• 12:11:17 pm on March 18, 2009 | 0

    Many people have corrected me, online and offline, that I am too focused on email. Instead I should be thinking about a holistic customer service strategy. Yep, they’re right. Ideally, you would want companies to think through how best to service their customers – and that means understanding the channels that their customers want to use, and the channels that the company can realistically support, and do a good job at supporting them. It also means designing an IT architecture that centralizes customer data so that it can be shared between communication channels.

    But we all know that very few customers have historically invested a lot of strategic thinking into the channels that they support for customer service to maximize the cross-channel customer experience. I can name countless banks, e-tailers, insurance companies (and I don’t need to stop with these industries) that do a good job at supporting several communication channels, but do so in silos. That means that you can have, for example, a successful email interaction with them, or a successful phone interaction, but you can’t start a conversation over email, then pick up the phone and expect an agent to have access to your recent email conversations. And the mergers and acquisitions that have happened over this last year are only going to make matters worse.

    The other issue is that many companies are still organizationally siloed. You have your call center management, and your e-service management, and the long term goals and plans of these groups don’t always jive. So, with all these impediments in place, I tend to focus on ways to maximize the value of the email channel, as these suggestions are often easy to implement from a product and organizational perspective, and bring quick wins in terms of ROI.

    But, if I were to suggest ways to make improvements to a customer service strategy, this is what I would do:
    1. Think through the priority of channels that you want to offer to your customer base – is it phone, then email then web-self service? Or is it some other order
    2. Think through the order of channels that you want to implement based on cost and staffing – Do you want to implement them one at a time? Or all together?
    3. Think through your knowledge strategy – that is where do you keep your knowledge? – will it be on a corporate intranet, or on a company-wide wiki? or in a knowledgebase that all channels can access? What you want to avoid is to duplicate knowledge in the various channels or have channel specific knowledge
    4. Decide what integration is needed to your back end systems – like your ordering system, or reservation system
    5. Map your escalation pathways – For example, if a customer is on your website, what channels can they escalate to – is it only phone, or only email or both?

    These tips will get you thinking about multichannel communication instead of single-channel communication. And your customers will love you for it.

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