The Secret of Great Omni-Channel Customer Service

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Martin Hill Wilson 25th April 2016 3 minute read

The Secret of Great Omni-Channel Customer Service

These posts kick start a series of discussions on key topics such as multi-channel, social customer service and cross functional customer engagement.

In my last post, I discussed the need for a disciplined approach in developing a multi-channel strategy. This is best sourced from a thorough understanding of each core customer journey that the contact centre is involved with together with an outside-in appreciation of what matters to the customer in that context. Different journey have different demands. Understand those and you can begin to match them against the unique capabilities of each channel.

 In this final post of the multi-channel series, I’m going to dive deeper into this idea that each channel is best analysed for its communication properties as opposed to its supposed cost advantages relative to other channels.

Have you noticed how technology vendors always manage to position each new channel as somehow better than the ones you already have? Chat is probably the most abused channel in this sense. When asked why Chat is such a great channel, the most common answer I hear is that it’s cheaper because advisors can hold more than one conversation. This is seductive reasoning to anyone who needs to find a winning business case to put in front of eagle eyed procurement teams.

But in customer engagement terms it is often nonsense. As someone who pondered the business case for Chat when it first arrived over 10 years ago, maybe there was some truth to it. Chat was most adopted by technical help desks in those days. The most common solution to most computer problems then was to suggest a reboot. That generally took an age. Enough time in fact to sort out a few other customers in the help desk queue. From this grew an urban myth.

Admittedly, there are some equivalents in today’s world. Multitasking customers is one such scenario. They are happy to complete their chat session as one of many other things (watching TV, eating, checking emails etc).

Another scenario is low complexity questions that warrant just a cut ‘n paste answer.  Although customers are quick to recognise when this is attempted without any ‘top and tailing’ of the response which finesses the impression of personalised service.

Or maybe you simply don’t want to afford more headcount. Multi-channel chat sessions are just a productivity expectation. The customer is not in a position to take their business elsewhere. Therefore the service experience is a secondary concern. From a business perspective this is understandable.

But it is important to distinguish this kind of commercial pragmatism from believing that Chat is somehow a superior communication channel. When it comes to it, communication with a customer is no different over voice or text when the situation or expectation demands your full attention.

Anyone who understands how active listening works, knows that a person’s attention needs to remain undivided. If customer experience is a priority then this is equally true for any real time channel such as text chat, video chat or phone. 

Chat is unique in its strengths. Just as voice is unique is its appropriateness to resolve emotional and complex issues, Chat shines through in other ways.  It’s the natural channel for ecommerce or any other reason why a customer might be visiting you online. Chat is a perfect door that can be opened based on certain customer behaviours. It is real time, efficient and consistently scores highest in customer feedback.


But equally it not so intuitive when the customer is elsewhere and neither wants nor needs to reach your web site in order to communicate. In this context a quick tweet on the move might be the easiest for the customer. Do you have something in stock at this retail outlet? When is the next train? How do I find you? Can you help, I’ve broken down? The benefit here is that the customer has no need to even find a contact channel. Just mention the brand and expect them to be listening out.

Or maybe a smartphone user has got used to the new visual IVR that you are now offering. They like the simplicity of ‘click to call’ which is only offered as an option to VIP customers. Especially when the wait times for each channel are shown in real time, so that the customer feels empowered in their choice.

As multi-channel becomes more sophisticated in its design and search for a competitive advantage, a solid understanding of how customer behave and what each channel can be best leveraged to offer will become an important competency.

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