Sarah has a problem with a recently purchased product. After failing to resolve the issue online via self-service tools and web chat, she calls the company’s help desk. The customer service rep answers with, “What product can we help you with today?”
Sarah is annoyed the rep doesn’t already know what product she has, and that she’s been trying to resolve her problem online. Her frustration starts to breed a negative opinion of the company and the service it provides.
Uncertainty in the service experience is the underlying reason for much of the frustration and disappointment customers experience
“Customers say they want the company to ‘know them’ and ‘know where they’ve been,’” says Pete Slease, principal executive advisor at Gartner.
Service leaders have responded with an omnichannel approach, which purports to solve the difficulties of using multiple channels — and create seamless customer interactions.
“Organizations are striving to implement omnichannel solutions, but implementations tend to be challenging, time-consuming and expensive,” explains Slease. “In the short term, service leaders need to determine what improvements can be made to the customer service experience right now, while omnichannel decisions are being made and implementations are occurring.”
Know where to invest
Before service leaders invest in omnichannel technology, they must first determine which benefits will yield the greatest returns. They can do this by homing in on what matters most to customers.
Focusing on service transparency and proactivity does not require large investments in technology or long lead times
After analyzing more than 60 advertised benefits of omnichannel technology, CEB, now Gartner, found that what matters most to customers is service transparency and proactivity. These two service elements have the largest impact on reducing customer effort because they help to eliminate customer uncertainty.
“Reducing uncertainty is the one of the most impactful ways organizations can provide low-effort customer interactions in a multichannel environment,” says Slease. “Uncertainty in the service experience is the underlying reason for much of the frustration and disappointment customers experience.”
The more service leaders can ease customer efforts, the more they can increase loyalty and lower attrition. Therefore, service transparency and proactivity should be key considerations when improving or creating an omnichannel strategy and approach.
Put service transparency and proactivity to work
The good news is that focusing on service transparency and proactivity does not require large investments in technology or long lead times. The two often occur together and address the same customer needs.
Customers want their interactions handled effectively, regardless of the channel they choose
Start by implementing changes in service reps’ processes, organizational communication practices and support systems. This will enable your reps to better handle customer challenges through low-effort interactions.
Improving such practices and systems will also lessen customer confusion, as they will help to:
- Clarify how issues are resolved
- Instill confidence with frequent and timely updates
- Provide a clear understanding of how needs and requests are handled
Consider 4 other omnichannel benefits
Beyond transparency and proactivity, four other areas of experience really matter to the customer. Some may overlap or support each other, and some require a stronger investment of resources than others, but an effective omnichannel approach can deliver against these key customer expectations:
- Channel consistency: Customers want their interactions handled effectively, regardless of the channel they choose.
- Service continuity: Customers want their service interactions to be consistent and continuous, even if they switch channels midstream, or start, stop and restart a request.
- Customer recognition: Customers expect service reps to have easy access to basic information about them, but also want adequate security around their accounts,
- Relationship history: Customers expect service reps to recognize them, know their current relationship (purchases, etc.), and acknowledge past interactions, length of relationship and loyalty.