Your Customers are Channel Surfers: Don’t Turn Them Off

Your Customers are Channel Surfers: Don’t Turn Them Off image channelsurferschannelsurfersIt’s easy to think that today’s more tech-savvy consumers might begin abandoning traditional customer service channels such as phone or email in favor of newer channels like chat, web self-service, social and mobile, but that’s just not the case. Instead, the majority of consumers are simply increasing the total number of channels they use to interact with brands and organizations, based on convenience.

According to a recent Ovum study of 8,000 consumers from across the globe, the majority of consumers use three or more communication channels when engaging in customer service. Results show that 25% of consumers use one or two channels; 52% use three to four; and 22% use five or more. The overwhelming majority (74%) use at least three channels when interacting with an enterprise for customer related issues.

Why? Because the selection of time or step-saving customer service channels continues to grow. A NICE Systems Survey reports that a quarter to a third (25% to 32%) of millennials say now they use the following alternative channels frequently: live chat or virtual assistant on websites, text messaging (SMS), smartphone applications, service kiosks, social networks and online communities in addition to more long-standing channels.

But it’s not just the younger generation adopting next-gen service channels. Forrester data reveals:

  • Online chat adoption among customers has risen from 30% in 2009 to 43% in 2012, with a solid average satisfaction rating of 63% across all generations.
  • Almost one in three US online adults ages 68 and older have used chat for customer service.
  • From 2009 to 2012, Twitter usage for customer service has increased from 11% to 22%.
  • On average, 41% of consumers ages 18 to 46 (Generations X, Y, and Z) prefer online customer service to the telephone.
  • And according to a new Nuance consumer survey, 72% of consumers have a more positive view of a company if it provides a mobile customer service app.

Stop Turning Customers Off
Recently, some major brands have experimented with not providing or minimizing customer service on certain channels to funnel support efforts. For example, Charter recently announced it was doing away with its dedicated customer service on Facebook and Twitter, providing competing cable companies able to monitor Charter mentions and complaints with a prime opportunity to gain new customers via social media.

Best Buy also recently experimented with limiting a channel (in their case email), removing that contact option from their website in December. Although Forrester data shows that email usage by customers has only increased by two (2) percentage points from 56% to 58%, that’s still a great percentage of customers who use the channel, and Best Buy was quick to realize, restoring the email option to their multi-channel approach after just six weeks.

Accommodating Surfers without Making Waves

Says Forrester analyst Kate Leggett in a new report titled, Understand Communication Channel

Needs To Craft Your Customer Service Strategy, the goal isn’t just to offer customer service on all major channels. It’s now about seamless service, as consumers start brand interactions using whatever channel or device is available to them at the moment and then continue them on another channel as the hours or days progress. “Siloed and disjointed implementations for different customer service channels simply don’t cut it anymore,” says Leggett. “Companies should look toward integrating and taming disparate information sources in order to provide relevant and undisruptive customer service so customers who interact across multiple channels don’t have to repeat themselves.”

Customers are no longer satisfied with the basic channel package. They want all access, with full control of channel selection and the channel surfing experience at all times. Providing the longboard for each customer to smoothly ride their unique wave of channels is no small task, but organizations must invest in that consistent quality and the ability to reinforce the customer experience, corporate knowledge, customer data and the conversations and feedback delivered in prior interactions at every turn until the customer journey is complete.

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