Demanding Multichannel Interactions

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The explosive growth of smartphones, texting, and social media has forever changed the customer service landscape. Consumers, tired of outdated service models, expect real-time interactions with personalized service.

Companies at the forefront of the customer experience revolution are implementing proactive, flexible systems, known as multichannel technologies, or "agile channeling" solutions. Agile channeling is an integrated business process and technology approach that enables organizations to maximize the value of every customer interaction, optimizing the cost structure for every channel and each customer segment. These solutions include dynamic engagement, intelligent self-service, virtual agents, and live help. They rapidly and automatically assess the value and complexity of incoming inquiries before they are handled. Agile channeling can trim support costs by an average of 21 percent over 12 months, according to Aberdeen Research.

The following best practices will help organizations improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and attain higher productivity levels:

1. Understand your customer interaction profile. To deliver a world-class customer experience in a multichannel environment, you must understand how your customers prefer to interact, the cost of these interactions, the complexity of each customer need, and the overall value of each customer. Insight into these essential details will allow you to implement a multichannel strategy that effectively serves each customer through the right channel mix. It will create a single customer experience that can improve service, and, in turn, drive brand recognition, advocates, and revenue opportunities.

2. One size does not fit all. Staff each channel with the appropriate front-line employees and skill sets. Ensure that every channel in a multichannel service environment has the right staff with the right training. Chat agents need to know how to personalize their chat sessions. Social media agents need to be aware that their posts will be online indefinitely and will be read by multiple customers or prospects. Respecting the intricacies of an individual medium drives significant improvement in the overall customer experience.

3. Integrate information from one channel to the next. The ideal multichannel experience enables customers to interact with a company through any channel and be confident that their information and issue details will be shared with every agent who serves them. A customer issue that begins with a self-help inquiry via the Web should be seamlessly shared with chat or voice agents when it is escalated to live channels. Forcing customers to re-enter their identifying information and re-explain their issues is one of the largest drivers of dissatisfaction—and, unfortunately, a common practice. Integration must occur between back-office, CRM, and knowledge systems to enable a consistent customer experience across channels.

4. Treat social media like a business program, not a hobby. Provide your customers with the right platforms to share their concerns and ideas. Doing so will allow customers to evangelize your brand. Properly implemented community programs can be among your most cost-efficient marketing channels and also enable brand promoters and increase your Net Promoter Score.

5. Apply market segmentation to your multichannel strategy. Use customer insights when deciding how inquiries are handled. Customer value scores and segmentation data should be a key part of your routing engine intelligence. This provides the opportunity to reward loyal customers and offer more targeted revenue generation opportunities. Move high-value customers to the front of each live queue, and convey that information early.

6. Leverage data and analytics to optimize each channel. Ensure that the business intelligence captured during each interaction is collected, analyzed, and acted upon. Maintaining a close watch over the performance of each channel ensures that your organization offers a seamless, high-quality customer interaction experience. Effective analysis and feedback loops will help you balance both the customers' and the organization's goals to continuously drive performance and business outcomes.

Today's customer demands challenge the traditional balance of call center interaction technologies. Organizations that listen to customers, have the right technologies to deliver an integrated experience, and offer an empowered and educated workforce will create a superior brand experience, maximize every revenue touch point, and do so in a manner that balances the cost of live help with robust self-help and community solutions.

Taylor Allis is vice president of product development and marketing for Teletech.

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