New Research Uncovers Latest Trends and Issues in Multichannel Customer Service

February 24, 2016 DATAMARK

Consumers and organizations alike are in pursuit of the customer service holy grail: a seamless experience across all communication channels–from self-service, to phone and email, to social media.

Recent studies provide a deeper insight into today’s customer service experience, shedding light on some significant questions:

• Are organizations meeting customers’ expectations across all channels?

• Are consumers satisfied with the channels they want to use? (Not necessarily the channels they have to use.)

• Is the customer service industry in agreement on what “omni-channel” means? Or is “multichannel” enough to adequately describe a seamless customer service experience?

When All Fails, The Telephone is There

A significant majority of customers still turn to the traditional channels of phone and in-person contact when reaching out to a company with a question, complaint or routine transaction, according to the 2015 Omni-Channel Customer Care study released by CX Act, a customer experience improvement firm.

CX Act’s survey of 2,500 consumers found that 75 percent use traditional contact methods because their experiences with alternative channels such as online, mobile, web chat or social media have been “below par.”

Most companies (92%) interviewed by CX Act acknowledged that they were best equipped to provide first-contact resolution through telephone. Only about 40% said they were capable of handling questions and transactions through social media or mobile channels.

Consumers Want to Use Other Channels

Despite some disappointing experiences, customers say they are eager to use non-traditional communication channels. CX Act says the current gap between consumers’ desires and the delivery (or lack thereof) of support through alternative channels represents a great opportunity for organizations to step up and deliver outstanding customer service.

Another company analyzing usage trends of alternative customer service channels is Microsoft. The company’s 2015 State of Multichannel Customer Service Report follows the path of consumers’ interactions with organizations, from the first point of research to preferred service channels.

Over half (57%) of respondents to Microsoft’s survey said their first interaction with an organization begins online– 78% use a laptop or desktop computer, and 22% go online first using a mobile phone. About a third (35%) start by using their phone to call customer service, and 8% start their interaction in person.

Echoing the CX Act findings, Microsoft’s surveyors learned that consumers mostly use the telephone (81%) on a regular basis to reach out to customer service. Email (78%) is the next most popular channel, followed by live web chat (64%) and online support portals and FAQs (62%)

Omni-Channel or Multichannel?

The emergence of communication channels linked by hard lines, wireless and cellular networks has organizations struggling to define this new world of customer service. “Multichannel” seemed to fit the bill, until other companies began promoting their services as “omni-channel.” Omni-channel alludes to a seamless experience for consumers. For many contact center executives, omni-channel is a movement toward the holy grail mentioned at the beginning of this article– a customer-service world where customers no longer have to repeat their issues as they are transferred to multiple agents; a customer-service world where consumers quickly find the information they need without the need for an agent.

However, the CX Act researchers found that among contact center executives, there is some disagreement on what omni-channel truly means, and what it can deliver. Some feel omni-channel is a marketing buzzword that lacks meaning, whereas multichannel clearly conveys the state of customer service today.

As CX Act puts it, “There is no consensus among industry professionals on what ‘Omni-channel’ means, which severely hampers its ability  to be used as guiding principal when it comes to customer care.”For more highlights from these latest studies, check out our infographic below!

infographic

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