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Living in a Multichannel World

How to build customer loyalty by actually providing them what they need across multiple channels

Back in the 80’s Madonna was singing about living in a multichannel world.  OK, that was a material world but today in the contact center we really are living in a multichannel world.

At the 8x8 booth at the ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference, we were asked by contact managers over and over again about how to support customers who want to chat, how they reach out to customers and prospects who are talking about them in the social sphere, or how to handle escalations from the web, or from mobile or, SMS, or…  The list seems to go on and on with a new channel to talk about every few months

Three things you MUST do for your customer in a multichannel environment (or a single channel one for that matter)

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can’t serve all of the channels all the time” – Ok, he didn’t say that but his channel choices were things like telegraph lines or pony express riders.

It seems like there is always a shiny new channel to chase – everyone wants to meet their customers on their channel of choice.  Having an appearance on a new channel is all well and good, but the steps to provide a great customer experience are the same no matter what channel you meet your customers on:

  • Can you identify the customer and understand what they want?  We all think of IVRs as a self-service tool in the voice world, but this is only part of their value – a voice response interaction can also identify who a customer is and why they are calling, reducing agent talk time by allowing the agent to get down to the business of solving a customer’s problem right away.  Both the web and mobile applications provide a much richer environment for self-service as well as a much better tool for identifying who someone is and what they need.  Too bad that context is lost more often than not when the customer reaches out to an agent. 
  • Can the customer get his problem solved?  If you quickly get the customer to someone who cannot help them you are not doing anyone any good.  Can you take what you know about the customer and use it to match them to the agent who can best solve their problem?  Can you arm those agents with the information they need to help?
  • Is the service you provide consistent across all channels?  NOTHING is more frustrating than getting different answers to the same question at different times.  If I can get more help by whining on social media – you are going to be hearing a lot of whining from me. 

What’s a Contact Center Manager to do?

It’s easy for me to sit here and pontificate into my laptop about the importance of all of this.  That doesn’t make it easy for you in the real world with an actual contact center to run to make this happen.  There are many challenges:

  • Antiquated systems don’t give you the flexibility to manage customer interactions in the right way.
  • Organizational issues that get in the way – Marketing is trying to attract customers, the Contact Center is trying to reduce costs, oftentimes they don’t have any incentive to work together.
  • Agents having to traverse multiple screens across dozens of applications just to get basic customer and status information.

It CAN get better:

As George Harrison once said “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better” – he actually did say that.  There is a lot going on in the software world today that makes it easier to provide good service: 

  • Contact Center software and CRM systems are now able to leverage the cloud to get closer together and can be easily integrated to provide agents and other employees with the same information regardless of what channel a customer uses to reach your company.  At 8x8 we have integrations with Zendesk, SFDC, NetSuite and many other CRM systems.
  • You can mix inbound and outbound communications to proactively reach out to customers with status updates and other information and work through longer processes without forcing your customers to lob daily calls into a call center.
  • Most contact center systems support an array of channels today.  Agents can help across voice, chat, email etc.

It can actually get BETTER THAN EVER:

As John Lennon once said “Imagine there’s no hold time”  OK, he never said that but if he was a contact center nerd I bet he would have.

You can bring your agent to the customer.  With many cloud based contact center systems you can allow customers who are on the web or in a mobile app to request contact from an agent and that request can include all sorts of information on the customer to ensure that the problem is solved quickly and efficiently and with one interaction. 

Now we’re talking – this is not just muitichanne,l but this is the ability to support customers on a journey across multiple channels and do it in a way that allows for better customer relationships, all while significantly reducing contact center costs.

What’s a Contact Center Manager to do?

If you are going to do one thing – focus on good customer service: 

  • Make it easy for your agents to find the information they need.
  • Use self-service appropriately. Let customers help themselves whenever they can, don’t create a wall for assisted service when it’s appropriate, but focus on making the agent experience as efficient as possible.
  • Make the right connections – get customers to the people who can help, and make sure those people have the information they need.

The good news is that if you are focusing on your customer and providing the best service, the channels will start to take care of themselves.  The same process of good service works on the phone, and works via chat, and helps customers move from the web to the contact center. 

We are here and we are ready to help you design the right service process and to deliver that on as many channels that make sense for your organization.

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