Five Common Expectations, Misconceptions and Strategies for Multichannel (Part 1)

The concept of Omnichannel between devices to improve the performance of the company. Innovative solutions in business.The concept of Omnichannel between devices to improve the performance of the company. Innovative solutions in business.


For those of you who like sneak previews, the main takeaway from this piece is that, while listening to our customers leaves us in no doubt that multichannel is here to stay and needs to be embraced, it’s equally important to understand that it must be approached with caution, as failing to do so leaves us at risk of just giving ourselves more ways to disappoint our customers. While multichannel can help us to meet customers’ desires for easy access, one of the easiest ways to frustrate our customers is forcing them to repeat themselves.

When we’re launching new channels, we should ensure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing: If I’ve told my life story this morning on the phone, then I am going to be very disappointed when I chat later if I’m asked for the information again. Before you launch a new channel, answer this question honestly: Are you delivering consistent service on the channels that you’re already managing? If you give your team leaders a scenario and ask them each to call the contact center at different times and go through the same role-play and then compare their scorecards, are they in the same ballpark?

In theory, multichannel is merely supporting more than one customer communication channel, but it’s very different from just publishing an additional 800-number and having the calls arrive at your existing inbound team. Some of these differences include:

  •  There are different customer profiles that will tend to prefer different channels, but none of them want poor service. Each channel should be treated with the same expectations of service quality.
  •  You must ensure that adding the new channels results in a net benefit, and that existing channels will not suffer due to the addition of new channels; e.g., strained resources, increased volumes in existing channels caused by disappointment in the new ones.
  •  Potential to mis-set customer expectations in terms
of what service is or is not available on the new channels. It’s not good if you offer chat and then end up responding to customers that they should probably just call. Typically, the transactions handled via chat are different from those tackled over the phone, but if the chat is there for a limited function this should be clear before the customers start the interaction.
  •  You must monitor customer behavior across different channels to assess their global experience. Most customers use more than one channel, sometimes
in parallel, and this shouldn’t necessarily negatively impact your FCR scores. You could define success in terms of each interaction’s ability to successfully deliver its part, combined with the customer’s overall ability to easily achieve what they set out to achieve.
  •  Effective or poor management of your social media presence can massively impact your brand image. This is still very much a new customer contact channel with many creative ways of making it work for you, but let’s not forget the science—customer who ask questions want useful answers in a timely fashion. Only approach social media if you’re going to take it seriously and are confident you’ll get it right.

5 Reasons to Approach Multichannel

  1. Email, chat, SMS and social media can be cheaper per interaction than calls.
  2. Agent workload is varied, reducing turnover and ultimately leading to a more experienced workforce, which results in bet- ter customer experience, driving loyalty and repeat business.
  3. Customers may feel better-suited to communicating in the new ways you’re offering, and therefore, more likely to actually get in touch with you. That’s an opportunity for you to impress and strengthen your relationship.
  4. Staffing appropriately for each channel enables resources to be moved real-time to a channel experiencing a spike in volume. If you’re only offering one channel, you have limited ability to juggle resources to match needs. Often, the quality assurance program is the first to suffer to free up resources to handle the peaks.
  5. Virtual agents can refer to FAQs to answer chat without using live-agent resources, but be sure to use this option appropriately. Customers who have read the FAQs already and who are using chat for a human touch will be disappointed if they get the same responses from chat. Clearly differentiate the experience when a customer is interfacing with a website avatar (virtual agent) and when they have chosen to communicate with a human being over chat.

5 Reasons to Approach Multichannel—WITH CAUTION

  1. Different metrics/agent profiles/processes may be appropriate. This may result in a cultural change with new philosophies driving focus on different behaviors than before, new hiring strategy or different look and feel to the frontline teams.
  2. Technology may be a limiting factor here, prohibiting you from getting it right. You need to consider what happens to your agent desktop when you add these new channels—if an agent can handle calls, chat and email, this should not mean juggling three different tools with potential risk of receiving a contact from each channel all at the same time! Getting technology right also includes the ability to report, forecast and plan resources, quality monitor, remain compliant with appropriate legislation and maintain visibility of activity across channels to achieve consistency in customer experience—there is a need for a common database for all channels to access/ deliver uniform information.
  3. You risk distancing yourselves from your customers, as your customers may not feel better-suited to communicating in the new ways you’re offering. Know your customers, understand their demographic and what is likely to please them or add value. ASK THEM!
  4. Multiple channels may mean multiple small pockets of agent resources, which is costly compared to larger groups. There is a tendency to fall to multitasking to regain some efficiency, but this can lead to a dip in quality and FCR, which will result in driving up overall interaction volumes.
  5. Multichannel is complicated. You’re may find that your customers prefer to have easy access to good service over the phone over mediocre service across a diverse range of channels.

Now that we’ve discussed why you should deploy a multichannel strategy, stay tuned for Part 2 where we evaluate what channels are right for your business.

Interested in learning how to ensure your multichannel strategy provides customers with a consistent experience across channels? Download our free ebook: Omnichannel is No Longer Optional.

Adrian Bethell

Adrian Bethell

I am the EMEA and LATAM Contact Center Consultant at Interactive Intelligence, identifying opportunities for customers to maximize value through implementation of effective methodologies and contact centre best practices. I have over 15 years of industry experience including managing large and small, inbound and outbound, multi-lingual contact center operations and I am a physics graduate (University of Leeds, UK). My work has been focused on maximizing enterprises’ leverage from successful customer contact and has included realignment of KPIs and metrics with business goals, implementation of enabling technologies and tools, focus on continual improvement and high quality delivery, consolidating customer-centric best practices and driving innovation and intelligence into operational strategy. Among others I have worked in the Financial, Medical/Healthcare, Technology, Mobile & Telecommunications, Automotive, FMCG, Utilities and Insurance Industries. My native language is English, I’m fluent in French and Spanish and speak Italian. I currently live with my wife and daughter in Barcelona, Spain where I have been for the last ten years.