A Single-Channel Policy Won’t Work


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I keep hearing, “We don’t really need multiple channels. We’ll just make sure our customers use only the phone [or the web or email, depending upon whether a business has a call center or is more web oriented]. We just can’t afford to handle all those media types, and our customers can be trained.” Well, don’t kid yourself. Multi-channels are a must.

Your customers must be able to reach you conveniently, especially when they need help. And today that means multi-channels. Even though the vast majority of customer contacts still come over the phone, many customers (like me) have shifted to the web and email for most interactions. Increasingly, people are using more than one way to communicate with a company, depending on the activity or where they are.

For example, I usually use the web to shop, but when traveling, I’ll call into the contact center using my mobile phone. As a result, any company that doesn’t provide both ways to reach them has been removed from my shopping universe. Teenagers, many of whom will soon be your customers if they aren’t already, use the web, instant messaging, chat and email. They don’t even think of the phone, especially when your number is hidden in the small print at the bottom of your web site. The teen market will increase to 34.6 million by 2006, according to Packaged Facts, part of MarketResearch.com.

Nothing is worse for a customer than needing help and not being able to get it. When you’d never consider a voice self-service application without a “zero out” option for assistance, why do you think it is acceptable to leave your web self-service customers stranded? Imagine yourself as a customer in this situation. How would you feel if the business you were trying to reach had a “closed” sign in the window or just disconnected the phone? Your customers feel just as abandoned and cheated when they can’t reach you right now. That means you risk losing these customers, if you wait until it’s too late to make changes that will accommodate their needs. Many customers who leave don’t complain first. They just walk, call or click to your competitor.

Savvy people

Customers today are extremely savvy, and often they know almost as much about your products and services as you do. They expect a resolution to their problems right now; they don’t have time to waste. These customers are quick to complain and slow to forgive. Research done by students at Purdue University shows that people don’t have a lot of patience with poor self-service. According to a speech by Mike Trotter, a Purdue instructor, at the Frost & Sullivan Customer Contact Executive Summit in 2005, 82 percent of people surveyed said they would try self-service once but would not return to it, if it didn’t work. The same research shows that 60 percent won’t do business with companies that don’t offer options. These individuals have high expectations, and your business may get just one chance to meet them. You don’t want to fail.

Banks are an excellent example of companies that continuously adapt to customer expectations. Think about how they have extended their hours and provided global accessibility 24/7—first with ATMs and phone banking. Now they’ve added web banking. And you can still visit your local branch if you wish (although, I haven’t been to mine for years). I can’t imagine a successful bank (other than a few niche players) saying, “Forget all this multi-channel stuff, we’ll just force all our customers to contact us in our favorite way!”

If taking your customers’ point of view isn’t enough to convince you about multi-channel customer contact, how about this? Research by Forrester and others shows that customers who use multiple channels spend more and are more profitable. The Purdue University study above found that such customers spend $600 more each. This additional revenue could quickly make a significant difference to your business.

Implementing a multi-channel contact center is not necessarily a simple task, but it is an essential one that you’ve got to do correctly. As with most activities, about 90 percent of the effort comes from changing your approach—through vision, strategy, processes, employee skills, measurements and rewards—not the technology. Today, a wide range of technology solutions can help you meet your business objectives. They can help you build upon your current expertise to transform your call center into the right multi-channel contact center for your situation. During this process, you can supplement your in-house experts, if needed, with outside professionals who have the practical experience and/or technical knowledge to anticipate, and therefore, minimize your risk.

Don’t kid yourself. Multi-channels are a must for your contact center. Extend what you are already successfully doing in your call center and make sure doing business with you is as convenient to your customers as possible.

Betsy Wood
Nortel Multimedia Applications
Betsy Wood, evangelist, Nortel Multimedia Applications, participates in a global team helping companies deliver definitive customer service. Wood's 2 years of international experience include marketing, sales and consulting with Nortel and AT&T.


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