Listening to customers is becoming increasingly complex.  Customer Service teams are scrambling to work together with IT departments to implement omni-channel communication strategies that connect employees to customers.

Omni-Channel Customer Care

Explosive Growth in Communication Channels

A few weeks ago I was a keynote at a call center business event.  During the course of a single day I interacted with co-workers, clients and prospects through at least 8 digital channels including:

  • A mobile app specifically for the event – when an attendee touched base with me after I delivered the keynote
  • Facebook newsfeed and messenger - a past co-worker was also attending, noticed that I had posted that I would attend in Facebook, and reached out to schedule dinner
  • Twitter - when I didn't get a reply back on Facebook, I used a direct tweet to connect with the co-worker
  • Texting – when colleagues and clients had urgent questions
  • Instant Message - when colleagues saw me online
  • Skype - for a screen-sharing conference call with a client
  • Enterprise Social – when I worked with a client executive to facilitate feedback to their internal blog; and also when I shared event updates with our team using Yammer
  • Intranet – when I provided feedback on some client recommendation documents; and when I uploaded some session slides
  • Not to mention - the usual emails, phone calls … oh yea, and in person meetings too

The example above, and image below, doesn't do the challenges faced by customer care teams full justice.  Channels like Social, IoT (the Internet of Things) and Mobile actually represent an almost limitless number emerging social channels, internet connected devices, and mobile apps.

infographic: Omni-Channel Customer Care

Is it Time for Omni-Channel?

How important is omni-channel customer care? Let's ask customers what they think. The nearby infographic is based on studies by Zendesk and North American Technographics. Not only do customers want the companies that they do business with to engage with them across channels, they want data to be shared across those channels so that they don't have to repeat themselves.

Infographic: Customer Service and the Customer Experience

Redefining Customer Service

The challenge is bigger than just transforming to omni-channel - it's actually rethinking the role of the Customer Service department in delivering a great customer experience.

Take a retailer for example. Is centralized customer service limited to answering customer inquiries and complaints? Or does it expand into the experience the customer has when they visit the point-of-sale?

  • Do customers walk into your store and sometimes visit Amazon on their mobile device to read reviews and compare prices? What would it look like if they had an app from your store that would do that?
  • Do you rely on store personnel to help customers find what they're looking for? What would it look like if there was a mobile app that helped them with that? How would that app link to your customer service center?
  • Do you provide in-home installation or repair?  What would it look like if customers could track the location of their field service person on the web or on their mobile device?

Integrate, Migrate and Eliminate

Keeping up with these new channels and strategies creates organizational challenges. Simply adding new applications to handle these channels isn't enough (recent research by C5 Insight shows that there is a 14.5% drop in employee satisfaction when going from using 2 to 3 apps to get your job done - most customer service personnel already use more than 6 apps in their daily work already).

An omni-channel strategy means deeper customer engagement in more places, but employee engagement in fewer. How do organizations tackle this seeming paradox?

  • Organizational Design: Businesses are re-thinking the role of customer service as an integral part of the overall customer experience. This includes helping to manage the employee experience - in today's digitally connected world, the customer service center often has information and expertise than point of sale personnel personnel. Organizations with brick-and-mortar locations are using this to compete with their pure-play digital competitors.
  • Technology: Successful organizations are following a process that we call "integrate, migrate/eliminate". They integrate systems so that their teams can access data in fewer systems of record. And they ruthlessly migrate data and functionality into the right system – eliminating outdated systems in the process. As a result, the definition of outdated legacy technology is evolving from 20+ years old, to systems that might have been implemented fewer than 5 years ago, but have now been disrupted by better options.
  • Change Management: Separate studies from the European Journal of Psychology and Franklin Covey, suggests that changing human behavior in business is a much more difficult challenge than changing technology.  Successful organizations make change management an integral part of redesigning their organizations and technology with the understanding that the average person takes 90-180 days to establish new habits.  Too much change, too fast, can cause more harm than simply staying on old legacy solutions would.

Download the "Listen: Omni-Channel Big Data" Infographic

Free Infographic Download - Omni-Channel Customer ExperienceWant a handy 1-page infographic overview of this article along with sources?  Click here to download the infographic.