Make no mistake: The digital customer is a fully connected one. The average U.S. consumer uses smartphones, messaging apps, social media, email and texting, with availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Clearly, companies that aren’t implementing a corresponding omni-channel customer engagement strategy will soon be left far, far behind.
That said, it’s not enough to make it possible to, say, tweet your company. Increasingly, if you’re not using behavioral and transactional data to enable self-service in an integrated way across channels, you risk actually irritating your customers and dealing with negative brand feedback. That means providing a path that’s simple and intuitive so that the customer is able to get their requested services and answers, on their own terms, with every interaction. In fact, 73 percent of consumers in an Aspect (News - Alert) Software survey wished there were more ways to solve customer service issues on their own.
“Customers don’t think of channels,” explained Joe Gagnon, chief customer strategy officer at Aspect, in a blog. “They think about solving a problem, getting a question answered, finding information – and they like it when this is easy to do and they can use the technology of their choosing to get it done. Which leaves businesses to make sure that they support the various channels the customer wants to use and puts them in control of the overall experience.”
In other words, it comes down to adopting a more personalized customer service platform.
Case in point: the traditional self-service solution is characterized by rigid menus (think “Press 1 for sales”). More modern versions of this implement an IVR that can be more conversational (i.e., “What would you like to do today?”). But the next wave of self-service can and should employ technologies like Natural Language Understanding (NLU), which can blend voice and text for rich interactions that reduce customer effort and improve the experience while lowering costs.
This includes connecting on social media, messaging apps or texting. “While millennials are leading the use of these channels, consumers, of other generations, are quick to catch on and demand them as well,” said Gagnon. “If your company isn’t ready to meet this need, there is a risk that customers will look to other alternatives and leave the current relationship without any notice.”
Good self-service also focuses on continuity—if the issue becomes too complex for an automated response, customer service agents should be called in immediately—and they should have visibility into the interactions of the customer that lead up to that point.
“They start the interaction with the context and content that lead the customer there and never ask them to repeat information they may have just entered in an IVR, a mobile app or a text interaction,” explained Gagnon. “The result is more efficient use of everyone’s time, the customer and the agent.”
Moving forward, this kind of omni-channel self-service approach will re-imagine the customer experience, and those companies that embrace it first will be rewarded with customer loyalty.
“Today, the power has shifted – from companies holding all the information to self-reliant, connected and independent-minded consumers who are ready to bring their version of work-life blend to their life as a consumer,” Gagnon said.