Understanding the Complexity of Cross Channel Service

“Supporting customers through multiple channels is no longer an option for financial services organizations; it’s a necessity.” – Sonny Singh

There is no doubt that customers expect companies to serve them in the way that customers want. While it may seem easier to stay connected now, given the number of communication channels, the truth is that many companies fail to do so efficiently – the reason being that companies are unable to understand the complexity of cross channel service and still must comply with what their customers want. As a result, the interactions that customers have with companies via the different channels are below average, leading to frustration and annoyance.

The complexity of cross channel service arises from the fact that every channel is different – the tone, user base, and reach vary, and unless companies customize their messages to suit each individual channel, they would fail at reaching customers in the way they expect. It is customers, who decide which channel they would want to use and when, and it is the job of companies to make it easy for customers to connect via any channel. Through acceptance of this shift of power, and a thorough understanding of what their customers need, companies can ensure that they provide top class service and communiqués through every available channel. Given the complexity of cross channel service, it is possible that companies become overwhelmed and fail, but it all depends on how they recover from these failures and give customers what they want. Customers are more likely to stay with a company who is able to recover efficiently from a failure, as opposed to one that provides average service all the time.

One of the top reasons for the complexity of cross channel service and other challenges that companies face is that they seem inward focused. This means that instead of looking at service and their offerings from the perspective of customers, they align everything as per their own convenience. To reduce complexity of cross channel service, companies must bring into line response times, service levels, responsibility, and other aspects according to what would work best for customers via each individual channel. If a company commits to cross channel service, they must also be willing to concede power to customers by aligning their strategies and messages to customers in the way that they deem appropriate. The fact is that companies cannot control what customers do – all the choices and leeway seems to lie with customers now. Hence, a single customer could be using multiple channels for the same purpose, or a single channel for a variety of reasons.

Companies that fail to understand the mind-set of customers would soon run out of business since customers would leave them. Customers have no dearth of options – new players and innovative ideas flood the market almost daily. These new companies seem to be better equipped at understanding the complexity of cross channel service, and have thus strategized such that they provide seamless service across all channels and for all their customers. With new processes, and being free from ‘tradition’, these new players pose a serious threat to the ‘established’ companies. Customers have become bolder – are willing to try out new things, fresh ideas, and even new methods of communicating – hence companies that keep pace with their mind-set are more likely to gain their favour.

Another aspect that adds to the complexity of cross channel service is probably that companies forget that customers expect transparency, honesty, and consistency. Communicating through on-line channels means that these aspects should be the basis of the interactions, and those that forget to comply could find themselves constantly in the midst of conflicts and customer ire. Companies need to make things easier for their customers. However, many still ‘suffer’ due to complex products, highly complex and long-winded approval processes, silo mentality between departments, and lack of well-maintained customer information systems. Since such companies work in disharmony, internal conflicts are commonplace adding to the complexity of cross channel service. The problem becomes compounded when companies fail to recognize or ignore these conflicts. The ironical part of all such situations is that companies then state complexity as the reason for why they are unable to provide top class cross channel service.

Every company would have customers who may be long-standing customers, and whom the company could trust with feedback and insights. Before venturing out to add another channel of communication, it would be prudent for a company to take the opinion of their customers such that the company can understand the results and possible consequences beforehand. Complexity of cross channel service is compounded since companies believe they know how to use the channels, know the kind of messages they should send, and are certain that they understand the different kinds of customers that use these channels. However, rather than assuming ‘knowledge’, it would be prudent for companies to get customer feedback as to what they believe to be seamless service across multiple channels.

A sure-shot way to reduce the complexity of cross channel service is to ensure that those within the company that manage these channels remain connected. This means that there should be awareness of – customer usage, of which messages go out through a channel, the kind of information customers may have received, and other such aspects to ensure that there are no delays and overlaps. By ensuring such ‘awareness’ not only would a company reduce the workload of its employees, it would also cut down on wait times, be able to provide more efficient service, and improve the overall experiences for their customers. Getting on to several channels simply because everyone else is doing so can prove to be a grievous mistake on the part of a company, if it does not have the focus and bandwidth to manage those channels effectively.

A company can reduce the complexity of cross channel service for itself by remembering the simply rule – everything it does must be done keeping in mind the customer’s needs, expectations, and preferences. All the points of interaction, and every experience that customers have must be customized to fit their current needs – this would keep customers happy and engaged for long. The fact is that a single customer could use multiple channels simultaneously or use varying channels for each different interaction. From the customer’s perspective, they are connecting with a single company, and it is not their job to ease the complexity of cross channel service for the company. They would not tolerate disjointed messages, half information, or even having to repeat any kind of information they may have provided earlier. A strong commitment and the ability to break down silos between channels, is vital for a company to provide top class service across channels.

Cross-channel service is challenging and a dynamic process. No company can claim to be always ready or completely in control of everything happening across channels. The better way would be to ensure that every company representative were well equipped to not only handle the complexity of cross channel service, but also understand the importance of sharing information with their counterparts ‘manning’ other channels. Through consistency and cohesive practices, customers would have top class experiences, which would keep them coming back.

Learn about a new approach to better customer service!

Interactive Guides for Superior Customer Service

Create interactive decision trees for customer service management, cold call scripts or self-service. Improve sales performance metrics and customer delight across your call centers.

Interactive Decision Tree