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Last October I made the case for Multi Channel Excellence in Customer Service in response to Esteban Kolsky’s plea for single channel excellence in Customer Service. Today I would like to get back to the issue, for I’m seeing some hard to get rid of “myths” in the channel debate, that I feel need to be “busted”. I think this ma be due to the uprise of the “omni-channel” buzz of late.
The omni-channel buzz is a buzz in (US) retail-land mostly. But, like anything these days it gets transported into other (functional) areas of business quickly, and without scrutiny to the original concept. In retail omni-channel refers to the use of multiple distribution/point of sale channels as in ‘brick & mortar’, ‘online’, etc. as well as to the so-called ‘seamlessness’ of the Customer’s experience when crossing boundaries between them on the path to purchase.
Now this has a lot of similarities with the CRM-channel discussion on multi- or cross-channel communications. But there are distinct differences. Where omni-channel distribution in retail deals with the Customer Decision journey (mostly), CRM’s communication channels are facilitating communications along the entire Customer lifecycle. Or to put it simple: it is clear that a web/online shop is a channel in the sense of ‘distribution channel’ but is not a channel in the sense of ‘communication channel’.
So I think it is important to distinct a company’s distribution strategy, from it’s communication-channel (- a part of CRM -) strategy, although the CRM’s version of it is largely also supportive of the Distribution version of it. In this post I’m discussing the CRM’s version though.
To be more specific: I’m advocating against the rising idea that companies should offer all communication channels to their Customers – in the name of Customer Experience -. More so I will try to explain why in most cases following an omni/cross-channel strategy will only result in poor Customer experiences, not better ones.
What Customers Value
The first myth that needs to be busted is that Customers need or want to be able to contact you wherever they are, whenever they want and via any channel they choose. In all my years of experience it has become clear to me that Customers value resolution over accessibility and that Customers respect they can’t have that at any given time. They may even like it when asked, but hardly use it when offered.
This is why contact centers (in The Netherlands at least) close at 9 or 10pm (I think there’s even a trend where these will close earlier with the increased capability to deal with most interactions online), this is why satisfaction scores do not drop (immediately) if waiting times increase and this is why Customers use the phone a lot more often than they use e-mail to pose questions.
In short: in most cases Customers don’t want (more) options, they want better (first time) resolution. So, if you are designing your CRM’s communication strategy you should stop thinking channels and start thinking end-to-end resolution from a Customer’s perspective. Making resolution work via one, or a few pathways is more important that making it work via all available channels through all thinkable pathways (or journey’s).
What Customers Hate
Another thing I’ve learned is that Customers just hate it when companies don’t seem to recognize them as a (valuable) Customer. Customers are busy and they don’t like it when a company seems to forget about them. Forget their purchase history, forget their prior contacts with the contact center and let the Customer fill/spell out her details on every web-site visit, new form to be filled out, or call to be handled.
And we must be honest about the state of most company’s capability of doing so. Legacy systems, quick and dirty implementations, and last but not least: costs involved to make that happen along the entire journey, over all touch-points and in all channels are so high that one should question whether it makes business sense..
What Customers Love
… for Customers also love one specific aspect of any product or service they consume: its value for money.. And that poses some restrictions as to how much and on what we spend the money available to us. We can’t be great at everything. So we can’t just spend it on everything we believe Customers want. We have to spend it wisely so that our Customer(s) get what they value (most). So, if they value resolution over accessibility, it probably makes sense to invest in your capability to resolve, not to be accessible (provided you have a level of accessibility that is in line with general Customer expectations). And we cannot do both in most cases. For if we do, we risk to outspend our revenue, and we don’t want to go there, do we? In the longer term that’s not even in your Customer’s interest.
We also need to acknowledge that not all Customers value the same things and thus have to accept that we disappoint some Customers. In fact we have to accept that we disappoint most Consumers, far more than any company can satisfy. But we only do so to be able to deliver against (and in specific cases even above) expectations of the Customer segment that values what we chose (and are able) to do best. If we choose to serve all Consumers to all of our best capability all of the time, we will end up with sub-par mediocrity at best.
Do you know what your Customer and target segment values most? Are you spending accordingly? Or are you riding the Customer Experience hobby horse into the wasteland?