The Multichannel Service Project

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
Six years into my current job, and I've tackled my share of projects; some wildly successful, and others failed miserably. There's one thing I can tell you unequivocally: You can't bring about change haphazardly.

Six years into my current job, and I've tackled my share of projects; some wildly successful, and others failed miserably. There's one thing I can tell you unequivocally: You can't bring about change haphazardly.

Whether you have a PMO (Project Management Office), or a lone project manager, you must properly define and plan your initiative. It's better to endure the planning pain now, than to deal with the inevitable slippage, chaos, or even termination later.

All is not lost, though, there's no better time for organizations to capitalize on the opportunities that exist along customer touchpoints. In fact, according to an Avaya Consumer Preference Report, 70 percent of consumers are less than impressed with their service experiences, which leaves them with two choices: clean up house or make room for the competition.

What's puzzling, though, is the emphasis organizations still put on traditional contact center metrics when great customer experiences are realized by the totality of customer channels. A cohesive strategy in which companies listen, analyze, and respond to customers' ever-changing needs is tantamount to great experiences.

If facts are what you need to help make the case for multichannel investment, consider these statistics from the 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer:

1. Americans will tell around 24 people about negative service experiences.

2. Nearly one-third of consumers feel that companies ignore their own inferior service levels.

3. More than 55 percent of consumers have abandoned a purchase due to poor service.

Daunting as it all seems, try taking a phased approach to assessing and righting channels for your customer service initiative. If you think of each channel as a stage of the overall project it can simplify the process significantly. Start with the channel that your customers most frequent. Let's look at a few common-sense examples; after all, you don't need more stats to understand the importance of treating customers the way you want to be treated. Do you?

Contact Center: As the hub of customer interactions, the contact center must be all encompassing. Almost 90 percent of customers still prefer to reach out to companies via phone, so take advantage of today's cost-effective options such as cloud services and work-at-home agents; this isn't your mother's contact center anymore. And be sure to empower agents to make decisions on the fly to better serve the customer.

Web: Leverage the collective knowledge of your organization to develop a robust online, self-service depository. Today's top companies go one step further, though, and provide comprehensive white papers, videos, and other content to keep customers informed on the "how to" in support of products and services. When you conduct your analysis of this channel, consider creating customer personas. For example, a customer new to your product or service will need a variety of information as opposed to loyal customers who may only need to look up a code or specific feature. Once you've developed the personas and aggregated the self-help data, make it easily accessible on the Web and mobile too.

Mobile: Please, don't forget the mobile channel; if you do, it will be at your peril! A staggering number of businesses are laggards at optimizing their websites for mobile. Business leaders still don't understand the value or valocity of mobile; meanwhile, according to mobithinking.com, mobile broadband outnumbers fixed broadband 2:1.Would you say that you spend more time on your laptop, PC, or mobile device? Enough said; whatever updates you make to your website should be optimized for an array of mobile devices.

Email: It's easy enough for irritated customers to fire off an email to unmanned inboxes. But what happens when that communication is lost or ignored; it adds fuel to the fire. Don't send service messages or automated replies to customers from an unmanned address. If customers have questions about a transaction, that just means they now have to find another way to reach you.

Social: What social channels do your customers frequent? Are you already in the space, and if not, get in now. If you don't know where your customers are sharing content and information, how can you monitor the conversation? In fact, according to Maritz Research, 71percent of customer complaints and questions posted to Twitter go unanswered. That's staggering! And the more influential these customers are, the worse it is for your reputation.

Partners: Some companies work in tandem with a few partners to provide a seamless product or service. Yet most don't monitor and track their partners' support performance. If you don't know what your partners are doing and how they are treating customers, then how can you be in control of the customer experience? Guidelines and processes must be established to ensure a seamless response to customer issues. If your partner doesn't support your vision with customer-centric processes, then you need to find a different partner. What your partners do when you're not looking can have serious, long-term consequences.

It's time to get your multichannel-service house in order. You know that. The journey won't be easy and inevitably you'll need to enlist an expert in the field. Consider a few companies that provide the end-to-end solutions to bring it all together, and lean on them to expand your knowledge and advance your organization through its customer-inspiring journey.

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Vanessa is currently the Senior Project Manager of client deliverables for 1to1 Media. Her experience in the publishing industry spans over 20 years. Vanessa is a graduate of Charter Oak State University where she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Business. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, singing, and cooking.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION