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Personalized channel management strategies are crucial to meeting customer expectations. Since providing multiple channels is now an industry standard, a true differentiator is the effective integration of different cross-channel interactions into one smooth conversation. Customers expect the same seamless experience with brands that they enjoy in their private lives, and contact center channel strategies must reflect that reality.
The last few years have seen an evolution in channel strategies, from multichannel to omnichannel to channel-less. Diversifying communication channels is a necessary first step, but by itself is no guarantee of a rewarding customer experience (CX). The ultimate strength of a channel management strategy lies in its ability to meet customer expectations. A customer-centric perspective reveals the key differences between channel strategies, and why channel-less provides the best CX.
According to Microsoft, customers have more ways than ever to contact companies, with most 18-to-34-year-olds using six or more customer service channels. But along with convenience comes a new risk, as customers’ data and requests are shared across multiple channels. This fragmentation costs contact center agents time and frustrates customers, three-quarters of whom expect an agent to know their contact, product history and service history, according to the same Microsoft report. For contact centers to have relevant customer information at the ready, this data cannot be stored in separate silos. Omnichannel, which enables cross-channel sharing of information, went a long way to fixing that. But it still falls short of customer expectations. That’s where channel-less comes in.
We are all channel-less in our private lives. A son emails his mother birthday greetings, she replies by phone, and when she asks for the latest photos of his family, he follows up via social media. The channels are not important; the development of the conversation is what matters. Channel-less communication occurs when multiple communication channels are linked into one smooth conversation, making the channels used irrelevant. It’s about centering the message, not the medium. To customers, the channels they’re communicating on are immaterial; their issues are what matter. The more customer-centric your channel strategy, the more important it becomes to link your channels together into one seamless experience.
Channel-less CX removes one of the most frustrating pain points for customers: the need to repeat oneself. In a study by UMB, 75% of consumers stated that they hate repeating themselves to agents; in fact, it was their number one customer service complaint (the runner-up was also telling – 73% complained about a lack of coordination between departments or cooperating companies.) A channel strategy that requires constant reiteration defeats the purpose of hosting multiple channels. What good is a chatbot if the customer has to start over with an agent?
This is where many channel strategies run into trouble. Although agents have the ability to access information on separate channels, they still have to look for it. When a call comes in and they don’t know the history, they understandably ask the customer to explain the issue. They have no way of knowing how many times their customer has already told the same story. Thus, an inadequately coordinated channel management strategy may actually harm the customer effort score (CES) , resulting in a lower level of service. In contrast, a channel-less strategy instantly adds all new customer interactions into one ongoing stream, available to any agent at any time. When a call comes in, an agent sees the customer history before the conversation even starts. Customers avoid having to repeat themselves and enjoy convenient, personalized service.
When customers contact a company, their expectations are influenced by many factors. Not only do people notice the differences in service between similar companies, but Salesforce reports that 62% of customers say experiences in one sector influence their expectations of entirely different industries. The best CX your customers have experienced anywhere serves as their benchmark for your service. Customers also transfer their expectations from their personal lives. People have become accustomed to channel-less conversations with family and friends, and when that’s not possible with a company they feel disappointed with the experience. That dissatisfaction may be magnified by two additional recent developments.
First, more people are encountering multiple channels than ever before. COVID-19 changed the way millions of people do business, sending online sales up 6-10%, according to the UN. Furthermore, Salesforce also says that 74% of customers say they’ve used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction, up from 71% in 2019. If a channel management strategy has any gaps in it, more customers will be affected. Second is a more surprising trend: customers are beginning to take their interactions with companies more personally. “Disconnected experiences used to inconvenience customers. They still do, but they cause so much more damage in our current environment because they signal insensitivity,” explains Tiffani Bova. A customer who has to repeat himself doesn’t feel like he’s dealing with three channels; he feels like he’s repeating himself to one company, who won’t listen.
More customers are using more channels with higher expectations, and when something goes wrong, they’re increasingly likely to take it personally. But while a poorly designed channel strategy is a liability, a well-managed channel strategy provides valuable opportunities to connect with customers. It saves customers time, removes hassles and pain points and shows them that their priorities come first. Channel-less is effective because it looks at CX from the customer’s perspective. And for the customer, the experience is what matters.
For more information on how a channel-less strategy can help you meet customer expectations, contact Odigo. We were named a global Leader in the ISG Provider Lens™ Contact Center as a Service 2021 report, which has valuable CCaaS market insights from different quadrants of the world, and more on Odigo’s fully-customizable, AI-driven, channel-less solutions and strategies.
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