Adding Non-Voice Channels to the Mix: Consider Your Customers
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Adding Non-Voice Channels to the Mix: Consider Your Customers

Calling a contact center has long been associated with queuing and long wait times, customers today don’t have that time to wait and therefore turn to other channels. Non-voice channels take up a large portion of WFO today with chat, social, mobile and email the most prominent.

Not every contact center should be engaged in all channels and the word optimization should be an indicator of this.

Optimizing is about leveraging what you are using to its maximum. Like most aspects of a business the primary factor for consideration is the customer, the customer service channels should be dictated by an organization’s customers not management. Adding the latest channel just because it’s trendy is not a good enough reason to disrupt your customer service department.

ASSESSING WHICH CUSTOMER SERVICE CHANNELS TO OFFER

There is no black or white answer to this, but as a rule of thumb a company should be as flexible as their customers are as well anticipating what may be useful to their customers in the future.  A company should be prepared to try out new channels and assess whether they added value to the organization or not.

MARKET RESEARCH

  • Carry out customer service channel research and competitor analysis.
  • Research your customers’ preferences.
  • Ask your customers, don’t make assumptions. 
  • Carry out surveys, focus groups, use customer feedback.
  • Trial a test run with a sample and evaluate. 

Some channels are more popular with certain demographics (see below) highlighting the importance of understanding your customers again.

Preferred Communication Channel by generation: DMG Consulting Survey


UNDERSTAND INTERNAL CAPABILITIES

Estimating what will be required within the contact center to make a new channel work is key in assessing the feasibility of a new channel; training, new staff, new department, monitoring, changes in policy, etc.  Extra caution needs to be considered for public facing customer service channels as mishandled interactions are instantly visible before they can be rectified.

The big questions to ask before adding non-voice channels:

  1. What value will your customers and your business gain?
  2. Is there a demand for it? Are customers already suggesting it?
  3. What is required to implement?
  4. How will I monitor this channel?

Here are advantages and disadvantages of the most popular non-voice channels as well as a sample customer who would gain value from it

QUALITY & TRANSPARENCY: INHERENT CHARACTERISTICS OF NON-VOICE CHANNELS

Most of the cons are associated with low quality customer service, which identifies that when adding non-voice channels maintaining a high quality of customer service is even more important as customers are armed with the tools to share their exact interaction online in seconds, they pose a greater threat for making a dent in a brand’s customer service reputation. There is absolute transparency in the customer service delivered. But is this such a bad thing? Being pushed to give the best customer experience possible shouldn't’t be a negative.

In summary there are always other channels you can explore and add to your customer service delivery but if it isn’t helpful for your existing customers or new ones, it will be difficult to justify. And in a world where the customer has increased bargaining power the demand for high quality is always increasing.

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Topics: Workforce Management, Multichannel Contact Center

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Kevin Fredrick — 11:41AM on May 1, 2014

This is a great article, and speaks to the importance of properly evaluating non-voice channels. I particularly love that you brought up "Like most aspects of a business the primary factor for consideration is the customer, the customer service channels should be dictated by an organization’s customers not management."

However, in your graphic the only mention you make regarding SMS is how some outbound messages can be invasive (which is completely true). However, there is no mention of "text chat" at all. That is where a customer can be texting with an agent who replies through a web chat client. Do you have any additional thoughts about that?

Anna Byrne — 3:48AM on May 14, 2014

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you liked the article.

My views on text chat would be that it is convenient for the customer, especially those on the go, rather than holding on the phone they can do other things. The written interaction may be helpful in the future for the customer as a reference point. The main negative I would see in it would be that it isn't free like the likes of social media correspondence, email or live chat. What is your opinion on text chat?

Kevin Fredrick — 6:49PM on May 14, 2014

Hi Anna,

Thanks for engaging with me on this post! It's always great to connect with other members of our community.

To your point about cost, you are right- text messaging costs money. The good news is that the is is very affordable (for both the business and the customer) and that the benefits (several of which you brought up) far outweigh the costs. From what we can tell, SMS is the next big thing in customer care, and forward thinking businesses will benefit from using the channel as long as they honor existing behavioral patterns and the implied promises of this very intimate channel.

Anna Byrne — 8:43AM on May 23, 2014

Hi Kevin,

I agree that it could add a great dimension to a businesses customer service offering but they need to thread softly and follow behavioral patterns laid down by the customer. How long do you think it will be before there is a massive uptake in the channel? Or do you consider it to have already come into its own?

Anna Byrne — 8:44AM on May 23, 2014

Hi Kevin,

I agree that it could add a great dimension to a businesses customer service offering but they need to thread softly and follow behavioral patterns laid down by the customer. How long do you think it will be before there is a massive uptake in the channel? Or do you consider it to have already come into its own?

Kevin Fredrick — 1:11PM on May 25, 2014

Hi Anna,

We (OneReach.com) believe that SMS is about to burst onto the stage in a big way. Here is a quote from the 2013 CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT BENCHMARK STUDY that supports this theory: "While adoption of text-for-assistance remains low, 46% of 2013 respondents without a current solution have plans to develop one. This contrasts strongly with the 2012 finding that 89% of respondents without a text-for-assistance solution hadn’t even considered text-for-assistance as an option."

Do you agree?

Kevin Fredrick — 1:11PM on May 25, 2014

Hi Anna,

We (OneReach.com) believe that SMS is about to burst onto the stage in a big way. Here is a quote from the 2013 CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT BENCHMARK STUDY that supports this theory: "While adoption of text-for-assistance remains low, 46% of 2013 respondents without a current solution have plans to develop one. This contrasts strongly with the 2012 finding that 89% of respondents without a text-for-assistance solution hadn’t even considered text-for-assistance as an option."

Do you agree?

Anna Byrne — 2:53AM on May 28, 2014

Hi Kevin,

It's not an area I have did much research on to be honest, but it certainly looks promising judging by that report's findings. I suppose I would be interested to know if other reports echo the same message before I could say I strongly agree.

Kevin Fredrick — 7:05PM on May 28, 2014

Hi Anna,

I can certainly appreciate your position. I just sent you a LinkedIn request. Perhaps we can continue this conversation there?

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