In Part 1, we discussed why you should deploy a multichannel strategy. While in Part 2, we explored how to approach the evaluation of customer engagement channels for your business type. In this final installment, we will outline strategies for an effective roll-out of a new channel.
5 Steps to a Successful Launch of a New Customer Contact Channel
- Define what you’re setting out to achieve—choose a mission statement. You’re probably not going to get too far if your mission statement is: “To be the first in the industry to be multichannel,” or “To keep up with our competitors—everyone’s talking about multichannel nowadays.” More likely to breed success is a mission statement like: “To invest in people, technology and infrastructure that enable us to put our customers at the heart of our communications strategy by evolving with their ever-growing needs and letting them tell us how they want to speak to us now and in the future.”
- Analyze and plan. Research current and emerging trends in your industry. This includes finding out what your competitors are doing—there’s nothing to stop you trying out their service firsthand to see what they are doing successfully or badly. Use your own support services and make a comparison. Analyze the demographics and behaviors of your customer base, and ask your customers what they want!
- Align your technology. Analyze your current technology’s ability to provide seamless customer experience, and assess what investment might be necessary to ensure that you’re using the right tools. Is your database ready for you to give your customers a consistent message and service across the different channels? Are you ready for the impacts to your processes surrounding staff resourcing (hiring, training, WFM), reporting (SLAs, KPIs) and quality monitoring?
- Define a pilot process. To begin with, consider launching the channel only internally to help road-test the new setup. This enables you to roll back without disappointing your customers. Once you’re offering this to customers, it’s difficult to shut it down and redesign it without losing credibility. You will also need to understand the dynamics and metrics of small resource pools—a small number of interactions will have a small team saturated, so SLA will be erratic. Assess your technology’s ability to throttle volumes during peaks (e.g., only offer the new channel to a reduced number of customers, don’t publicize it on your home page from day 1, remove the chat button from the website when no agents are available, set in-queue expectations with options to convert to a call, etc.).
- Roll out progressively. Only roll out when you’re confident you can be successful at doing so—this is not the time for a Big Bang approach. Maybe only offer it to Platinum customers in the beginning to help them feel special about taking part in the evolution. Open it up to the wider audience gradually, and obsessively request feedback and customer assessments to be fed back into the design cycle for version 2.0.
Some Considerations to Bear in Mind
- Ensure that you always know why you’re doing what you’re doing and let this guide your decision making during the design process. What are we trying to achieve with this new channel and does it achieve that the way we’re designing it?
- Don’t underestimate the impact new channels will have on your business, including changes to:
- Agent profile and recruitment process. Are there new skills or experiences that you need to be looking for (e.g., computer literacy, technical profile, age group, etc.)?
- Training and quality monitoring. Are the process and tools the same for recording and scoring calls, chats, emails and social media?
- Workforce management. While we can take pressure off the inbound phone lines by adding in automated response options (SMS, some chat, potentially web- forms) or deferrable workload for customer channels with less immediate need for response (e.g., email, white mail), we also need to consider whether phone teams and deferrable work teams are interchangeable resources or two separate teams. Understand occupancy, the value of accurate forecasts, and beware of the temptation to multitask to gain efficiency.
- You may need to redefine your reporting tools and processes as well as your SLAs and KPIs.
- Be sure that you’ve planned what the pilot process looks like and who your audience is during the different phases. This includes understanding the dynamics of small pockets of agent resources—smaller groups require more idle time.
- Establish a clear communications strategy, including publicity and advertising, for when you’re ready. How you can use gamification to encourage customers to use new channels and to take part in feedback to help you further improve?
- Promise very little to stakeholders. Whatever happens, you don’t want to be in a position where you’re under pressure to drive against the clock toward launch with something that isn’t ready.
While companies using this approach also use multiple channels to engage their customers they distinguish themselves through two additional factors; consistency and focus on devices involved within client interactions. These businesses are diligent to ensure that their customers receive the same experience and message through different channels and devices involved within their interactions with the firm. For example, a company that provides customers with the ability to engage it through a mobile app, social media portal and website would be focused to ensure that the look and feel as well as the messages they receive across each touch-point are seamless.
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.