When it comes to providing optimum customer experience, there are more services channels available than ever before.

From traditional phone and email options to live chat, messaging and self-service, companies can tailor the model better than ever to meet customer needs.

All too often, contact channels are put in place as parallel and unconnected options yet, by effective use, these channels can support each other and direct people to the best channel for their enquiry. Each channel has strengths and challenges, and Customer Service leaders must identify which ones to use for each customer need. This way, it’s possible to deliver smoother, faster, and more efficient help.

Good self-service, for example, is incredibly effective for simple, “how do I fix X?” type queries. The customer simply finds their topic online, checks the steps given and resolves the issue, all without interacting with a service agent.

Of course, there are also queries that need to be fixed through assisted support, such as account problems or complex issues.

So, how do brands educate customers to use the best channels and when?

Often, when customers are waiting in a call queue to speak to an advisor, they hear the recorded message suggesting they visit the company’s website for other support options. While this may be seen as a quick and easy way to educate the customer, it’s really informing and not educating. It can feel to customers as though they are being redirected in an attempt to reduce the call queue and wait times.

Educating the customer initially ensures they have exactly what they need to make the right choice for them. It’s also important to note that if they’ve made the effort to call, they expect to speak with a service agent. As they wait, messages offered can remind that they may need additional information to hand – account number, registration number, bank details, and the like.

Directing customers to different channels can have a negative impact on their experience if offered at the wrong moment. The challenge for brands is to educate their customers in the right way, at the right time. With sensitivity, before-agent messages will prepare the customer for the conversation and with-agent discussion can be used to nudge customers to think of other channels and resources before resorting to the phone next time. Following up with an SMS or email offering tips and links will reinforce the discussion.

When is the right time to avoid customer calls?

Most queries today start with the customer going online and searching for contact information or an answer to their need. Brands have the opportunity to direct customers to their website or social channels for self-service or first contact, but this must be ready and able to help. Poor self-service content or slow social interaction will just result in phone calls, so every channel must be ready to deliver. It also highlights to the customer the best channel to use. For example, certain contact channels may only be available during business hours, while others are 24/7. Or, response may be quicker through a chat portal than, say, calling when volumes are high.

Coordinating customer service channels is a great way to optimise the customer experience, however, companies must have an effective strategy to educate customers and move them to the best channel for their specific enquiry.

And this also equips agents to focus on more challenging queries, instead of answering all calls blind and having to take every customer through the same process.

SYKES has been helping customers for over forty years. If your customer service strategy needs experience and resources for success, please get in touch!

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