Striking the balance between digital and traditional platforms for customer service

Michael-Pollak-mobile-textingAcross Africa and globally mobile apps and text messaging have the highest current usage among younger ages. (Image source: Michael Pollak)In an age where people are just as likely to contact a call centre or visit a branch as they are to Tweet, email or text a company, it has become essential for businesses to have a multi-channel customer service strategy writes Cormac Twomey, SVP EMEA at Convergys

Organisations that get this right will not only retain a higher percentage of customers, they are also more likely to attract repeat business and attract new business as their reputation grows. However, as customer care continues to evolve into a complex cross-channel environment, some companies are struggling to harness the rapidly changing landscape to positively affect business outcomes

Understanding the new customer experience
Most organisations, regardless of what industry they operate in, still lack sufficient direction on how to develop a comprehensive cross-channel customer service strategy that delivers effortless care across multiple contact points. Developing an effective cross-channel delivery model requires a clear view into the root cause of cross-channel behaviour. Businesses need an end-to-end view of the customer experience across all channels in order to formulate and deploy a multi-channel strategy that provides measurable gains in customer satisfaction, including phone, web, chat, email, social mobile and SMS.

Technology advances including social media and the emergence of online customer support options such as chat, coupled with the breakthrough of mobile, has meant some businesses are not sufficiently equipped for this new customer service landscape.

Changing customer communications channels
While many people still prefer to contact a call centre for issue resolution, growing consumer demand for self-service solutions means that online customer service delivery now comes a close second. According to Convergys research on cross-channel experiences, 35 per cent of consumers contact a call centre in the first instance, while 28 per cent will visit a website. There is now an inherent willingness to use online and other self-service options, depending on the complexity of the resolution involved. This behaviour is likely motivated by an unspoken belief that one channel is better-suited to quickly resolve that specific issue. In other words, customers gravitate to the channel of least resistance depending on what they are trying to do.

Mobile adds a further dimension to the customer service mix. Of four emerging channels—mobile, text, social and webcam—mobile apps and text messaging had the highest current usage among younger ages. While these mobile service options are not yet commonplace in general, there is higher adoption among younger generations; 23 per cent of 18-35 year olds used mobile apps and text message as a customer service channel, compared to just seven per cent of 55-74 year olds. This is a trend that will only accelerate as the ‘digital native’ population (categorised as those born after 2000) increases and grows in influence.

In order to build a seamless cross-channel customer platform, there are a number of factors to be considered. This can include elements such as; the business operation, the physical location of your customers, the availability of customer service staff and, of course, budget.

Investment in online must be a priority in order for the organisation to futureproof itself for the next generation of consumers. For example, effective tools to capture social media chatter about the organisation, or a chat facility on the company website coupled with prompt resolution, can be a powerful tool for customer satisfaction. As organisations mature their multi-channel approaches, chat must be positioned as a proactive intercept tactic. However, only a few organisations have successfully implemented an online chat support function.

Plan for the future, don’t forget the present
Although there has been a rise in the use of mobile, social and online to contact businesses, particularly among ‘Generation Y’ and ‘digital natives’, businesses should not look for a root and branch overhaul of their customer management systems quite yet. It remains vital for companies to maintain a balance between traditional (phone, post) and digital (social, online) customer support programmes in order to cater for all their customers.

There will always be demand to speak to someone on the phone, in the same way as there will always be demand for self-service resolution via technology channels. What is important is that businesses can help the customer via their preferred channel and offer swift service in order to deliver the best possible customer experience. Those organisations that accelerate adoption of these cross-channel strategies, and use analytics to better understand their customers behaviours and preferences, will position themselves to become industry leaders with levels of customer service unmatched by their competitors.


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