The days of single-channel customer interactions are over — and if they aren’t, then your organization is already lagging behind. From social media to email, customers need you to be where they are. Problems don’t always occur neatly within the 9-5 hours of a call center and when customers need answers to their burning questions they want those answers found, now. And they won’t wait. Research shows that 4 in 10 will only give companies a day to resolve their issues before moving to another channel — and 1 in 5 will only give companies a few minutes.
The customer mindset has shifted as cell phone adoption reaches critical mass. These days, it’s imperative for brands to respond in a variety of channels as part of their digital transformation efforts. This includes being available to customers at the point of need and optimizing channels to play to their strengths, rather than expecting channels to be interchangeable from one another.
Channels in Concert, Not Solo Performances
With channel optimization, it’s important to recognize the place each channel has in the customer experience. Each channel has a purpose and a set of use cases that work better for users than other channels at any given time. Text messaging might be good for short confirmations, or answering yes/no questions. Chatbots might work best at delivering answers to frequently asked questions. Voice and agent calls work best when customers have complex issues that need strategic thinking and deep knowledge to answer.
But customers don’t use these channels by themselves and neither should you. A customer might start at a knowledge base or FAQ, but if that doesn’t answer their question they’ll want to escalate. It’s your job to ensure that customer data moves with them, and as customers move from text to voice or back again, that each step is informed by the one before it. The last thing any customer wants to do is repeat themselves to a voice agent asking the equivalent of “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Of course they have; that isn’t why they called.
Voice and Text in Harmony
While customers will often reach out over a variety of channels, the phone is still king, and agent-assisted phone calls should be a critical part of your customer service. However, the amount of information you know (or can collect) about your customers means your agents shouldn’t have to enter a conversation blind. Getting voice and text working together will be the MVP of your CX strategy.
Consider the possibilities. Pushing low-level yes/no questions to a series of text messages frees agents’ time and gives them more information to diagnose customers’ problems. Simple questions are the low-hanging fruit of customer service and you want your agents dealing with more complex issues. Having voice and text work together supports agents with the right information at the right time. This in turn improves the employee experience for agents, who aren’t spending all their time asking the same series of questions. And with employee experience correlated to customer experience, happy agents translate to more satisfied customers.
Optichannel: Optimizing Channels to Solutions
As your business strives to make channels work together, you must also take care to ensure that channels are optimized to their strengths. To return to our concert metaphor, you want the trombones playing the brass sheet music, not what’s written for the piccolos.
While all channels have their place in today’s customer service environment, your CX strategy should understand the use cases for each channel as well as their strengths and weaknesses in solving customers’ problems. Text messaging is good for asking and answering short, simple questions, but longer conversations are better suited for voice, rather than forcing customers to type out short story-length answers. Chatbots and virtual assistants are good for quick interactions, but anything beyond their scripts should be pushed to a human. When creating your CX strategy, ensure your omnichannel strategy is optimized, with channels dedicated to their strengths.
Times have changed and many of us are walking around with phones in our pockets or purses that contain more than 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that took astronauts to the Moon. But as computers have improved over the past fifty years, customer service must as well. Businesses with a voice-only strategy are missing out on all the possible ways an optimized, omnichannel experience can reduce fiction, shorten handling times and increase customer satisfaction.
These days, there should be less of a focus on individual channels and more focus on how voice and text solutions can work together for a more cohesive customer experience. This allows brands to provide the right channel at the right time based on data, transaction history, and the task at hand for an exceptional customer experience. Taking an optichannel approach ensures that your channels play to their strengths as well as customer expectations.
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Tim is the senior manager of research and content for Simpler Media Group. In his role he writes content, market guides and data-driven research reports for all of SMG’s internal and external clients.