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.


Grab the Remote: Time to Change the (omni)channel

If you’ve ever spent more than 15 minutes on hold with a customer service representative, you likely understand the frustration that brews during the wait. Add any other complexity on the road to resolution, and more emotions will begin to bubble to the surface – such as anger.

A live agent should be well equipped to handle the situation and ease customer frustrations, but what if the customer isn’t speaking to a live agent? What happens when these emotions run high during an email or social media exchange?  Customers want to be in control of the channel they use to initiate service, and customer service leaders are under constant pressure to ‘deflect’ as many interactions as possible to low-cost channels. Here’s the big challenge – what happens when the initial ‘channel of choice’ is the wrong one for that issue?  How do you get the customer experience back on track?

Remote control

Quickly Spot Customers Stuck in the Wrong Channel

As one would expect, methods linked to slow resolution see negative outcomes. This includes IVR and email, which have the lowest issue resolution rates, according to inContact’s recent CX Transformation Survey. These channels elicit the strongest emotional ratings of anger and frustration, and they have the lowest performance scores (including Net Promoter Score).

Slow resolution not only jeopardizes future business with the customer, but it also reduces the likelihood that the customer will recommend the company. Still, businesses can’t just cut off access to these channels and force customers to reach out to a live agent every time. Instead, they need to invest in making these channels more efficient. At the other end of the spectrum, online chat/video and website communication were the only channels that consistently led to a significantly positive Net Promoter Score, a proven metric for measuring customer experience and predicting business growth. Interactions with these channels lead to the highest likelihood of recommending a company or continuing to do business with that company. Businesses should continue to invest in optimizing these channels to maintain and improve the positive customer interactions.

Getting the customer experience right across a multitude of channels requires improvements in real-time routing and customer journey optimization. To accelerate resolution on these channels in real-time, companies can apply advanced analytics in natural language processing (NLP) to better route and prioritize these interactions. For example, expediting service for an email about an important event or trip happening today – versus applying a standard 24-hour SLA for email – might prove the difference between delighting or losing that customer. Providing personalized service by delivering just-in-time customer insights from CRM integration can also create a more personal connection with the customer, tailored to their past interactions and preferences.

In parallel, look for opportunities to improve your customer experience by examining customer interaction history across all channels with analytics tools to spot root causes of dissatisfaction, analyze variances between desired and actual customer journey pathways, and optimize IVR flows. Effectively leveraging analytics from contact recordings and CRM history can help businesses shorten resolution times, and overcome many of the challenges and frustrations consumers feel.

Guide Customers to the Right Path

As I mentioned in a recent ICMI article, consumers expect companies to direct them to the quickest methods of resolution for their situation. However, this can sometimes contradict their preference of channel.

While email is one of the most preferred agent-assisted channels, it does not perform well at resolving customers’ issues. As mentioned, it is the least effective method of resolution, with more than one-third of consumer respondents reporting the issue as ‘still ongoing’ or ‘nothing more the company can do.’ That’s not to say email can’t be useful in certain situations, but the study shows that other channels tend to perform at a higher resolution rate.

When the channel used by a customer to initiate a connection is not most optimal for resolving the issue, it’s best to guide the conversation to a more effective channel (e.g. email to voice call). In the process, it’s also important to keep the conversation going with the same representative, as 71 percent of customers would expect to continue talking with the same representative when switching channels. Doing so will resolve the customer’s issue faster and more efficiently, keeping negative emotions to a minimum – making for a seamless omnichannel experience.

Keeping emotions positive

Don’t underestimate the value of creating personal connections, as this can lead to consumers trusting a brand. When trust is elicited in customers, it’s the emotion felt most strongly across all channels of communication. Anticipation and frustration aren’t far behind, though, so it’s important to win at every interaction to create positive experiences and satisfied customers. Directing customers to the best form of communication for their issues and – perhaps more importantly – enabling seamless fluidity between channels will help companies do just that, keeping experiences and emotions positive.