Get Human: Omnichannel Support Requires Both Technology & People

Get Human: Omnichannel Support Requires Both Technology & People

By Special Guest
Ryan Johnson, Categories Director, Upwork
  |  March 07, 2017

In today’s impatient and plugged-in world, customers often switch between channels when they interact with companies. They may use one channel to research, another to buy, and a third to request service. Or they may email with a question, then call before an agent can respond. But here’s the challenge: Customers want all of their interactions to flow seamlessly between channels.

That’s a challenge because if a company just offers multi-channel support, it may mistakenly track that customer journey as separate interactions. In contrast, companies offering omnichannel support could accurately track it as a single interaction. This not only reduces potential for agent confusion, it also helps avoid customer frustration.

Omnichannel support also creates opportunities for proactive service. Typically, if a customer can’t find something on a company’s site, an agent must wait for the customer to contact them. That’s reactive.

But if agents are using real-time site tracking software, they could proactively invite customers into conversations and offer assistance. Sure, this could result in increased sales. But more importantly, the agents reach the customers before they become frustrated. In turn, this may increase customer loyalty.

When a company provides excellent service, it fattens the bottom line. Marketing Metrics reports that an existing, happy customer is up to 14 times more likely to buy than a new customer. But most organizations provide such poor customer service that it costs U.S. companies an estimated $41 billion in losses each year.

More than ever, customers have less patience for subpar service and organizations that do not value their time. In fact, 62 percent of global consumers stopped doing business with a brand or organization because of poor service.

What businesses must realize is the goal of customer service isn’t just to answer questions and resolve issues. It’s to do it so well that you make it easy for people to buy from you again.

Retailer Nordstrom exemplifies this. It quickly responds to all tweets, and when an item isn’t available, it doesn’t just say it’s out of stock. It also presents a similar item, which saves customers from searching for a replacement themselves. What’s more, Nordstrom’s live chat feature doesn’t just connect you to the next available agent. It lets you select specialists by category (i.e., beauty, designer, wedding) for a higher-quality experience.

Customers are making it clear: You can’t create brand loyalty by price alone. A reported 97 percent of global consumers say they decide who to shop with, and who to remain loyal to, based on the company’s customer service.

To answer customer demand, businesses are investing more into multi-channel support. But they’re still dismally behind. 

For too long now, companies have wanted more customer loyalty, but weren’t investing enough resources in the customer experience. Our research indicate that’s changing.

Organizations realize improving customer support involves more than technology, it also involves investing in people. We have seen businesses increase hiring in the customer service category by 47 percent, year over year in the first quarter of 2016.

Although companies are spending more, they still have a lot of catching up to do. According to an eGain/Forrester (News - Alert) survey, only 11 percent of customers agree that companies are effectively converging digital, mobile, social, and traditional channels.

An organization can only succeed in omnichannel support when technology and business work together. Suggested ways to evolve multi-channel into successful omnichannel support include: 

  • Building a hub: Harness efficiencies by creating an omnichannel customer support engagement hub.
  • Building an integrated, multichannel architecture: With mobile outpacing desktop use, integration also requires software that moves between multiple devices.
  • Backing it up with tools and talent: Ensure you have the right tools and analytics to quickly access information from prior interactions across all channels. (And don’t forget to put the right people in place to use those tools.)
  • Getting business on board: Ensure the entire organization fully supports the journey, and that appropriate departments help strategize ways to improve the customer experience.

The future of customer service requires seamless data flow. This is only achievable through omnichannel support. After all, if customers can move across channels, their data should move with them, right?

The bottom line is that omnichannel isn’t the future of customer support, it's what customer support should be now. Organizations that delay providing that may quickly be overtaken by competitors who get it done.

Ryan Johnson is the categories director at freelance talent company Upwork.

Edited by Alicia Young
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