Omni-channel customer service: it’s just the beginning

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There’s a school of thought that says if we manage to give a customer a great experience through one customer service channel, then that’s good enough. The customer, the thinking goes, is happy, and they’ll return to that channel next time they want to interact with the organisation.

There’s a problem with this way of thinking, and that is that customers don’t live in that particular world. They may wish to contact your company through a voice channel in one instance, but in the next, they might want to use Twitter. Or a Messenger Bot. Perhaps the service conversation starts on email and then progresses back to a call centre. All those modes of interaction are valid, and one channel is not better than the other when it comes to excellence in customer service.

That’s why omni-channel customer service is such a vital part of any service organisation. Customers aren’t restricting themselves to any single mode of communication; in fact, they’re generally using two or three modes, rather than one.

By putting all your customer service eggs into one or two baskets that you’ve identified as being ‘key’ you miss out on the opportunity to meet the customer where they are, wherever they are in their day.

It could be that a customer starts a conversation while they’re at work. A quick SMS or Tweet, and they expect you to be on top of it. Then they’re in their car, where their mobile connects to the vehicles infotainment system. They can have a message from your organisation read by the car, and then dictate a response.

Later in the evening, family duties abound and it’s not convenient for them to respond for a few hours. When they do, it becomes apparent that it’s a complex issue, and requires more interaction from your service organisation, and so a brief call is undertaken.

Of course not all customer service queries are that complex – ideally we’d like to resolve a query in the channel it’s launched in, and within a few messages as well. But the world doesn’t work that way. The world is a busy place, and that is why omni-channel communications exist.

One of the mistakes companies make, however, is to silo their communications. The service agent on the Twitter team can’t see a record of the voice call the customer made to the service centre earlier in the day. And the email and SMS teams also have blinkers on.

This version of omni-channel is worse than having no omni-channel at all. To achieve best of breed customer service, organisations must break down the barriers between their customer service channels. Agents can still specialise, but they must have a comprehensive overview of the relationship with the customer, including every channel that the customer chooses to interact over.

By providing an omniscient view, an organisation can ensure they meet the customer where they are, when they want to be contacted. That’s the beauty of omni-channel: it puts the customer first and foremost.

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Jagannath Narendran

Sr Vice President-Asia & Middle East at Aspect Software
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