Engineering Continued Success in Omni-Channel Customer Care: Keep an Eye Out for Emerging Channels

Our previous post highlighted how best-in-class customer care organizations ensure consistency when serving clients across different touch-points. We noted that success in omni-channel customer care is not only about delivering seamless messages across different channels; it also requires companies to use the right touch-points to interact with clients. In this post, we’ll highlight how the best-in-class accomplish this goal, as well as ensure that they successfully integrate emerging channels within their customer experience management (CEM) channel-mix.

Findings from Aberdeen’s March 2014 The Business Value of Integrating the Contact Center within your Omni-Channel Strategy study shows that leading contact centers are 72% more likely than their lower performing counterparts to have a formal process for measuring how interactions through specific channels impact customer care outcomes. Execution of this activity is enabled by first determining the key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to the organization’s CEM objectives, and then measuring how the interactions through each touch-point impact these KPIs. Findings from this process help organizations understand if they utilize each channel effectively. These insights are also used to improve customer care activities executed through specific channels – especially if these channels yield sub-par performance gains.

As noted in the title of this post, engineering successful omni-channel customer care programs also requires firms to constantly keep an eye out for emerging channels. For example, Aberdeen’s Social Customer Care: Steps to Success in 2014 study shows that the adoption of social media by contact centers has increased more than four-fold between 2010 (12%) and 2014 (58%). Similarly, while only 30% of companies within our The Business Value of Integrating the Contact Center within your Omni-Channel Strategy study report using live chat as part of their customer care programs currently, 39% of the respondents indicated that they are planning to incorporate it within their CEM programs.

Mobile touch-points are another area many omni-channel contact centers are focused on. Mobile itself is not a channel. It refers to organizations serving clients through modalities where the consumers can interact with the business through a mobile device (e.g. tablet, smart phone or even wearable technology devices). Examples to mobile modalities include text messages, mobile applications and mobile websites. Companies use these touch-points to varying degrees, but overall, observation from our research indicates that there is a growing trend among contact centers to serve clients through mobile modalities.

The average number of channels companies use to interact with customers has changed from five in 2012 to six in 2013 to nine in 2014. This validates that the value in emerging channels is not a myth, but a reality – one that contact centers must address. We recommend companies regularly monitor client needs and wants through voice of the customer programs to determine the specific channels their buyers prefer to interact with the business. This will help organizations remain abreast of any changes in customer expectations, as well as identify any emerging channels used by the customer base. Organizations with this process will ultimately be the ones who will succeed in the long-run when operating in an omni-channel marketplace.

         

The Path to Best-in-Class Results in Omni-Channel Customer Care

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In our previous post, we highlighted why omni-channel customer care is not an option, but a requirement. In doing so, we noted that a best-in-class omni-channel program is not about adding more channels within the customer interaction channel-mix. Rather, it’s about using the right touch-points and ensuring consistency of messages delivered through those touch-points. In this post, we’ll discuss several strategies best-in-class contact centers use to accomplish this objective.

One of the key characteristics that differentiate these leading contact ceneters is their ability to empower their agents with necessary insights in a timely manner. Findings from Aberdeen’s March 2014 The Business Value of Integrating the Contact Center within your Omni-Channel Strategy study shows that the best-in-class are 38% more likely to provide agents with access to all relevant customer data via a single screen on the agent desktop, compared to their lower performing counterparts. This means that agents within these top-performing organizations don’t need to spend time searching for relevant insights to serve clients, and also have easier access to customer data captured through different touch-points. It is this latter point that helps them ensure that the messages clients receive across different channels remain consistent. In an omni-channel marketplace, delivering consistent messages across different touch-points would be almost impossible without empowering contact center agents.

Another best-in-class activity driving success is contextual routing of customers. This refers to an organization’s ability to identify the specific issues of each client, as well as the individual account information, and using tailored workflows to assign customers with specific needs to agents who are capable of handling the particular issue. This activity ‒ used 83% more widely by the best-in-class than other firms ‒ is also used to ensure that customers are routed to agents who are skilled in handling interactions across specific channels. Naturally, not every agent is skilled in delivering support across all touch-points. Some might be skilled in handling voice interactions, whereas others might be more skilled with text-based channels and have advanced social media skills and knowledge. Developing a competency profile for agents and using this as part of the contextual routing process helps leading contact centers connect the right customer to the right agent, while also ensuring that the agent maintains the consistency of the messages delivered through different touch-points within the customer journey. Read Aberdeen’s related study to learn more about how the best-in-class build a contextual routing process to achieve the aforementioned objectives.

Evaluating the effectiveness of each channel is another key characteristic of the Best-in-Class –one that is worth drilling into further considering the rapidly increasing number of touch-points companies incorporate within their customer interactions. In our next post, we will assess how the top performers optimize their channel-mix, as well as the use cases of several emerging and recently well-established channels.

         

Omni-Channel is Here. You Need to Act NOW.

Customers today are empowered. They use a rich set of technology tools and channels to educate themselves on different products, services and organizations. This customer-driven purchase and loyalty process means that using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in sales, marketing and service activities no longer works in eliciting desired buyer behavior. Organizations must regularly track and understand the evolving customer needs, and they must do so on their buyers’ terms by using the channels they prefer.

business valueFindings from Aberdeen’s March 2014 The Business Value of Integrating the Contact Center within your Omni-Channel Strategy study shows that 99% of businesses today are using at least two channels to interact with their buyers. Furthermore, the average number of channels companies use to interact with customers has changed from five in 2012 to six in 2013 to nine in 2014. In other words, within the span of just two years, organizations have almost doubled the number of touch-points they use to interact with buyers. When put together, these findings show that adopting multiple channels as part of your customer care mix is not an option, but a requirement to remain relevant in the eyes of your customers.

A common mistake many organizations repeat over time is assuming that adding new channels within the customer care channel-mix will be enough to create happy clients and drive additional revenue. The harsh reality is that not every channel is right for every business. Therefore, before adding channels within your CEM channel-mix simply for the sake of doing it, we recommend companies capture feedback from customers on which channels they prefer to use to interact with the organization. This activity should be repeated at least every year as preferred channels, buyer needs, and behaviors are constantly changing.

Once you implement the activities highlighted within Aberdeen’s related report and identify the right set of channels for your organization, we also recommend that you establish the foundation for a true omni-channel customer care program. You might be asking, “What does that mean?” Well, this term refers to an organization’s ability to deliver consistent messages to each client across every touch-point – while ensuring that the look and feel (visual experience) they have also remains consistent across different devices (e.g. tablet, laptop and smart phone).

Companies that establish and maintain a best-in-class omni-channel customer care program have a significant competitive advantage against those that don’t. This differentiation helps them enjoy a 233% greater (9.0% vs. 2.7%) annual increase in customer retention, compared to organizations without an omni-channel program.

In our next blog post we will discuss the steps best-in-class companies take to succeed in a marketplace where omni-channel is not an option, but a requirement.