Channels, again

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We recently swapped service providers here at home for one of our communication services.  The entire experience was a headache and we almost immediately regretted making the switch from our previous provider.  What was so frustrating was that, no matter where we went to look for help, be it in a physical store, online, in the provider’s app, or over the phone, nobody could help us with our struggle and confusion.

It made me think about a common theme in CX thought-leader circles:  channels.  I’ve written before about the importance of being not necessarily just in all the channels, but those channels where your Customers want you to be.  After all, if you’re spending resources to put together a chat function on your website, but due to the nature of your Customers’ profiles and your own Brand Promise, nobody really wants to chat online with you, then going to the expense and work of setting that up isn’t a wise use of your resources.  “Omnichannel” is a cool-sounding word, but sometimes it’s a little overboard if nobody cares.

But here’s the thing:  I used many channels over the course of a couple of days to iron out all the details and pose my questions.  None of them helped, but they all didn’t help simply on a different platform.  So what good was it for this service provider to be omnichannel, if other than just to spread the misery around?  I’ve stated before that simply adding a new channel to an existing poor experience isn’t doing your brand any favors.  After all, if you can’t get the job done in one channel, simply shifting that incompetence or lack of care to another isn’t going to impress anybody.

It was then that it occurred to me that I’d have gladly used any channel that they wanted me to use if it’d just solve my issue.  More broadly and frankly, I’d rather have a successful, easy, and effective interaction on a channel not of my choosing than have equally terrible experiences across any number of channels that I may prefer.

I’m not sure how many other Customers are that sanguine about choice of channels, and I read all over the place about how certain Customers will always want to use the phone, and how certain generations will never want to talk with anybody but rather prefer texting or some other technology for addressing issues.  But are we as CX professionals getting too caught up in the vehicles for helping our Customers that we’ve lost sight of the actual goal?  With all the effort and thought energy we put into discussing, researching, funding, and launching new channels, what if we put some of that work into fixing the systems that operate (or don’t) behind those platforms?

If you can’t issue a refund or honor a discount offering over the phone because you need certain proof of purchase or other sorts of documentation, maybe email is a better channel for that sort of activity.  Okay, but for “omnichannel” purposes, maybe you also allow such transactions in person at a retail location too.  All that’s fine.  And the person on the phone or in the chat at least ought to be able to explain those limitations and how to use the other channels in order to make it happen.  On the other hand, if the entire process is a pain in the neck because you’ve made it more complicated than it needs to be (or simply impossible altogether), no matter which channel your Customer chooses, why are you even bothering?

Perhaps the solution is to get your processes and systems worked out in whatever channel you find most agreeable.  Iron out all the details and fundamentals first, to make it smooth and Customer-centric.  Then, once you’ve got that proof of concept nailed and perfected, find ways (insofar as there are ways) to replicate that wonderful experience in the other channels.  You may not be able to get it to work properly everywhere, but I imagine your Customers will be much more forgiving if you at least have it squared away somewhere.

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