Should You Add or Replace a Service Channel?

January 23, 2020

Contributors: Jordan Bryan,Jordan Bryan

With shifting customer expectations and increasing market competition, service leaders must decide whether they should add a new service channel and what channel it will replace.

Do you use an app to order food? Arrange a ride? Pay a bill? In the digital era, customers are more savvy and demanding, pushing customer service and support leaders to offer more — and more personalized — choices. But adding service channels may not be the answer. 

Offering more channel choice often creates unintended issues. It can complicate the service journey and increase customer effort that eventually breeds disloyalty. So when does channel choice help service leaders to meet shifting customer expectations and increase competitiveness? 

“The addition of channels must be in the best interest of both the business and customers,” says Devin Poole, Senior Director, Advisory, Gartner. “For service leaders to make financially sound channel investments, they must understand the easiest way to resolve an issue, and in many cases that requires dropping an older channel like email for a better option like messaging.” 

Key considerations for adding a service channel

Consider these four issues, ranked in order of importance, when deciding whether to add a new channel to the customer service organization.

No. 1: Distinguish channel need from want

Customers may ask for certain channels like service chat or a mobile app but may consider these “nice-to-have” and not “need-to-have.” Identify the underlying reasons behind customer desires; don’t just assume that meeting customer preferences will improve customer experience or save costs.

First ask “why” to identify desired outcomes and then identify the best possible channel and method for solving the customer issue. If you can’t establish a clear need, a new channel probably won’t provide business or customer benefits.

No 2: The customer service journey

Gone are the days when customers relied only on storefronts or websites to buy. Today’s customer journeys include company-owned and non-company-owned channels. Often Organizations often put too much weight on their own perspective of the customer service journey, causing them to focus on customer interactions with company-owned channels. 

Determine what particular issues cause customers to contact the organization to map to the six unique “jobs” customers need to accomplish to resolve an issue. This understanding enables leaders to accurately map the customer service journey and the best channel for completing each job.

No. 3: Existing channel portfolio

Evaluate the existing channel portfolio and assess its effectiveness in addressing key customer issues. This helps to determine the need for new channels and identifies issues the new channel would best resolve.

Start by identifying the top customer issue types and then assess the capability of each channel to resolve those issue types based on three factors:

  • Job fit: Assess whether the current channels fit with the resolution job customers are trying to accomplish in their service journey.
  • Customer effort: Determine the level of effort customers must invest in a particular channel to resolve their issues. Lower customer effort means a better issue-to-channel fit.
  • Cost: Calculate the cost associated with resolving an issue in a channel. When calculating the total cost per resolution, sum all costs and multiply the total by the average number of contacts required to resolve the issue to get the total cost per resolution.

Read more: Don't Miss the Opportunity for Cost Savings Offered by Self-Service

No. 4: ROI and organizational readiness

Assess the feasibility of the investment in and implementation of a new channel. Carefully examine the hidden and ongoing costs of service investments and conduct an accurate cost-benefit analysis to identify the risks involved and success measures.

Service leaders should also assess organizational readiness by considering three factors:

  • Ownership: Consider the extent of the service’s channel ownership. Although shared ownership does not prevent the addition of a channel, it is important to consider the ease of collaborating with other functions to implement the channel.
  • Ease of getting buy-in: Consider the ease of making a business case to get buy-in from cross-functional stakeholders and senior leadership.
  • Service center location: Consider the geographical location of the service organization to determine whether the new channel will be required in all contact center locations or in just one or two centers.

Although some of these factors are intuitive, when faced with pressure from competition, customers or senior leaders, they might get overlooked.

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