Make multichannel multichoice

There are a lot of ways to communicate with customers that are cheaper than the phone. But forcing people to use them could cost you more than you think.

We’ve been taking a long hard look at companies’ multi-channel offerings, and some of our findings might surprise you. Companies that try to restrict access to the phone and force people to use lower cost channels rarely achieve the cost savings they were aiming for. And they frequently manage to alienate customers in the attempt!

The message is clear. If you don’t want to experience damaged revenues and customer back lash, you need to offer channel choice. Not impose it.

Our research show that customers want to use new channels, but they expect you to provide those as well as (not instead of) more established ones. They’ll choose how they want to you interact with you, thank you very much. And they won’t take kindly to being dictated to.

How they choose to contact you will depend on the nature of their enquiry, where they are (home, work or on the move), and the time of day. They’ll often use several channels to complete a single ‘transaction’, researching a new product online, purchasing it in store, then using forums to discover new features. Oh, and, if there’s a problem, they may just want to phone you. Fail to provide even one of these touch points and you’re likely to frustrate the customer and lose this sale, the next one and the next!

Let’s be realistic. Its unlikely that any organisation has managed, or will manage in the near future, to absolutely predict and influence every customer interaction in every customer journey for every customer or prospect. As the economist John Kay states, most are “hardly capable of asking the right questions, let alone predicting the right answers.”

So, your best way forward is to provide a range of channel options, signpost them clearly and let the customer decide. Encourage them to use lower cost options by making them effective, efficient and visible – but don’t force it. Stay flexible and agile when it comes to channel management and use the power of information and data to predict customer behaviour as best you can – knowing that you won’t always get it right. Life, and customers, are far too complex for that.

And, one more tip… Take the time to analyse how, when and why your customers get in touch. You’ll likely find that you’re able to predict the causes of costly calls to the contact centre and then pre-empt them with proactive outbound contact – either by SMS or email, for example. That won’t just cut your costs – it’ll boost your reputation for proactive customer service, too. I think that’s what we call a ‘win-win’.

Our research has prompted some interesting discussions with large organisations, not least at roundtable meetings hosted by the report’s sponsor, Sword Ciboodle. We’re interested in finding out more about how companies are using multiple channels and whether their investments are paying dividends. Drop us a line at info@emberservices.com and tell us how about your experiences.

Download Ember’s research report, ‘Why Multichannel Must Mean Multichoice’.

Posted by Mike Havard, Director, Ember Services