Channel Surfing

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I have covered my experience using Twitter to solve a support problem in a previous article.  For many CX (and definitely Customer support) professionals, the channel is ‘the thing’.  We often talk about switching channels, being multi-channel, being omni-channel.  It sometimes seems like an obsession.

A colleague recently posted in one of the online discussion forums to which I belong in all caps (which I’ll spare you here) that “nobody” likes being moved from one channel to another.  I suppose among a lot of CXers, it’s an article of faith that you should never, unless absolutely necessary (and, they’ll say, it should never be absolutely necessary) switch a Customer to another channel.  Furthermore, some will say that you should be available and excellent in every channel.

I’m not so sure.

Right up front, I’ll say that it’s important to be everywhere (i.e., in every channel) that your Customers want you to be…within reason, that is.  If your Customers by-and-large want to call you, you’d probably better not hide your support phone number (yes, people still do this).  And if you’re in the tech space, um, yea, set up a chat function.  That said, surely still it’s better to prioritize getting the channels you’re in right than to poorly enter into new ones, no?  Especially if you’re already not doing very well in the ones you’re already using.  And that’s the first rule of channels:  Get the ones you’re using right.  The experience is more important than the channel.  Customers are not going to be blown away by the new-fangled way you have of communicating with or helping them if, once they’re there you communicate poorly and are of no help.  Lipstick and pigs, and all that.

And what’s more, frankly, I often don’t mind being moved to another channel, and I’m not alone in that.  I do mind being dumped over as someone else’s problem.  Sometimes IVRs are monstrously inefficient (don’t get me started) and I just resign myself to begging (either by the end-all pressing of “0” or repeatedly imploring “agent” or “representative” or whatever I think the voice-recognition will pick up) just to speak with a person.  When I do that, I recognize that the first person I get on the line won’t necessarily be the right person to answer my question… I don’t mind (any more than I’m already aggravated) that I have to be passed off to get my issue addressed.  That’s baked in.  Even beyond that, I know that sometimes I just end up in the wrong place or perhaps have to escalate (which is an issue of another kind.  Sometimes I have more than one thing to do when I call a service provider and I realize that may take interacting with multiple departments.

These examples all have to do with simply being transferred on the phone, but it also goes for swapping between channels.  It may be easier to chat online rather than on the phone, or vice-versa.  A really complicated solution may require an email follow-up.  Heck, sometimes it takes someone to come over to my house or for me to ship something to a manufacturer.  These are the more complicated handoffs.  And they’ll naturally come with a little bit of shuffling and having to swap from one medium to another.  Again, this is to be expected and isn’t in itself a huge aggravation.  Necessarily.

What Customers do mind, though, is having to repeat all their information every time they engage, or swap channels.  Nobody likes to explain that, yes, I have already turned it off and then back on again; that, yes, I’ve already looked at your online outage map; that the person I was chatting with online already walked me through this troubleshooting checklist; etc.  That’s a rarely-spoken rule when it comes to channels:  Continuity.  A great ironclad rule of CX is that we should never ask our Customers a question we already have the answer to.  That usually applies specifically to survey questions:  Don’t ask them to rehash parts of their experiences you already have on file; don’t ask them in the survey what their model number is or why they called…you already have the incident logs for that!

It’s even more infuriating (and a greater sign that you aren’t paying attention to your Customers) when you ask that in the midst of an interaction.  Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and the other person asks a question of you that you’d just answered?  Does it give you any confidence that this person is listening to you?  Well, your Customers feel the same way when you are in the middle of an interaction and ask them to repeat things they’ve already told you.  Or worse, tell them to do something that someone has just had them do.  This is Communications 101, and so many companies are failing at it.  Don’t let it happen to you:  Invest in ways of integrating the information that flows between your channels.  Don’t make your Customers do the work of informing people within your own organization of the things they’ve already told you.  From their perspective, you’re one entity, even if within your company you’re legion.  Once I say something to one of your agents (in whichever channel), it should be absorbed by, and understood throughout, your entire machine.

So take a look at your channel strategy.  Is it centered around simply being everywhere; making sure you’re using the latest technology to be where your Customers are?  Or are you concentrating on the actual experience you’re delivering once you and they get there?  If the former, take a step back and view the entire experience end-to-end from the perspective of your Customer; gauge if you’re making the cut, and look for ways of ensuring these two rules are followed:  Get your experiences right before expanding your channels, and make sure your channels are sharing information so it’s seamless for your Customers if and when they travel between them.

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