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The Case for Multi Channel Excellence in Customer Service

Wim Rampen | Oct 16, 2012 84 views No Comments

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Call Center by Andrea Baldassarri on FlickrOver at the Desk.com blog, Esteban Kolsky shows (again) to be a great thought-leader. In his thought provoking post titled “The case for single channel excellence in customer service” he makes the case for (1) focus, (2) delivering satisfaction and (3) cost savings through automation, before trying to go multi- or even cross-channel. Going down that route too fast is going down the route of multi-channel failure, Kolsky claims.

Although I think highly of Esteban Kolsky and I very much applaud his initiative to challenge conventions, I have to disagree (the debate is probably what he was hoping for). There are a couple of reasons why:

Many succeed in providing multi-channel service recovery
First of all Kolsky makes his case only by stating that it is very difficult to focus on multiple channels at the same time. As much as this is true, it is also false. There are numerous examples of companies that work multi- or cross-channel that are doing an excellent job at all three things Kolsky wants us to do whilst offering multiple service recovery channels. Zappos is a well known example, but I can think of a dozen companies here in Europe that have been able to do this as well. I think you do too. Bottom line: the fact that many make a mess, doesn’t mean everyone will.

I would also argue that the current state of Customers’ satisfaction (not that bad everywhere) with service (recovery) is due to the lack of an integrated multi-channel approach towards it, more than it is the other way around.

Perfection does not exist
It seems easy to agree with the statement that one needs to be perfect at one level, before entering into the next. This may be the case in your next platform game, it is not in business. Waiting for perfection to happen is like waiting for Christmas and Easter to be on the same day. I would even argue that too many companies are using the very argument, to not have to innovate their capabilities, to stay within their comfort zone, risking their Customers’ loyalty because others are.

How would it be..?
Most services I consume these days are built around multiple channels anyway. How ‘dumb’ would it be if I were at my Banks branch and the employee would ask me to contact the contact center with my question? Or worse, to go on-line and look it up myself? How would I feel if I could ask any question on an Ikea product in the store, but not on-line, or by phone when I’m home trying to put the pieces together?

When to develop new capabilities
Of course it does not make sense to ‘just’ enter into any new channel, nor does it make sense to step into a new channel just because one can exceed expectations with it. Developing the capability to operate new channels only makes sense if these channels help your Customers get their jobs-to-be-done better than before, and preferably better than competition. After all it is a fact that Customers hire different channels for different (parts of their) jobs.

Just ask yourself the question how you got an answer to the last question you had about a product or service. If your reading this it is highly likely that your journey to the answer would have involved more than one, and somewhat likely it would have involved more than two channels. And all that with two or even three devices.

The best service is no service
Of course you can force your Customers into the on-line only, or contact center only service recovery journey. Of course you can automate 40% of Contact Center contacts (not sure you can without using other channels by the way). I’m convinced though it makes a whole lot more sense to prevent 40 % of contact center traffic by offering (multi-channel) experiences that help Customers get their job done in a way they do not need Customer service recovery.

Excellent service (recovery) takes context into account
And in the event something goes wrong, you help them get that job done (themselves) in the most effective and effortless way. And these days that may well include involving other Customers for some service recovery jobs (how do I get my wifi working on this device), the company web-site for another (I’m moving, please move my wifi with me), or the contact center (I’d like to make a payment arrangement for the roaming costs I accumulated during my holiday) for a very personal one.

If you think you can deal with all these different contextual Customer service recovery jobs in one (forced) channel, you are ignoring your Customers’ preferences, every day reality and your company’s urge to make money. Good luck exceeding expectations with that.

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