Did you go see the new Star Wars movie over the holidays? If so, you may have looked up reviews on your computer, watched a preview on your iPad, purchased tickets on your mobile phone, and used SMS delivery to show them to the usher.
If so, this isn’t a unique customer experience. Today’s consumers are screen-shifters by nature, and it’s changed the customer journey to an omnichannel experience that incorporates many different devices and platforms.
Google found that 90% of consumers switch between screens to complete tasks on a regular basis. And it’s not just because they’re always on the go: 77% of mobile searches happen in the home or workplace, where the user could just as easily use a desktop computer. Companies that are building a best-in-class customer experience need to support different channels based on the users’ unique preferences at each point in time, whether that involves a smartphone, tablet, desktop, SMS, phone, or even integrations such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
While brands give a lot of thought to reaching customers across these different channels, customer service often lags behind. In fact, Salesforce found that the top three customer support channels used by organizations were still email (95%), phone (95%), and in-person (89%)—most likely the same channels they used twenty years ago.
For brands to build a truly best-in-class customer experience, they need to build an omnichannel strategy that gives customers the tools they need for a seamless experience across whatever channels they prefer. Here are some tips on doing that well:
Don’t rely on chatbots alone
Many companies have turned to chatbots as a quick and easy way to solve their customers’ problems. While chatbots can work on both desktop and mobile devices easily, chatbots often fail to grasp the nuances of a customer’s issue and aren’t scripted well enough to lead them in the right direction. Rather than defaulting to a chatbot that provides scripted solutions that may not help, companies should consider a self-service platform that provides in-depth resource links in response to customer queries, and provide backup support from a customer support team that’s equipped to handle more complex queries than customers can resolve independently.
Provide multiple options for customer interactions on your website or in your app
Make sure that your customers have multiple support channels to choose from when they need help. Taking a multichannel approach means that customers won’t get flustered as soon as they need to contact support—if they hate getting on the phone with customer service agents, make sure that they have a menu that may include options such as self-service support with links to FAQs, and live chat, as well as an option for contacting your call center. Also, make sure that your social media channels are equipped to respond to customer support requests, even if that’s not their primary purpose: Frustrated customers often send tweets or Facebook messages to get a brand’s attention, and complaints can escalate quickly if they’re not resolved immediately.
Enable customers to shift from one channel to another during a customer support conversation
There are few things more frustrating than waiting 10 minutes to talk to a customer support agent, then having your call dropped just as you’re explaining your problem—meaning you have to start the cycle all over again. If a customer starts a conversation on a desktop computer, she should be able to shift to a mobile phone during her chat without drama, or vice-versa. Provide your customers with the tools to re-join a chat or skip the wait on a phone call in the event of a connection problem. Even if the customer isn’t able to speak with the same support rep she spoke to before, make sure that each customer interaction is saved in your company’s CRM, so that your team can easily gather all of the context and jump in right to the last interaction.
Enhance your mobile app’s functionality for customer support
To create a seamless experience for your users, make the most of your company’s mobile app by providing simple, one-click options to get self-service, live chat, or voice support without leaving the app. You can even enable customers to take photos or video of their customer service issues to share with a rep in real-time so that the customer support agent can provide personalized help based on visual evidence.
Integrate omnichannel solutions into your brick and mortar stores
While customers at a brick and mortar store have access to a store associate, it can also be helpful to provide self-service options that can help them accomplish their goals even faster. Consider setting up mobile devices around the store that customers can use to input queries related to their shopping experience or customer support needs, providing access to a knowledge base that incorporates video tutorials or even directs them to a section of your store. Your mobile app can even be integrated with location-tracking services that help customers navigate through the store to find the item or department they need. For example, The Home Depot’s mobile app incorporates image recognition technology that allows customers to photograph a product to pull up its product details and pricing; voice search; bar code scanning to access product ratings and reviews; and even turn-by-turn navigation within the store to help customers find the exact product they’re looking for.
Build triggered omnichannel customer support sequences
A customer may initially get in touch for support through one channel, but prefer to follow up through another. Build an omnichannel customer support strategy that provides relevant content across multiple channels in response to each action a user takes on her customer journey.
For instance, let’s say a customer used the self-support channel on your app to look up a question, and then requested live chat on her smartphone when she wasn’t able to resolve the problem independently. The customer support agent she talked to looked at visual evidence of the problem, and recommended some troubleshooting options.
From that point, in an omnichannel strategy, the user might receive an SMS message asking if the product issue was resolved after using the troubleshooting recommendations. If the customer says yes, the support ticket will be closed—but if she responds no, her reply will trigger a follow-up phone call or video call request from a specialized customer support agent.
Pay attention to what technologies your customers are embracing
A strong omnichannel strategy relies on not simply building communication across multiple channels, but focusing on the channels and platforms that your customers actually want to use. So don’t waste time building a Slack integration just because you can—but if you already know that many of your customers use that software at work and want to make it even easier to get in touch, it’s absolutely a good idea. As you grow your customer support organization, pay close attention to your customer base and their feedback to understand what they want from you.
For instance, 91% of customers would use a self-service channel if it could solve their problems—has your company created a seamless self-service process that can triage to your omnichannel support options for customers who need extra help?
And while 54% of customers today use email as a customer support channel, its average response time is over 24 hours, even though 64% of ecommerce shoppers want to resolve their issues in real-time. This shows a real disconnect between what companies are offering and what customers are looking for—the brands that take the time to understand how customers want to solve their problems are likely to gain market share over those that rely on outdated customer support strategies.
Focus on customer satisfaction above all else
While building an omnichannel customer support strategy relies on strong technology expertise, the most important part of your plan is maintaining a close connection with your customer. Focus on data analytics trends to gain a better understanding of which support channels your customers prefer to use, and invest in those channels by incorporating artificial intelligence and other technology to streamline ticket resolution.
As you invest in additional customer support technology channels, operational efficiency is a key metric, so it’s important to look at metrics such as time to ticket resolution and number of support issues handled via self-service to understand the return on your investment.
But beyond that, pay close attention to customer satisfaction (via surveys and NPS scores), and customer loyalty (based on metrics like subscription length, number of purchases, value of purchases). These are the metrics that will help you create fierce brand advocates that will take your company to the next level.