|Customer Interaction in the Multi-Channel Age.|
By Vijay Dandapani
Thursday, 21st June 2012
Between the web, mobile and social media, the recent past has witnessed a proliferation of touchpoints for customer interactions with some industries like hospitality and airlines often actively encouraging and engaging customers across platforms.
A recent survey by NICE, an industry leader in the area of "intent based solutions" affirms that dynamic. The company's survey focused on customer "interactions with providers of financial, telecommunications, travel and hospitality, and healthcare and insurance services."
The findings of the survey has many implications for service providers. Among them, that customers interact across more channels, more often, and demand more from providers. A perhaps unsurprising finding is that "on average, the engaged customer contacts service providers across six channels." Also unsurprising is the fact that the Internet "remains the channel of choice" while the use of smartphone apps, SMS, and social networks is trending upwards.
Half of the survey's respondents said that "if they were unable to accomplish a task on a company website, they will then turn to the contact center to resolve their issue." That is a finding that is consonant with what prevails in most hospitality companies where, despite the presence of online feedback, calls to the toll free customer service center remains at a substantial level.
NICE's survey notes that "this is often due to the fact that respondents find complex tasks difficult to complete via the web self-service channel." They go on to predict that as self-service channels are more often used for easier tasks, the contact center will evolve to "Tier 2" status, for taking care of escalated service requests."
An interesting aspect of that though was that a significant 40% of survey respondents noted that they expected a live representative to already know about their experience prior to commencing a conversation so as to bring about a speedy and satisfactory resolution to their issues. That bodes well for those in industry as it requires fewer "man" hours and consequently dollars to close out a customer interaction. As a Nice rep noted an "empowered customer who uses more channels, more often, is in effect creating a big data challenge and opportunity for businesses".
Further, the findings of the survey suggests that service organizations that shape the customer interaction as it happens" on a consistent and continual basis over countless interactions through the lifetime of customer relationships will not only survive the rising tide of customer interactions but that will they will actually thrive.
Perhaps the most tellingly positive aspect to multi-channel interations is the obvious benefit that comes not just from quicker resolutions for customers but also more satisfactory outcomes.
Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.