in and where they got stuck. And by doing so, they should be able to pinpoint how they have moved from one interaction mode to another.
All this is critically important and is another clear indication that while technology is powerful and liberating when deployed correctly, simply adding it into the customer service mix for its own sake will have limited value. Businesses instead need to ensure they are implementing a truly digital by design approach; doing due diligence on what their customers really want and need, and mapping the customer journey accurately, before layering in the additional channels they think will add value.
Gauging the voice of the customer
Throughout this whole process too, businesses should always be ensuring that they are capturing the voice of the customer, analysing and reporting on it in order to improve the customer experience moving forward across whatever channels customers have selected.
This enables them to get ongoing feedback on which channels are working well and which less so as well as why customers like or dislike certain elements of the service portfolio so that, where necessary, improvements can be made. Latest tools that make use of embedded AI to extract intelligence not only from voice conversations but also from interactions made through web chat, email, social media and even speech to text data add further insights into customer behaviour.
Putting customers first in the new digital world
As the march to digitalisation continues, customers increasingly want prompt service delivery and effortless interaction with the business. Organisations need to understand that and develop a digital by design model, integrate new channels seamlessly with existing ones and support the whole approach by capturing the voice of the customer. If they do all this well, they will not only understand their customers much better but will also be well placed to deliver optimum levels of service to them.
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