Though many companies bill themselves as purveyors of exceptional customer service, the reality is markedly different. In fact, for most, a typical customer service experience can devolve to tropes often reserved for speed dating. Too frequently, customers find themselves having to reshare their name, history, and aim ad nauseum when communicating with a brand’s customer service team. And so, what should be a straightforward and personalized experience often becomes a fragmented, impersonal one.
The numbers paint a bleak landscape. According to the CCW Digital 2019 Market Study, 49% of organizations felt their biggest concern was a lack of 360-degree view of their customers—as a result, they couldn’t provide a unified experience across all channels. What’s more, insufficient data and disconnected systems make it a challenge for businesses to know enough about their customers to personalize the customer service experience.
To make matters trickier for companies, personalization cannot be siloed by channel. For example, what good is it to email Jeremy an account update with his name branded in the subject line, when he has to remind three live chat agents that he’s been a loyal customer for six years when trying to modify said account?
Think about it: Can you truly deliver on the promise of personalized customer service when that personalization happens inconsistently—or incompletely even? It stands to reason then that customer service cannot be truly personalized without also being truly omnichannel as well.
Servicing silos is costing everyone—yes, it’s costing you, too
Impersonal customer service isn’t cheap. It costs customers time, and it costs companies customers.
Every year, bad customer service shoos away $75 billion in the U.S alone (yes, right into the willing hands of your competitors). And the bleeding shows no signs of slowing. In fact, it’s a growing trend, with more and more lost revenue tied to shoddy service per annum, and with millennials—the most populous American generation—more likely to hopscotch brands than their predecessors.
It’s an uptick that certainly brings Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, to mind, who has said before “that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.”
While perhaps a bit hyperbolic, his words rightly suggest the growing importance of exceptional customer service in today’s business world. While customer centricity shouldn’t necessarily be a state of being for companies, it should certainly become a chief operative for brands both emerging and established, and it should incentivize them to move away from siloed customer service streams. Especially when considering that customers dwell on bad customer service experiences for far longer than they do on bad products or services. And with 78% of consumers announcing frustrations with inconsistent experiences or needing to repeat themselves across customer service channels, a positively-received customer service experience can depend directly on proper omnichannel management and continuity.
Taking a channel-agnostic approach
In today’s hyper-connected world, you must not just think like the customer, you must communicate like them too, and be channel agnostic.
People today connect asynchronously. They have no allegiance to any one platform or any one service. And their channel proliferation is happening at breakneck speed. One moment they can be @mentioning your brand on Twitter, while another they’ll be shooting over a screenshot of said @mention over text.
They communicate with friends and family in this manner, perhaps even with coworkers and superiors as well, and expect the same sort of nimble, contextualized, and convenient communication in other facets of their lives. And while they may have a channel of choice, companies must understand that said channel can change over time. Or, over the course of a week.
To put things further into perspective, today’s average consumer uses 10 separate channels to connect with companies. Yes, 10.
And yet, it’s more possible than ever for brands to navigate this whirlwind with grace, sophistication, and humanity. Ultimately, while channels might change or increase in number, conversations must remain at the forefront of every interaction.
Conversations connect people—they always have. And customer service agents must be encouraged and enabled to establish genuine connections with their customers. To do so effectively, they must also have adequate background information and context—on any client, on any platform, in any market, and at any moment. Silos will only inhibit them from delivering on customer expectations and forming a loyalty-building bond. They should understand who they’re servicing and how—and they should have that knowledge at a moment’s notice.
Ultimately it comes down to arming them with agent-friendly solutions that improve the customer experience over time, and that will ideally help reduce this sad reality: more than 50% of customers have found themselves having to re-explain an issue to teams of customer service reps.
Moving from multichannel to omnichannel
For too many brands, the need to keep up with the growing number of channels has meant adding solutions without integrating the customer experience. This multichannel approach has created silos of customer service agents and information. Each channel is staffed with its own team and creates its own record of customer information that isn’t broadly shared among the rest of the customer service organization. For example, if a customer had interacted with an agent earlier on chat and now via email, the chat team and email team would have no record of each other’s conversations or the solutions they each offered, leading to potential agent collision.
Truly omnichannel platforms like Kustomer enable agents and customers to have a single threaded discussion about a topic that spans all of the channels their customers may use. Agents and customers can seamlessly switch between different channels as needed during a conversation while progressing the discussion. And customers never have to repeat information because agents always have the context of every conversation through a comprehensive timeline of previous interactions, purchases, and customer data all in a single view, on a single platform. As a result, you can deliver truly personalized, omnichannel customer service even as the constellation of channels continues to grow.