5 Common Expectations, Misconceptions and Strategies for Multichannel (Part 2)

3d illustration of the Door into Summer

In Part 1, we discussed why you should deploy a multichannel strategy. In Part 2, we’ll evaluate the various channels available.

Which Channel?

Phone lines represent, by far, the lion’s share of customer contact with email steadily increasing (although still low), webchat coming in third, and SMS/social media/smartphone apps becoming important additions in recent years. In certain industries, there’s no getting away from paper documents, although typically scans of these are acceptable and volumes are a small fraction of the total customer contact. Typically, customer interactions requiring agent resource are more costly for a contact center to provide than interactions customers can carry out with a system. Technology is usually high investment and low running costs, whereas the opposite is true for an agent team. The short duration of an automated transaction often satisfies customers, although the impersonal nature is inappropriate for some interaction types. If you really want to diversify your customer experience it would be a good idea to add channels that really do have a different look and feel, rather than adding channels that don’t differ very much from what you’re already offering. To help choose which channel may be best, I’ve defined two main groups that channels can fall into:

Agent: Unstructured Communication

  • Need for a human touch
  • Seeking assistance
  • Seeking explanations
  • Complicated, multifaceted interactions

Non-Agent: Structured Communication

  • Transactional interactions
  • Auto-pay
  • Balance inquiry
  • Request a copy
  • Structured requests

If you’re already offering a channel that relies on real-time live-agent input, what value are you really providing by adding another channel that also relies on real-time live-agent resources? If the answer is that one is voice and one is written, that may be a valid response, depending on what your customers are telling you. It may be more appropriate for you to add a channel with automated self-service, which opens a whole different realm to your customers (typically 24/7, customers are in no rush and can take their time, sit around a computer with a partner, etc.).

I recently applied for a mortgage with my bank and did it all online on their website. I chose my amount, my deal and I entered all of my details, then loaded all of my supporting documentation. Over the following days, I used the website to monitor the status of my application as my documents were revised and accepted. I only got a phone call quite near the end of the process to finalize a couple of details and arrange a date for signature. For me, this was the perfect blend—for filling in forms and checklists, I did it myself with no rush; and for the softer touch part, I dealt with a human being. The human being I dealt with was fully aware of everything I had done myself on the website, and I wasn’t asked to repeat information that I had already given through the other channel.

As it happens, I can also communicate with my bank via SMS, smartphone app and by going into the office. I do like the fact I have a choice and, at different times, I think I’ve used all of the various options, but I don’t notice a massive difference between going in to the bank and calling the phone line. Likewise using the app, the website or SMS are all pretty similar to each other. In an ideal world, all contact centers would provide all channels and would be all things to all customers. If, for the moment, you are only going to do phone plus one other, consider what you’re aiming to achieve with the new one. Are you going to stick with live-agent support but add a written channel (web chat, SMS, email, web-forms) alongside your voice channel? Are you going to stick with just voice for the live-agent support and add an automated channel alongside (website, IVR, app, SMS)?

Now that we’ve assessed the various channels, get ready for Part 3 where we’ll cover the 5 Steps to a successful launch of a new customer contact channel.

Interested in learning how to make sure 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.