Does increasing customer channels mean increasing cost to serve?
Reading Time 3 mins
Whether your customers pick up the phone to contact you, complete a webform, or send a message through social media, their choice of channels is growing rapidly. Adopting the latest multichannel customer experience strategies is increasingly important to ensure your costs don’t outweight the benefits.
Cost can play a factor with a variety of different channels, and the different approaches to managing them. Social media tools such as Hootsuite allow managers to assign customer messages to teams for action, or use social listening to monitor chatter about their brand. Chatbots allow you to interface with your customers using conversational AI technology – such as the Teneo platform from Artificial Solutions, which can detect sentiment in customer interactions.
Knowing where to invest and which channels to use can cause headaches for senior customer service decision makers, and place greater demands on business as usual.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all this activity and overlook your core value-add activities.
Deciding if and how to invest
Customer service is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ concept; different people prefer different methods of support. For example, 40% of millennials prefer to conduct all customer service interations online, while only 20% of the older generation like this method.
Customers shouldn’t be forced down the channel of your choice. For example – don’t just invest all your money in bolstering your online FAQs and chatbots, then sack all your call centre staff, just because it’s cheaper. If your customers fundamentally don’t want to interact with you in this way, you will increase customer effort, frustrate your buyers, and ultimately lose business.
So understand who your customers are, make sure you are listening to them, and ideally pilot before you invest in additional channels.
“The service organisation of the future has got to start in a different place than most organisations start today, by starting with the customer.”
Kevin Green, Chief Executive, The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (at The Future of Service Conference 2016)
Technology vs people
If you keep setting up ad hoc teams for each independent channel, your costs will naturally increase and your customer experience may not improve. You run the risk of becoming inconsistent in your communications (if you can’t train each team to the same specifications) and inefficient in your delivery as different channel teams struggle with different contact peak times.
There are a combination of solutions to this.
The first is developing contact centres, which break down channel silos and bring together your entire customer contact team. This can work to create consistency of communication, and reduce training overheads.
The next step is to multi-skill your teams. This creates capacity to move your people around to the busiest channels, and can allow quicker and more manageable processing for standard queries, with a separate team pulling exceptional and more complex queries out of the workflow.
The third step is to intelligently introduce automation. Don’t assume this will eliminate the need for people; it allows their roles to focus on the complex tasks and exceptions, as well as implementing, managing and developing the customer’s route through this technology.
The key to cost effective channel selection
In the race to multichannel customer experience success, most people want to achieve two things: maintain or improve their customer experience whilst reducing (or at least not increasing) costs.
The way you work, and the way you organise your people are key to this:
- Start with the overall outcome in mind – don’t just bolt on new channels or technologies with no clear strategy for how they will support your business strategy
- Walk the current customer journey, and use customer feedback and data to work out what it should really look like
- Use this thinking not just to inform the channels you use, but the way you design your service and set-up your operation
- Remember people are not just an overhead cost, they will often be your differentiator. How can you inspire your people to continually improve the customer experience you provide?