Thursday, December 05, 2013

Does Omni-Channel Service Equate to Better Service?

The evolution of customer service delivery channels has sped up in the last few years.  Consumers being connected all the time is having a big impact on the expectations of the consumer and the way in which customer service is delivered.  The real question that needs to be asked; “Are consumers happier with the service they are now receiving?”  Based on the research I am seeing, the answer is NO.  The good news is that service perceptions are not getting worse.

So how is that possible?  Weren’t the new media streams like Facebook, Twitter, on-line chat and browsers supposed to help put an end to unhappiness in the customer base?  Only if you drank the Kool-aid™.

The fact of the matter is that it does not matter whether you call it omni-channel, multi-channel, internet-channel or any other kind of service, if the customers cannot get their answers in a timely way, they are not happy.  If the service model is already a mess, adding more media streams only makes things worse.  Today, the penalties for poor service are very swift and severe. 

So what should companies be doing to avoid these penalties?  Simple.

  1. Recognize that at the end of the day, the agents carry the load when it comes to service.  I have read hundreds of Twitter and FB rants and only rarely is the rant solely about a web page or an IVR script.  Almost always, there is an unskilled agent involved.  Train agents on the knowledge and people skills they need for their job and verify each area on a regular basis. 

  1. Recognize that not all media are created equal.  English is not a simple language.  Neither are a great many other languages.  The ability to write those languages and to know both what to say and how to say it is not a universal skill.  Each new media embraced as part of the customer service model brings along unique skill requirements that must be met.  Agent skill-inventories are the easiest way to identify whom among the existing staff are either qualified or could be quickly qualified to take on the new media.  Skill-inventories have a short shelf life so regular verification is needed.

  1. Silos are the biggest barrier to the customer service process.  Silos reflect a management structure that places politics ahead of service with a few exceptions needed for legal reasons.  Silos are found in data, product and media areas.
  2. >From a data standpoint, there needs to be 1 picture of each customer.  That picture will be a composite, drawing information from multiple systems, but it needs to appear to the agent as a single system. 

    Product silos prevent agents from seeing the breadth of a customer’s involvement with a company.  Is the bank 1 company with 50 different products to offer or 50 small banks each with a single product?  If you want a relationship with your customers, you know the correct answer.

Media decides how the agent and customer interact.  Agent to customer-data should always be comprehensive and agnostic with regard to media.  Do not give the social media agents different information than that which the voice agents access.  With the proper skilling, they may well be the same agent. 

The well-designed customer service system is built on a foundation of comprehensive customer data accessed by properly skilled agents and self-service systems through communication avenues considered appropriate for the industry.  While the underlying communication technologies may change, the basic mandates have been around as long as there have been customers and vendors.  

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