Living in a omni-channel world
It started with a text…This morning I received a text from my bank advising me of my latest balance. I wanted to query a payment and so went onto the smartphone app.
Still a bit confused, I requested a call back. Luckily, when the agent called me I recognised the transaction and so my mind was put at rest. My point here isn't that I am prone to forgetting my purchases, but that in the space of ten minutes I interacted with my bank through three different channels.
As little as five years ago this scenario would have been unthinkable. I'd probably of been reviewing my paper statement and spending a long time on the phone listening to hold music in order to find out the information I needed. Yet this casual flicking between channels is now the norm. Thanks to the rapid developments of technology, customer service operations have been streamlined and made simpler, more direct. But the instantaneous nature of communication we are all now used to has also led to rising expectations.
As a customer, whichever channel I choose to interact with, I expect my bank, utility company, council or a retailer to know who I am. If I have updated something online, I also expect for that to be reflected in the mobile app or for the call centre agent to be aware of it. As consumers when it comes to customer service we demand high standards. If we don't get a reply to a Live Chat request in seconds? Cue a tirade on Facebook. If someone is delayed in responding to a Tweet 'what are they doing?' we wonder aloud to our followers. We want access to information now and we demand it now.
.....and nearly always ends in disappointment
The speed with which the data we desire is delivered to us, isn't necessarily the only issue at hand here. It is also the quality and accuracy of it. For example, if I download an offer code via the Pizza Express mobile app, I expect to be able to redeem it in-store, not be told it isn't accepted unless printed out. If I provide information via one channel, I want it to be recognised in another, be that web, mobile, in-store or a call centre. In short, my one transaction crosses multiple channels and I expect it to be replicated accordingly.
Yet, very rarely are our expectations met. UK PLC and public sector organisations are struggling to integrate data across multiple platforms and deliver the seamless and, most importantly, consistent service that consumers' crave. You could argue that it doesn't really matter, but it really, really does. How brands build communities, loyalty and retain customers all comes down to the customer experience that they deliver. No one likes to repeat themselves multiple times. It's frustrating. After all, surely recognising one transaction should be such a simple thing? Consumers don't care how you do it; they just want it done.
The rise of omni-channel customer experience
Omni-channel is a term that is growing in popularity and reflects how today's savvy consumers seek to engage with brands and organisations. It is a trend that recognises that people no longer engage via one chosen channel and the need to ensure that a customer has a rewarding experience whether they are in-store, on-line, using their landline at home or browsing using their mobile. If as a brand, you don't support or provide choice then will your business become defunct? Customer service strategies have to acknowledge that it isn't just about offering different channels; it's now about integrating them and providing a truly agile service.
Arguably, despite the fact that we live in a multi-channel, multi-device, multi-screen world, the device through which we interact will become less important. What will matter more is the quality of that interaction. To this end we are seeing increasingly diverse applications that allow us to interact using our voices as well as through a traditional keypad. As consumers become more comfortable and adept at using their voice to give commands, ask questions and enter information on their devices, so they are becoming more aware of the ease, speed and convenience of the technology. This is evident from the rise we're seeing in the number of businesses deploying natural language call routing technology. The same ease and speed with which calls can be routed can also be realised by integrating speech with the web or mobile apps. As the device becomes less important, so organisations must find the common thread that binds multiple channels together. As we flip from our phone, to the TV, to the tablet how we control these interactions will more commonly be done using speech.
At a time when budgets are tight, companies could stick to tried and tested methods, but instead they should be looking at how they can innovate and at the same time make long term efficiencies. Brands need to embrace new, proven technologies at the same pace that consumers demand them; and integrate all channels to deliver a rapid, comprehensive and satisfying experience.
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