Why businesses MUST enable multi-channel customer interactions

The Consumer Revolution forces organizations to rethink the way they engage with customers. The explosion of mobile and smart devices, unified communications and an insatiable appetite for social channels (and apps dedicated to engage within them), has forever changed the terms of engagement.  

Before we explore the details of multi-channel customer interactions and why they are critical for your success, let’s first establish some things we can agree on:

  1. Customers don’t care about your business, your processes, or if all your agents are busy. They only care about themselves.
  2. Experience matters. Every interaction your customer has with your product, service and brand is important to them, so it had better be important to you. Act like it (see first agreement above).
  3. Unhappy customers will simply leave (and never come back). See agreement number 1.
  4. Customer expectations are higher than ever, not their patience.  They will not sit on hold waiting at your convenience. Any option that eliminates a customer’s encounter with elevator music in a call-waiting queue is advantageous to both you and your customer.
  5. Customers have options.  This is important, so repeat after me – customers have options. Before they became your customer, your company was one of their options, and they chose you. Perhaps they now regret their choice because now they have to contact you (it’s probably not because they are lonely). Reward their confidence by giving them new options to engage with you – chat, email, SMS notification or a quick and convenient callback.
  6. Consumers like their smartphones, tablets and PCs, and many prefer digital interactions to a voice conversation (just ask your teenager).
  7. Customers do not want to start from the beginning every time a new conversation begins. They want (and expect) continuity; they want a single coherent conversation.
  8. (Refrain: reason number 1): Customers don’t care about your business, your processes, or if all your agents are busy. They only care about themselves.

Now that we have established some common ground about your customer and what they really care about, it’s easier to explore the importance of multi-channel customer interactions and what that means for customer care in your organization.

While voice remains the dominant customer engagement media, the preference for alternative communication channels such as email, live chat and video brings new options and challenges. As customer call centers adapt to customer preferences, many have become multimedia-capable, accessible to customers from any device with a choice of media.

Ultimately however, the channel or media is merely a means to customer satisfaction.  Your goal is first call resolution. The key to customer satisfaction is don’t just answer the phone (email or chat), solve the problem.

To address customer needs, agents need to instantly know where they are in the resolution process and that can only occur by merging all the channels of communication into a single coherent conversation, whether it’s real-time or not. Your multi-channel solution needs to provide a unified treatment of these communications, so agents are able to handle any interaction, routed and prioritized according to business needs.

Treating each interaction separately means your customer conversation continuity may be lost and in turn, your customers. Providing the context behind all the elements of communication is essential for your agents to quickly address customer needs.

According to research by Bain and Company, 80% of companies think they provide great service, but only 8% of customers agree. That’s quite a gap. How narrow is the gap between your satisfaction scorecard and your customer’s scorecard? We bring the experience, infrastructure and tools to merge those communication channels into a single, coherent conversation your customer and your CEO care about.

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This commentary was originally written for and published here on the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise blog. Many thanks to ALE for their interest in my thoughts, and the ability to contribute my voice.  

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