By Rowena Lindsay
Customers have come to expect brands to provide omnichannel customer service, but many companies are still overwhelmed by the idea of introducing new channels and training agents.
Omnichannel customer service and customer experience bear a reputation for being little more than buzzwords -- elusive concepts that are hard to put into practice.
Regardless, customers have come to expect that they can interact with brands over a variety of existing and emerging channels and that the agents they interact with will have access to their information. Since 2009, the number of customers using voice channels for service has dipped, but other channels -- such as chat, self-help, forums and social media -- have all risen in that same time, according to Forrester.
"As these channels become more commonplace, customers will expect you to be there for them in the channels that they want to use," Dave Dyson, senior customer service evangelist at Zendesk, a customer service software vendor based in San Francisco, said in a webinar sponsored by Zendesk. "If you're not there, they will either give up and go elsewhere, or they will be cranky when they contact you in a channel that is not what they want to be using."
For service agents, this doesn't just mean being available on different channels, but also moving customers between channels without having to start over on the customer's problem. It means shunning specialization and training service agents to work across channels.
Magnolia, a home décor shop in Waco, Texas, run by Joanna and Chip Gaines from HGTV's Fixer Upper, has seen success using Zendesk's suite to implement omnichannel customer service.
Take your time
Meeting customers in the channels they are already using is important, but it is also imperative not to rush into new customer service channels. When Magnolia launched in 2014, it started with voice and email, but didn't offer chat until 2016.
"We didn't roll this out overnight," Sam Goff, director of guest services at Magnolia, said in a webinar sponsored by Zendesk about misconceptions surrounding omnichannel customer service and experience. "We have added a channel every once and while, as it has made sense us and for our guests and our guests' experience."
Author: Rowena Lindsay is an associate site editor for SearchCRM, SearchSalesforce and SearchContentManagement.