When it comes to how they interact with their customers, businesses are told every day by vendors, analysts, service providers, even customers that “everything is changing” and to succeed in a highly competitive market, so must they. One of the biggest changes we talk about with our enterprise clients is that their customers are now the owners of the conversation and communication channels, and that businesses have to adapt by empowering customers to own as much of the customer service engagement and issue resolution process as possible.
Businesses have to be very careful not to disrupt their own operations too heavily when changing the dynamics of service (and culture) by putting too much of the responsibility for resolving service issues on the customer. Ipsos recently released a study that caught my attention, showing that more than half of customers surveyed felt they had to put “a lot” of effort into resolving an issue while the company put in “little effort,” or that they had put in more effort than the company to get resolution.
What these numbers say to me is that while companies may be listening and trying to better enable customers, they may be offering more tools, but not necessarily better tools for the specific goal of connecting questions with answers. Usually, organizations add self-service channels with goals like lowering the overall cost of customer service delivery and reducing stress on the call center by lowering call volume (by increasing self-service containment). While these are smart goals, the deployment of new channels is a tactic in search of a strategy that must include ensuring the best channels are available for their specific customers – and potentially eliminating the existing channels that fall short of the goal. An understanding of the customer journey, and how it is best served by distinct self-service and live-service channels, needs to precede deployment.
Most customers prefer to use self-service to address issues with a company, but when the self-service option can’t handle the complexity or uniqueness of the request, a seamless transition to live agent service begins to increase costs. Should the issue need escalation or require a lengthy resolution process, the time and effort costs for the customer and company will increase. Importantly, Ipsos found that when customers feel they’ve put in more effort that the company, they’re four times more likely to use the company less or stop using it completely, to say nothing of the number of friends and family that will hear about their poor experience.
Even when utilizing a well designed, built and tuned service channel, it may very likely be the case that a customer still owns the majority of the effort to get resolution. And that’s actually ok, because when the experience flows naturally for the customer, the effort won’t frustrate or exhaust them. Omni-channel customer service is less about ensuring deployments on all the channels, and more about making sure the right channel is delivering the right service to the right customer at the right time – a much more complex, but highly rewarding, balancing act, and one that’s critical to customer satisfaction and retention.
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