For many a business, encouraging customers to embrace newer, online-based communication channels is a key aim in plans to cut costs and increase business efficiency.
In many cases, the discussion around how to implement effective channel shift centres on how to bring in the technologies and processes that make these new channels a reality. However, a more effective approach is to focus on the people that channel shift affects – the customers and employees of the business. This is according to Aspect Software.
The evolution of the customer service experience has seen the advent of a host of new ways for customers to interact with a business, with technology such as chatbots and automated self-service options becoming increasingly prevalent. While this transformation is proving to be instrumental in increasing customer choice, it cannot be expected to be a long-term success if customers or staff are not prepared for it.
Colin Whelan, Principal WFO Solutions Consultant at Aspect, said: “The fact that the number of channels available to businesses and their customers has grown so much in recent years is a real positive in terms of its potential to revolutionise the customer experience. But it’s important to realise that while channel shift increases customer choice, it doesn’t reduce customer demand, so simply switching a new channel on overnight won’t work if your key stakeholders aren’t ready or well-suited to it.
“For example, imposing a new channel such as webchat on a customer used to phone interaction, or introducing a new channel and expecting staff to be immediately conversant with it, will be highly likely to be met with scepticism or apathy.”
For Colin, any attempts to implement channel shift need to be part of a wider, long-term, company-wide approach that emphasises upskilling of staff and a comprehensive understanding of what customers want, as well as removing siloes within the business so that channels can operate much more fluidly in conjunction with one another.
He added: “It’s crucial not to jump head-first into new channels. Before making the move, plans should be in place behind the scenes to train staff so that their skills are on-point as soon as new channels go live, and so that teething problems are minimised. It’s also vital to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach: every business is unique in its own way, so channel shift should be moulded to your customers and the unique understanding you have of them.
“Paramount here is finding a way to build a truly omnichannel customer experience, which entails breaking down the silo-based approach that so often leads to different channels operating independently of one another. If businesses are able to create a seamless transition between different channels – for example, rapidly escalating a webchat-based query to a phone-based agent – customers will be happier and staff will be able to collaborate more effectively.”
To help create this omnichannel environment, Colin believes that moving to cloud-based customer experience platforms can be hugely powerful in removing the barriers between disparate systems and eliminating the issues attached to the use of old-fashioned ‘Frankenstein’ configurations.
Colin said: “Cloud-based platforms can enable organisations to move beyond inflexible legacy systems and bring all the elements of the customer experience together into a solution that can be accessed by anyone and from anywhere. By increasing visibility across channels, communication between each one becomes much easier.”
He concluded: “Finally, it’s useful to be constantly mindful of how technology, and its role in the customer experience, will continue to develop rapidly. Applying the Moore’s law concept here – which assumes a constant growth in technology sophistication – is effective, as it means that organisations can plan ahead, ensuring that they’re always able to implement new tech and make sure their staff and customers are ready for it.”