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Is ‘channel of choice’ a realistic promise?

Many business leaders have probably pondered: is the path to customer loyalty really dependent on giving customers every possible option to interact with your brand? Or is the ideal of an unlimited number of inbound and outbound channels unrealistic? 

Some executives may decide it makes sense to use fewer channels to engage and support customers and instead focus on offering a higher standard of service via existing channels such as call centres and batch driven print and email communications.

In our view, it is entirely possible for companies to amplify how they offer support, in affordable and sustainable ways, across any channel. We see the challenge for many organisations as being less the adoption of more channels but, rather, having a lack of scale and automation for real-time responses and straight through processing.

With the right processes and systems in place, companies can enhance their competitive advantage and deliver a better customer experience by enacting a ‘channel of choice’ approach.

Understand why your customers prefer different channels

The proliferation of digital touch points, plus changing customer expectations means that omnichannel mastery is key to delivering a great customer experience. Not only do many customers now prefer digital first experiences, they expect those experiences to be effortless and tailored to their needs.

Writing for Forbes, customer experience consultant Dan Gingiss makes an excellent point about respecting a customer’s channel of choice when responding to enquiries, rather than moving a conversation to your company’s preferred channel.

He uses the example of a customer that makes a complaint via social media—and posts that responding via social media is the best option because:

  • The customer chose to engage on social media, despite being aware of other channels for customer service. That could be personal preference, or because they did not receive the help they needed via another channel.
  • Using public channels to respond demonstrates openness and showcases your company’s effective, responsive, and caring approach to interacting with customers. That visibility helps build loyalty and trust.

Of course, sometimes data privacy or compliance obligations requires switching to a different method of communication—make sure it happens without hassle.

Connected processes—such as seamless handoffs and contextualised engagement based on past interactions—were rated as ‘very important’ by 70% of customers surveyed by Salesforce. Furthermore, Salesforce found that customers are 3.7times more likely to view seamless transitions between channels as important.

Global consultancy McKinsey & Company argue that an omnichannel transformation must view touch points as part of a seamless customer journey, not in isolation. “And since customer journeys are not simple and linear but a series of handoffs between traditional and digital channels that can vary significantly by customer type, an effective strategy requires an in-depth understanding of what customers truly want.”

McKinsey says companies can start by addressing predictable customer needs: responsiveness, transparency and interactions that are both easy and leave them feeling cared for. In addition, it is important to refine approaches based on real customer feedback and data you gather about customer behaviours.

We suggest that many of these deeper insights are impossible to achieve without integrated processes and systems for customer communications management (CCM). A customer experience management strategy underpinned by a digital-first cloud-based CCM platform with API integration to legacy systems enhances visibility of customers across every channel and provides analytics that empower you to be proactive in meeting their needs.

A digital-first cloud-based CCM with advanced automation workflows and reporting analytics helps you understand:

  • How customers prefer to engage with your brand and what kind of enquiries they have.
  • The history of a customer’s activity across all channels to assist you personalise interactions.
  • Bottlenecks in the customer journey to help you improve content or channel experiences.
  • Changes in customer preferences over time—their needs do not remain static!

Consistency and reliability of responses affects channel choice

Making a ‘channel of choice’ approach work as you seek to improve your customer experience also requires establishing internal clarity about communications practices, messaging, approval processes, and how content needs to adapt depending on the channel.

There are a few reasons for this. The most obvious one being that while using their preferred channel matters a great deal to customers (40% said they will not do business with a company if they cannot use their channel of choice), it is not more important than reaching their objective. Customers want their query answered or their problem solved via channels of communication that are accessible at a time that suits their needs, as opposed to the standard  9-5 business hours.

Zendesk describes the ‘paradox of choice’ that can arise, whereby customers may be overwhelmed by a choice of channels if there is confusion about the value of using those channels. It writes, “Customers do not want to have to sort through various support channels and then cross their fingers in hopes that they picked the best option to solve their problem.”

Zendesk recommend using your content to direct people to the best support channels for their needs based on your resources and back-end processes. This reduces the effort required by customers and increases your company’s capacity to respond quickly and effectively.  This is why it is most important when providing channel of choice that you implement simple yet effective omnichannel workflows to be able to move the conversation through many channels.

It is also critical that your team members have access to a platform that helps employees understand where to find accurate messaging, their authority to communicate certain messages to customers, and how to handle matters of varying complexity and sensitivity.

Clear and well-designed processes, consistency of communications, and the capacity to reliably distribute differentiated information across channels quickly are all enhanced with an integrated CCM platform.

A digital-first cloud-based CCM system that supports collaboration and scalability enables you to:

  • Have 100% access to availability systems and processes.
  • Integrate with existing business systems such as CRM with API connectors.
  • Define and develop data segments and behavioural insights to personalise each interaction through channel of choice.
  • Connect inbound and outbound interactions to help build the customer omnichannel journey.
  • Collaborate across internal teams to share, develop, prototype, and test different communications to render omnichannel communications according to channel of choice.
  • Automate business workflows that capture information to trigger real-time business decision-making.
  • Provide 24/7 customer self-service accessibility through many channels of choice.
  • Maintain a scalable compliance platform that tracks and reports every business process and customer interaction both manual and automated.

Invest in a powerful digital-first cloud-based CCM for easy omnichannel interactions

Customers want, and will pay more for, a great customer experience.  In fact, 84% of customers polled for the recent State of the Connected Customer survey from Salesforce said the way they experience an organisation is as important as its products or services. Additionally, a poor experience is no longer tolerated—consumers are more than willing to switch to competitors if they are unhappy. Using their preferred channel makes people happier.

Well-designed processes and technologies are enabling leading companies to avoid being stretched too thin when it comes to managing the customer experience regardless of when or how customers engage. Investing in an integrated and easy-to-use CCM system that ensures you can scale to meet customers via their channel of choice is the right strategic move.

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