Providing consistent support across all channels is not an option for enterprises; it’s a strategic imperative. Enterprises are fooling themselves if they believe that their customers are not aware of inconsistent policies and service levels in their different sales and service channels. Aggressive customers identify these weaknesses and figure out how to use them to their advantage. This has become a lucrative game for some customers, but it only happens because enterprises make it possible.
While this sounds cynical, it is based on my years of covering and analyzing this very issue. I went to Gartner in 1997 with the intention of helping the industry deliver multi-channel servicing. Since 2001, DMG Consulting has studied the issue of consistency between servicing channels, and continues to find it lacking in many organizations. Even worse, the inconsistency results in poor service, hurts a company’s reputation and brand, making it potentially a very costly problem. A common real-life scenario makes this clear. Customers who send an email and do not receive a response within 24 hours often follow up with a phone call because they assume the company is ignoring them. As the staff that responds to emails does not have visibility into what happens in phone calls, they are likely to send a delayed response that differs from the information provided during the call. If the responses were consistent, the only unnecessary cost would be the expense of handling the same inquiry twice – in a phone call and an email. Inconsistent answers, however, mean that the company now has a bad customer situation on their hands that may very well escalate…all because the email service level was worse than expected. (Customers around the world have been trained to accept a 24-hour email response time. This is not considered good service, but it is the status quo in the market. Companies that want to improve perception and service are responding to emails within 3 to 5 hours, but this requires more staff.)
I appreciate that enterprises need to make significant investments in infrastructure, technology, training, people and best practices to build integrations between servicing organizations. But it is going to be at least as expensive if they don’t make the necessary changes. “Baby Boomers” have accepted this situation. The next generation, the “Millennials,” make no allowances for self-imposed enterprise limitations, and are going to do business with companies that make it convenient for them. This is a group of consumers who use the most convenient channel every time they reach out. It’s almost inconceivable to them that companies are not fully tuned in to their situation regardless of their favored interaction channel.
The need and business justification for multi-channel (or seamlessly integrated) servicing organizations is clear; the question is why enterprises continue to delay investments in this area. The answer appears to be the absence of viable technology combined with a lack of proven best practices. Additionally, in recent years, companies that are trying to survive the recession have been reluctant to make major infrastructure investments.
The good news for the market is that these three issues have now been addressed. For years, there were few, if any, strong multi-channel servicing applications, but with the introduction of hosted/Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based contact center solutions, this challenge can be addressed cost effectively. (There are still significant opportunities for improvements, but viable solutions exist.) Best practices have also been developed to address the multi-channel servicing challenge. DMG Consulting has been involved in quite a few of these efforts, and some companies are doing a good job handling multiple channels. (However, very few companies have yet to figure out how to incorporate social media into their servicing infrastructure.) Finally, now that the recession is largely behind us in the US and starting to ease in other countries, enterprises will start to make investments in infrastructure. Managers who can make the business case should be able to get senior management approval for these necessary investments in their company’s future. Building a multi-channel servicing infrastructure is no longer a choice but a necessity. The number of interactions in alternative channels is growing, and the “Millennials” have spoken.
Read the first two posts in this three-part series:
- Should Service Be Stratified Based on Customer Value?
- Delivering Great Service Is Harder Than It Looks
Donna Fluss is the founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, the leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis and consulting. She is the author of The Real-Time Contact Center, the Contact Center Executive and Management Briefing, the Contact Center QA Guide, the PC-DSS Guide, and many other leading industry reports on contact center hosting, UC, dialing, IVR, speech analytics, performance management, workforce management, surveying, QA/recording and contact center analytics. Contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org.