Customer service managers and executives will have even more responsibility in the near future…whether they like it or not. Tasked with managing a company’s primary point of contact, they must stay one step ahead of communication trends. In today’s world of multiplying channels and customer channel affinity, offering customers different ways of communicating can be a confusing and daunting task. Customers want a seamless, omni-channel experience—one that is consistent and does not force them to commit to only one line of communication.
In our personal lives we pivot from one channel to another fluidly. We end a phone conversation and send a text message to follow up. This is something that just happens. It comes so naturally to us that we as customers expect it to be natural and easy for companies to do as well.
Alas, creating a seamless, omni-channel experience for customers is not as simple as it sounds. A 2012 study by Ragan found that only 19% of companies had their customer service department manage or co-manage their social media channels. This silo approach to customer interaction can often lead to inconsistent experiences across channels.
As a result, each channel has a different personality, is managed in different ways, and loses context. Because this does not mirror how customers normally communicate, what should have been a seamless experience often becomes a confusing and disorienting one.
If multiple channels of communication should be overseen by customer service, why do so many companies still have call centers and not contact centers? Some possible reasons:
- Many companies treat their call center as a cost center, but treat other communication channels, like social media, as a marketing expense.
- Service innovation requires reinvestment, which can be difficult to procure in an environment that focuses so much on the bottom line.
- It is challenging to find and hire agents who are capable of working in multiple channels.
- Some companies are not proficient when it comes to tools, so they are beholden to their platform providers to innovate first.
- Introducing a new channel requires a manager to take a risk, and risk tends to be the domain of the marketing department (Read 10 Things Every Company Should Know Before Using Text Messaging).
- Companies focus too much on implementing tools and technology and not enough on designing great experiences. The truth, of course, is that delighting customers with awesome experiences makes money. But it can be difficult to convey this idea when presenting a business case, particularly if the customer service department has had a history of requesting budget increases. (Stay tuned for the next in our series: “Building a Business Case.”)
Remember, customers will expect appropriate multi-channel experiences where a conversation can seamlessly travel from one channel to the next. This means that, if I am a customer, the same agent I spoke to on the phone should also be available via text message or email. Every channel should have the same personality and access to the same knowledge base.
The bottom line: As our culture moves toward an ever-increasing demand for multiple modes of contact, the best customer service executives will stay ahead of the curve, providing the tools and continuity critical to a company’s success. Today’s customers are expecting companies to communicate with them in the channel they prefer, and will reward those that do so with both their business and their even more valuable referrals.