Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments
The times, they are a changin’. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even as newer forms of communication rise in popularity among consumers, the intent for brands remains the same: effective communications resulting in customer satisfaction. Consumers are communicating in more ways than ever before, from a classic phone call to email, live chat, SMS and social media. They want the brands to “Know Them,” “Serve Them” and “Not Waste Their Time.” The challenge for brands lies in how to properly manage the right mix of channels and multichannel customer interactions, as well as ensure the customer journey across channels is a smooth one.
Easier said than done, right? Managing customer interactions across multiple channels is an everyday challenge brands are faced with. Take John, a customer of Acme Company, for example.
John purchases a gadget from Acme Company and is excited to start using it. He opens the box, assembles the product and pushes the power button. Nothing happens. He plugs it in to charge, waits the recommended amount of time and pushes the power button again. Nothing happens. What’s left to do but call the company? He dials the customer service number from the user manual and waits to speak with a representative. He waits…and waits…and waits…no answer. He hangs up and tries contacting the company through Twitter. He tweets to Acme Company and waits…and waits…and waits…and receives a canned response with no further follow up. His patience is wearing thin, but he decides to try again. This time, he visits the company website and opens a live chat window. A representative replies, but doesn’t offer any useful information on how to fix the issue.
He is very frustrated with the lack of service and resolution, and he decides to spread the word so others don’t have to go through the same experience. He posts a summary of his experience on Facebook, tweets a warning to his followers, writes a negative review on the company’s website and emails his local news station (since Acme is located in his hometown). In the amount of time it would have taken someone from Acme to communicate with John, apologize for the defective product and arrange to exchange it, he has started a firestorm of criticism and negativity online…and Acme has lost a customer for life.
One customer is all it takes to damage a brand’s reputation and negatively impact its bottom line. And one improperly managed multichannel customer service environment is where it all starts.
Today’s customers are more vocal than ever and have many public forums in which to share their opinions. Studies have shown that people are influenced more by the opinions and experiences of their friends and family than by product reviews or advertising. That being the case, every brand’s goal should be happy, satisfied customers or the brand won’t be around for long.
How can brands provide the best customer service and maintain those happy, satisfied customer relationships?
The answer comes in two parts: preparation and the implementation of easy-to-use tools that enable efficient multichannel contact centers.
Start With Some Serious Behind-The-Scenes Preparation
Contact center agents who answer the phones, monitor and engage on social media and reply to customer emails must be prepared. First and foremost, agents must be trained to handle interaction nuances associated with different channels. Contact center supervisors must update their hiring, training, compensation and performance measures, as well as quality assurance processes, to enable multichannel agent success. Whether those agents are split by channel or areas of expertise, insight into a customer’s history and real-time interactions with a brand is key. Agents must be equipped with a wider breadth and depth of information than ever before to ensure a positive customer experience across the customer journey. At a minimum, agents should be empowered with screen pops containing relevant customer contact, transaction and interaction history, regardless of which channels customers use, so that an effective resolution can be delivered quickly with minimum effort. Many leading brands are also aggregating real-time data from different touch points across the customer journey, such as e-commerce shopping carts, web analytics, call/chat queues, social graphics and other enterprise applications, in order to deliver a differentiated customer experience.
The New World of Multichannel Interaction Requires the Right Tools
This new multichannel environment is becoming the norm. One way to ensure contact center agents are knowledgeable and remain calm in all situations is to equip them with an integrated multichannel desktop. With the ability to monitor and view all communications channels on one screen—email, SMS, phone, live chat and social media—agents are better able to successfully engage with the customer. They can quickly and efficiently answer questions and resolve issues without having to jump between open windows and ask customers to repeat information.
A single-screen desktop also allows agents to easily pivot a customer interaction from one communication channel to another. It could be as simple as sending a text message that an agent will call to finalize a transaction, then following through and calling the customer. Or it could be as challenging as publicly replying to a Facebook post and following up with an email, text message or phone call (or all three) to resolve the issue. The more personal the response, the happier the customer. Customers expect real-time interaction and brands must deliver.
Contextual routing can also help brands deliver that personalized real-time customer service. By collecting information on customer interactions, detecting patterns and placing that information into context, brands can better engage with customers. Contextual routing takes into account current actions and activities, rather than relying on historical information. That means companies can take immediate action to potentially “save” a customer relationship before it is lost.
Going back to John’s story, imagine if Acme Company had an integrated multichannel desktop and contextual routing tools. The agent John had live chatted with would have been able to see that he had called (without speaking to someone) and posted on social media (without receiving a personalized message), and the agent could have tailored a response to acknowledge John’s previous efforts. The agent could have also immediately offered an exchange, instead of starting from the beginning, keeping John a happy customer and preventing his online venting.
The end result of every customer interaction should be a happy, satisfied customer. Ensuring agents can engage in a multichannel environment goes a long way to satisfying customers. And if that customer is happy enough or satisfied enough to share their experience through social media or reviews, all the better. What company wouldn’t love to have a happy brand ambassador? It’s much better than the alternative and not too difficult to accomplish with simple, efficient multichannel communication.