ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


6 Best Practices for Optimizing Multichannel Services

A new ICMI study, Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center, provides fascinating insight into how organizations are building multichannel services and fostering customer engagement. Suffice it to say, we’re not there yet—only 25% of companies feel their customers are extremely engaged with their brand, and multichannel service is a work in progress.

But as the research also reveals, progress is happening, rapidly. Want to be ahead of the pack? The report identifies six best practices that those organizations furthest ahead are using to optimize and benefit from multichannel support. Here’s a summary of each:

1. Provide communication channel options

Give customers choices in how they interact and can access the services they need, including through mobile, social and advanced self-service options. Customers don’t think about it much when the channels are there—but they notice when they’re not. We just don’t know which channels are right for each customer in any given situation, and they are significantly more satisfied if they can use the channel they prefer.

2. Deliver unified tools and processes

As customers use new channels, they begin to get used to and expect them. They’ll quickly learn if service is better in one channel versus another, leading to channel switching, duplicate work and parallel efforts. But where service is consistent, they begin to think far less about the channel they are using. Unified tools and processes enabling a similar look and feel across channels contribute greatly to simplicity, effectiveness, and the overall experience.

3. Uphold a strategy of monitoring and engagement across all channels

The well-worn practices of monitoring, coaching and quality improvement for traditional channels must also be an inherent part of managing newer channels. The majority of quality criteria apply across channels—you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Each channel has unique cultural and communication norms, but criteria such as identifying customer needs, delivering the right information and service, accurately capturing needed and useful information are uniformly important. The most powerful potential is capturing information that enables you to improve products, services and processes beyond the contact center.

4. Establish direct links and easy transitions between the channels

As you put options out there, you’re implying service promises that impact your brand. Glitchy or feature-poor mobile apps, spotty support in social channels, customer communities that languish without needed input, and other problems can do more harm than good. However, nobody gets it perfect, and direct links and easy access across channels provide critical release valves, and take much risk out of cultivating new access alternatives.

5. Encourage access to free-standing information through automated/interactive self-service

Remember an important tenet of knowledge management: Service is more effective and efficient as you harnesses knowledge gained from any interaction into a body of knowledge that is constantly and inherently being updated and improved (think of Wikipedia in a customer service context). This principle can extend beyond channels and into products, e.g., software programs that provide direct access to user communities or FAQ resources.

6. Enable customers to reach agents from any channel

It may seem counterintuitive, but easy access to agents builds confidence in and more use of self-service capabilities. Don’t trap customers and don’t get too clever in trying to shepherd them along specific paths. They’ll notice ease of use, choice and seamless options to transition—and happily, will often migrate to lower cost alternatives.

As the report summarizes, “a trifecta of the right emerging channels for your audience, happy agents, and a unified multichannel environment can quickly transform moderate engagement into extreme engagement.” And that can, in turn, transform the business results of your organization.

Please drop me a note with your stories, comments, feedback… I’d love to hear from you.