Multi-Channel Customer Service

“As customers switch channels throughout their journey with you, you need to deliver the same great experience across every channel.” –

In the context of business today, the scenario is bizarre. Declining markets, constant state of flux and volatility with the added pressure of cut-throat competition are all putting excessive pressure on companies and shrinking revenues and profit margins. Customers are becoming increasingly irate and frustrated as they also have to deal with companies that are servicing them with – inconsistent multi-channel experiences, reactive rather than proactive service, blanket customer service processes rather than personalized and inefficient and ineffective customer service agent experiences.

Across all industries the one factor that is helping companies sustain a competitive edge and improve the bottom line, is enhanced levels of customer service. Customer service is to be delivered not by the traditional methods but a multi-channel customer service that allows customers to communicate with companies as and when they find it convenient. Companies that are effectively managing this multi-channel communication and providing seamless service are the ones that top the list of companies with excellent customer service.

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Despite the obvious advantages of multi-channel customer service, companies are still fumbling when trying to transition to this model. Companies realized that there information systems about customers may not be consistent, customer service agents ineffective in dealing with customers across channels which leads to erratic service. Companies would need to take a hard look at their current systems and work towards changing the traditional mindset in order to better manage customer expectations across all channels. Being able to define and personalize service across will lead to the optimization of usage for the multi-channels. Companies would need to invent capabilities or build the current ones if they are to succeed in providing uninterrupted and effective multi-channel customer service. Looking at aspects like client management, technology, training and development, infrastructure and a customer experience focused strategy will help to create this seamless service. Enhanced process will lead call centers and customer service agents from being purely operational to contributing towards enhancing customer experience and building the company’s brand.

It is not an easy process and requires a paradigm shift from traditional to a more structured and standardized way of management. It would require alignment the entire company, client data and have the requisite technology to deliver multi-channel customer service. Multi-channel integration would require an overhauling of sorts of each customer service process and in-depth knowledge assimilation for every member of the organization through training and reading material.

Traditionally companies would have used some standard methods to interact with customers. However, with the explosion of the internet, smart devices and social media, the complexity of dealing with customers has increased. Customer preferences have changed and demands increased given that they know that they should and can expect convenience of round-the-clock information and accessibility to the company’s services. Customers are busy expanding business and constantly have need for information and services and companies that can help them succeed by providing them with this and more will be sought after. This multi-channel customer service is being viewed very favorably by customers and they tend to more loyal to these companies and also vocal to others about their appreciation.

Multi-channel customer service also tells the customer that they are special and wanted and clearly defines the company’s commitment to customer value and the desire to help them more successful. This is turn is very beneficial for the company’s ROI as customers provide repeat business. As the amount of information about customers grows, companies are able to better understand customer behavior and the feedback provided lets them know customer needs and expectations much more lucidly. Companies can immediately see and know the opinions about a new launch, their brand and how customers feel about them via social media discussions for example. Customers tend to be very vocal when they are very pleased or when they are very angry. Companies can assess customer frustration and resolve it before it blows up into a full-fledged complaint and an angry customer. Saving the company’s repute can become difficult if the multi-channel feedback is not taken seriously.

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Customers feel like they are in control and therefore empowered to influence a company’s decisions and manner of operation when they are offered multi-channel customer service. This way they feel part of what a company does and will be more willing to work as an ally rather than opposing them. When they receive standard customer service excellence across all channels they remain happy and over time become loyal brand ambassadors.

For multi-channel customer service to work smoothly, the backend operations must be in perfect tandem with the front-ending customer service staff. The interdependence of all teams to make and keep this endeavor cannot be overemphasized and is essential to providing transparent and relevant customer service. Companies cannot hope to sustain themselves solely on the basis of offerings and pricing since there are far too many companies dishing out the same products and the price wars ultimately become self-defeating. The sure shot way to target success and sustain is by managing customer expectations and deliver enhanced and consistent levels of customer service via multi-channels.

Even via multi-channels, one step further is self-service. If the technological advancements are used and matched to changing customer demands, like unlimited accessibility and ease of communication, companies would be able to retain and attract a larger customer base. Even potential customers, that are able to use the company’s website or social media pages to get information, walk themselves through troubleshooting processes or get answers to queries, without the hassle of calling up the contact centers, will be more inclined to do business with the company. While human engagement is still important there would be times when customers would be inclined towards self-help. This evolution has further heightened the need for switching to multi-channel customer service.

It is challenging to manage multi-channel customer communication for a number of reasons:

– There are a number of players in the market now and the one on one model no longer suffices. Switching over to a one-to-many model takes time to evolve. With customers having a vast choice of interaction through the internet and smart devices, they can reach out to many companies at one time and would make their decisions for business based on the speed and nature of response through the same channel they used to interact. Keeping pace with and managing these multi-channels proves to be quite a challenge.

– Before this technological revolution companies had all the information on customer interactions in one place since there was just the one or a couple of channels of interaction. With the latest trend of multi-channel communication, interactions need to be monitored, collated and analyzed from a number of places and companies may not have the bandwidth or resources to do so effectively. An efficient and robust internal system that addresses client interactions and relationship management would need to be set up and constantly updated.

In the past, many companies were focused on providing different products, freebies and very competitive pricing and these held them in good stead. However, now these cannot suffice as they do not guarantee customer satisfaction and loyalty. If companies want to stay ahead of their oldest and closest competitors and not forgetting the aggressive new breed of competition, they will have to deliver the best levels of customer service and through multi-channels. They will need to think on their feet and change to a proactive rather than reactive approach. Customers have no dearth of product and service choices. What is lacking is an all-round and personalized customer service that defines an agile and active company in this realm. Companies have to move out from their comfort zones and discard clichéd methods of customer service if they want to stay well and alive in the long haul.

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