How to keep service consistency in a multi-channel world

An increasingly omni-channel world is seeing a transformation in the way service and support are conducted. But as customers now have more choice and can communicate across multiple platforms, it can be difficult to deliver a consistent experience over all those channels.

This is especially complex for businesses that need to support international customers or operations. These firms must maintain the same levels of service across multiple channels, as well as adhere to contrasting cultural expectations of support. The strategy must consider all channels and geographies, and include mechanisms to ensure that this strategy is being followed.

Making service multi-channel

Support – and the methods used to deliver it – continues to diversify. Some customers still communicate using phone and email but others prefer newer methods such as chat, video chat, text and social media.

>See also: Out of service: when yesterday's IT service management meets today's world

Therefore it's become integral for companies to think about their approach to delivering service over multiple channels. How can this be kept both consistent and secure, whether supporting someone over chat in India, or speaking on the phone to a customer in the UK?

Service management can be built into channels to improve the customer experience. Then it does not matter where the conversation happened, or whether it took place via online or chat, or which device was used to access it. Integrating the service desk platform with all these channels ensures that all activities with customers are logged and tracked, providing a comprehensive view of their experience.

Channel and device flexibility

Customers want to be able to access services at anytime, anywhere, and from any channel or device. It’s important that businesses “go to the customer” and be able to conduct conversations via the customer's preferred channel. However, that interaction may have to migrate to another channel based on circumstances (say from Twitter to chat), so the ability to seamlessly switch between channels, if necessary, is also important.

One example is giving support technicians the ability to chat with the end-user and then immediately enhance the interaction to a screen sharing or remote control session, so they can diagnose and resolve the issues. When the support session has concluded, detailed recordings including the chat scripts and actions taken should be recorded, improving the audit and compliance side as well.

Within this new omni-channel environment, companies must also be able to support IT assets running various operating systems such as Mac, Windows or Linux as well as supporting iPads, Android tablets, BlackBerry and other mobile devices.

Using these new methods, customers can seamlessly switch between contact channels and devices without the brand losing any knowledge of the conversation and with the service interactions all listed in one place. This approach ensures that experience can be responsive to the user in both senses of the word – both fitting to the environment that the user is in, and to the overall experience that the company wants to provide.

Giving power to the people

Methods such as self-service and online chat can take some of the pressure off support technicians, as well as empowering the customers to deal with their own queries when issues are simple. This trend towards self-service is expected to grow. According to analyst Gartner, over the next few years, customers will begin managing up to 8% of their brand relationships without interacting with people. 

From more traditional knowledge bases through to self-service portals, putting more information into the hands of the customer can help to reduce wait times and alleviate some pressure from the support team. This can help to stop simple problems from taking up valuable time, as well as making life easier for customers. 

The key with self-service is to ensure a seamless transition to another channel, such as chat, if the user can’t resolve his or her problem. If the self-service portal seems like a dead end, then in the future users will likely bypass it completely and go back to picking up the phone.

Cultural fit vs. channel fit 

Consistency is not only a challenge across channels: experience can vary based on location too. It’s therefore important for organisations that deal with global customers to consider the fact that service requirements and expectations can vary, depending on where they are in the world. 

Cultural expectations in India, for example, might be very different to those held by customers or employees based in the UK or Germany. This might mean that different channels are more popular at different times, which may affect staffing for support.

On top of adhering to cultural expectations, an organisation with a multinational presence might want to standardise service so that a customer's experience is the same, no matter where in the world they are being supported. These needs must be met using a consistent approach across all channels.

>See also: Notes from the IT service management highway code

As part of this, organisations should have a strategy in place so that support staff know how to react depending on where an interaction is coming from. Self-service and a multi-channel environment can also assist with this by allowing customers to communicate on their own terms.

Overall, integration is key to consistency. This can be achieved by having a single ITSM system in place to record interactions alongside secure, web-enabled remote support that can provide the ability to serve any customer, using any platform or device, anywhere in the world.

Centralising in this way allows support reps to resolve issues more efficiently, ultimately improving productivity and customer satisfaction. This results in a consistently good customer experience across all channels, regardless of where the customer happens to be.


Sourced from Stuart Facey, Bomgar

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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