The latest statistics reveal that nearly 90 percent of the population of North America uses the Internet. In addition, consumer research indicates an estimated 64 percent of North Americans accessed the Internet via a smart phone in 2014.
The message behind these numbers is clear. Companies must embrace multichannel customer contact today—or risk losing customers’ attention and loyalty.
As brands strive to improve customer experiences in 2015, upgrading multichannel outreach should be an area of focus.
Here are three practices your organization can adopt to put yourself at the head of the multichannel pack this year:
#1: Know Which Contact Channels Your Customers Prefer
Chances are, your customers communicate via multiple channels everyday. Some customer prefer to connect via email, while others prefer text, and still others like traditional voice. How do you know what your customers prefer?
The easiest way to get this data is to ask for it. If your customer makes contact with a service representative, you can use that interaction to collect or reaffirm channel preferences. You can also add a channel preference question to transaction screens.
Preference centers are other proven tools to collect customer data. You can include preference centers in your customer on-boarding processes. These tools empower customers to self-select how they wish to receive contact. As an added benefit, you can also collect high-value insight on product and service interests, demographic data, and much more.
Once you have collected contact channel data—use it. Adhering to your customers’ preferences lets them know that you listen and value their input. This cultivates positive sentiment and helps reinforce customer brand loyalty.
#2: Centralize Customer Contact Management Details
You must anticipate that your customers can and do shift channels rapidly. For example, a customer may start a self-service transaction on your website, but realize he needs more information. He may follow up with a customer service call or email—or even decide to visit a brick-and-mortar location.
Or, you may detect a need to reach-out to a customer—to confirm purchase details or validate a service need. That means you must provide up-to-date information on every customer interaction to your front-line employees.
Achieving this requires you to eliminate information silos that hamper exchange of information by your entire customer-facing team. You also need to take a close look at your processes and eliminate repetitive steps. That way you can avoid asking your customers for information multiple times, which is a common source of frustration.
A centralized approach gives you a clear advantages. You can provide the seamless, personalized experience your customer expects across multiple channels. This can be a solid differentiator in today’s service-drive competitive landscape.
#3: Deploy Proactive Multichannel Contact
Handing inbound contact is just one piece of the puzzle. According to Forrester, outbound contact has been a top-of-mind issue for customers and companies alike in recent years.
Brands should adopt proactive contact approaches to anticipate customer needs. They can combine recent customer contact data with insights from other solutions to deliver the right messages—such as an offer or link to an online tutorial—at the right time. This can eliminate steps in purchase processes and prevent inbound contact to support teams.
Another way to cut down on costly inbound contact is to notify customers of service-disrupting issues in advance. If you have a known downtime, letting customers know ahead of time can eliminate frustrating error messages.
Plus, you can respond immediately when the unexpected arises—such as network outages due to weather events. You can target relevant communications to affected segments of your customer population.
At the start of 2014, Forrester reported that just 29 percent of companies planned to invest in proactive contact solutions. That suggests that proactive notifications is a worthy area of focus for companies wishing to get ahead of an emerging trend.
Embracing the Multichannel Imperative
No doubt about it: 2015 is the year when brands must embrace multichannel customer contact. A recent Ovum study of over 8,000 global consumers affirmed this imperative.
The firm reported that 74 percent of consumers use a minimum of three channels when engaging with a company for customer service. Twenty-two percent (22%) of customers use five or more channels, while 52 percent use three or more.
Today’s brands need to know that the traditional voice channel is not going away. They need to strategize for an optimum mix of live voice, IVR, email, text, chat, mobile contact, and more—and deliver consistent experiences across all these touch points.
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