The Growing Importance of Cross-channel Customer Service

Ann All
Slide Show

Eight Telling Changes in Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors

Factors such as loyalty programs and the use of technology are influencing consumers' decision to stay with or leave their providers.

Call center metrics are a tricky business, given that companies must achieve an appropriate balance between quantity and quality, cost and effectiveness, and individual agent and team performance. While companies are ostensibly more focused on first-call resolution, a metric with the potential to boost customer satisfaction and reduce costs, they are still not doing enough to align customer service metrics with customer needs, opines Wim Rampen in a blog post he illustrates with a wickedly funny slideshow.


It shows how clueless agents can be (usually through no fault of their own). Check out the answer to the question "Why can't you get it right the first time?": I have no idea how many mistakes are made in the back office, but our call center is in line with benchmark best practice. We have an 80 percent first contact resolution rate (without prior website or voice response visit, of course). No, I do not know either how many times the other 20 percent need to contact us before it is solved.


The slideshow spotlights two problems I think are still prevalent in call centers and other customer service channels: an inability to offer a cohesive cross-channel experience and not enough data analysis to uncover the underlying causes of common customer issues.


When companies do not share data and processes across channels, customers invariably must repeat themselves a lot. Trust me, this is something customers do not like.


Writing on her blog, Forrester Research analyst Kate Leggett lists three elements she says are necessary to offer an effective cross-channel customer experience:

  • A unified communications model. Agents should queue, route and work on each interaction in the same way in each channel, using the overarching corporate processes for promoting a positive relationship with the brand.
  • A unified view of the customer. Agents should be able to see all of a customer's interactions across all channels. Without this kind of a 360-degree view, customers will probably spend a lot of time explaining their issues and relating their experiences to that point. (They'll get a bit more frustrated each time they have to repeat themselves.)
  • Unified knowledge and data. Agents require access to the same knowledge and data across all channels so they can provide a consistent message. In planning a vacation earlier this summer, I found myself reading some information off a hotel website to an agent, which didn't make me feel good about the agent's ability to respond to my questions and ensure I got the best rate.


These three elements are now easier to attain, writes Leggett, because best-of-breed multichannel vendors and unified communications vendors are addressing them in their products. A specific example she mentions: Avaya's Aura Contact Center 6.2, released last month, allows agents to respond to social media inquiries that originate from Facebook and Twitter from the same desktop they use to manage voice and electronic inquiries.


When I interviewed him last October, Ventana Research's Richard Snow told me that offering a cohesive cross-channel experience not only makes customers happier but also makes it easier for companies to perform end-to-end data analysis. This kind of analysis helps companies make proactive improvements that should reduce call volumes. He said:

You'll find out things like the cause of a peak in activity might have been a marketing e-mail that the contact center wasn't told about. Understanding those things isn't exactly rocket science. You can use the data analysis to show trends. That gets back to the business metrics. If 15 percent of your customers say they don't understand your product guide, then go and rewrite the product guide.

He offered the example of a British telecommunications carrier that found many customer inquiries involved setting up a phone for first use. So, Snow said, the company introduced a policy requiring sales associates to help customers enter contact information and make their first call with just-purchased phones before leaving the store.

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