I love the title of a recent article David Lloyd wrote in CRM Buyer titled “Where Customer Service Goes to Die.” According to the article, companies seem to be waking up to the fact that consumers use social media to vent about their customer service frustrations. In fact, it’s like they’re waking up from a bad dream. Lloyd writes that, by the time a customer takes to Twitter or Facebook to voice a complaint, it’s too late, the horse has left the barn. Customers don’t turn to social media as their first choice for engaging with a company. As Lloyd says, “Twitter and Facebook are often the final points of desperation to get someone to pay attention.” Customers go to an IVR or website chat first. Lloyd writes “A smarter strategy would be for companies to invest in providing better information via their website or call center, because these are still the first places that customers turn when they need to find an answer or a solution to a problem.
But, if a company offers a call or chat center service that is unresponsive or provides a frustrating and unsatisfactory experience to the customer, the company is encouraging people to seek out social media to vent and containing and responding to those complaints is both difficult and costly. Instead, as Lloyd states “We need to respond to customers’ wants and demands in the channel of their choice. In the case of customer service, we may have misunderstood what customers are looking for when they take to social media. Customers find social media to be an effective way to vent and complain only because they didn’t find adequate help when they first engaged the company through other means. The future of business belongs to companies that are able to find the right blend of multichannel customer service, and then use it to be proactive rather than reactive to customer needs.”
We agree that the right strategy is to implement multi-channel customer service programs. We call them omnichannel because, compared to multi-channel, omnichannel solutions provide the linkages to maintain connectedness, continuity and context across channels so that a customer can move from one channel, such as voice, to another channel, such as chat, seamlessly with information being retained so customers don’t have to endlessly repeat themselves and provide the same information over and over again. Additionally, by tapping into the vast amounts of data made available, we can apply predictive analytics to anticipate what the customer wants or is trying to accomplish, further improving the customer experience.
To be sure, social media has a place in defining and enhancing the customer experience. But social’s better suited for building brand loyalty, sharing promotions and forging stronger relationships with the customer. As Lloyd states, “By providing high quality and effective customer service via the first points of contact—the website and call center—customers will be more likely to bring their complaints and questions to these channels instead of social.”