Vocalabs Newsletter: Quality Times


Cross-Channel Customer Experience

In This Issue

Cross-Channel Service Continuity

I'm going to predict that one of the most exciting areas in customer experience over the next decade will be cross-channel service continuity.

A few forward-thinking companies are starting to pay attention to this, but it's mostly off the radar right now. It's so far off the radar that it doesn't even have a snappy name or acronym yet (CCSC, anyone?). But it's exciting because the early evidence is that this is one of the most powerful ways to improve the overall customer experience in many big organizations.

So what the heck am I talking about? In concept, the idea is simple: when a customer contacts a company more than once about some issue, the company treats those contacts as part of the same experience. Even if the contacts are through different channels.

This makes perfect sense, since to the customer those multiple contacts are all part of the same experience. But nearly every large company has them siloed off into different parts of the organization which don't talk to each other. Often, they can't talk to each other even if they want to.

And that's what makes CCSC (I really need a better name!) hard: there's a lot of infrastructure which needs to be in place to make it work. The call center needs to know that you just visited the website, and vice-versa. Building this technology will keep companies like IBM, Accenture, and a host of new startups very happy for a long time.

But at SpeechTEK last month, USAA and Nuance presented the results of exactly this sort of initiative. Here's the session description:

Consider Becky, a USAA member who is looking at homeowner’s insurance options online, but has a question and decides to call. After she authenticates, the IVR notes that Becky was logged into the website and asks if she is calling for a homeowner’s insurance quote. Becky happily confirms that is indeed her intention. Many businesses see such proactive, cross-channel scenarios as a pipe dream, but this presentation reviews the quantitative and qualitative methods used to understand customer cross-channel behavior and create user interface designs that support them.

In the SpeechTEK session, USAA shared that this simple piece of cross-channel service continuity--routing the customer straight to the right department based on a recent online experience--had a powerful effect on customer satisfaction and other key metrics. Imagine what we could do with true service continuity, where the customer would not only be routed to the right department but could also resume the same transaction.

This is consistent with research that we published a couple years ago where we found that service continuity across multiple calls to a call center completely eliminated the dissatisfaction normally associated with having to call more than once. In other words, customers didn't mind having to make more than one call, as long as they didn't have to start over (see page 4 of this report).

In my view, the almost complete isolation of most customer service channels from each other is one of the most badly broken pieces of the customer experience at many large companies. But that means it's also one of the biggest opportunities to generally improve customer experiences.

And that's why CCSC (ugh, that name!) is likely to be one of the hottest ideas in customer experience in years to come.

Cross-Channel Customer Feedback

If you check your bank balance online and then call customer service because you discovered a mistake, chances are that you think of that as two parts of a single customer experience.

But in almost every case, your bank sees that as two (or more) completely unrelated interactions. So what the company thinks are several routine customer touchpoints could easily be a frustrating mess to you, the customer.

This is why getting customer feedback about cross-channel experiences is so very important. Collecting this data will identify the service gaps and inconsistencies that are often completely invisible to companies.

There are two strategies for collecting cross-channel feedback:

  1. Target customers who have multiple interactions: If a customer contacts a company more than once within a short period of time, it's a good bet that those contacts are related. So we can target customers for a survey based on this specific behavior. For example, any customer who logs in to the website and then calls on the phone within two hours would be called shortly afterwards by an interviewer to find out why. The advantage of this approach is that it's efficient, and you are specifically targeting your survey towards customers who are likely to have valuable feedback. It can be challenging, though, to match the records from different silos of the organization quickly enough to make this happen.
  2. Ask about cross-channel experiences as part of the normal feedback process: If it's not possible to specifically target customers who crossed service channels, a reasonable strategy is to add questions about cross-channel experiences to an existing survey. When we've done this for our clients, it's common for us to find that a high percentage (20% or more) of the customers we survey after a customer service call had tried the website before calling. This high incidence lets us collect some hard data about what's driving customers to pick up the phone instead of sticking to the online channel

Cross-channel behavior is one of the biggest and most universal blind spots in most companies' customer feedback programs. Most companies simply have no idea how often customers are crossing organizational silos, what's driving that behavior, and what effect it has on the overall customer experience.

We've also found that when customers have to start over each time they contact a company about the same problem, it's a major driver of dissatisfaction. But service continuity is often overlooked because the company isn't equipped to deal with multiple touchpoints as a single experience.

Collecting some feedback about cross-channel experiences is a good place to start in fixing what is likely a major service problem.

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