Much has been made of “omni-channel” focus within companies and contact centers – and rightfully so. Customers now have more ways to communicate with businesses than ever before. They can choose to engage via voice, smartphone apps, email, chat, as well as through an ever increasing list of social media options!
According to ContactBabel’s 2014 US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide, the same percentage of customers now prefer to communicate via interactive, social and mobile channels as those who prefer traditional channels.
However, it’s too simplistic to assume that customers expect to use these channels to the exclusion of other options. Rather, I believe businesses can build more effective processes and improve customer experiences by analyzing how customer interaction choice is influenced by three main factors and shaped by customer expectations of those interactions. This allows a business to effectively segment their interactions and make them streamlined, according to how they are most likely used and meet customer expectations.
Regardless of channel chosen, customers today have the following expectations about their business interactions:
- Accuracy and security: Interactions need to have current and accurate consumer information that is well protected.
- Context: Companies need to know the consumer, what they want to do, and have their history and data readily available for some level of personalized response.
- Speed: Consumers want interactions to be efficient with their time and don’t like being asked to repeat themselves or provide information already entered elsewhere.
Beyond the universal expectations, there are three general factors that influence a customer’s choice of interaction channel:
- Circumstances: Often, customers decide on the contact option based on the current location, tools/applications available, and the urgency of their need. For example, if the matter is urgent – customers might attempt to contact the company via phone or web chat.
- Nature of the task: Is it simple or complex? Is it a one way interaction (i.e. notification) or will it need to be interactive as in problem solving? If the request is as simple as updating the home address, a customer might decide to proceed via self-service, or send an email.
- Personal preference of technology: What is the customer most comfortable with? Businesses can’t ignore the generational impact, here as demographics strongly influence technology choices which directly relate to the interaction choice. According to Dimension Data’s 2015 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report, social media is now the most popular contact option for Generation Y.
Preparing a channel strategy and designing interaction paths can help streamline efforts, control costs and positively impact customer service.
When evaluating their customer interaction channels and strategy, businesses should consider their customers’ circumstances, tasks as well as their preferences and demographics when designing the interaction flow to improve customer experience and meet customer expectations.