How to Successfully Introduce a New Customer Contact Channel

This is the final blog in our three-part series on a multi-channel customer experience. In Part 1, we discussed why you should deploy a multi-channel customer experience strategy. Part 2 explored ways to approach the evaluation of customer engagement channels for your business type. In this final installment, we’ll outline strategies for an effective rollout of a new channel.

Five Steps to a Successful Launch of a New Customer Contact Channel

  1. Define what you want to achieve—choose a mission statement. You’re probably not going to get too far if your mission statement is: “To keep up with our competitors—and stay on trend.”

A mission statement that’s more likely to breed success is: “To invest in people, technology, and infrastructure that enable us to put our customers at the heart of our communications strategy by evolving with their ever-growing needs and letting them tell us how they want to speak to us now and in the future.”

  1. Analyze and plan. Research current and emerging trends in your industry. This includes finding out what your competitors are doing—there’s nothing to stop you from trying out their service firsthand to see what they are doing successfully or poorly. Use your own support services and make a comparison. Analyze the demographics and behaviors of your customer base and ask your customers what they want!
  2. Align your technology. Analyze your current technology’s ability to provide a seamless multi-channel customer experience, and assess what investment might be necessary to ensure that you’re using the right tools. Is your database ready for you to give your customers a consistent message and service across multiple channels? Are you ready for how it will affect processes surrounding staff resourcing (hiring, training, WFM), reporting (SLAs, KPIs), and quality monitoring?
  3. Define a pilot process. Consider launching the channel only internally first to help road test the new setup. This enables you to roll back without disappointing your customers. Once you’re offering this to customers, it’s difficult to shut it down and redesign it without losing credibility. You will also need to understand the dynamics and metrics of small resource pools—a small number of interactions will have a small team saturated, so SLA will be erratic.

Assess your technology’s ability to throttle volumes during peaks (e.g., only offer the new channel to a reduced number of customers, don’t publicize it on your home page from Day 1, remove the chat button from the website when no agents are available, set in-queue expectations with options to convert to a call, etc.).

  1. Roll out progressively. Only roll out when you’re confident that you can be successful at doing so—this is not the time for a “Big Bang” approach. Maybe only offer it to loyalty program customers in the beginning to help them feel special about taking part in the evolution. Open it up to the wider audience gradually, and obsessively request feedback and customer assessments to be fed back into the design cycle for version 2.0.

Considerations for a Successful Multi-Channel Customer Experience 

Ensure that you always know why you’re doing what you’re doing and let this guide your decision-making during the design process. What are you trying to achieve with this new channel and does it achieve that the way you’re designing it?

Don’t underestimate the impact that new channels will have on your business, including changes to:

  • Agent profile and recruitment process. Are there new skills or experiences that you need to look for (e.g., computer literacy, technical profile, age group, etc.)?
  • Training and quality monitoringAre the processes and tools the same for recording and scoring calls, chats, email, and social media?
  • Workforce managementWhile adding in automated response options (SMS, chat) or deferrable workloads for customer channels with a less-immediate need for response (e.g., email, direct mail) can take pressure off the inbound phone lines, we also need to consider whether phone teams and deferrable work teams are interchangeable resources or two separate teams. Understand occupancy, the value of accurate forecasts, and beware of the temptation to multi-task to gain efficiency.
  • Reporting: You may need to redefine your reporting tools and processes, as well as your SLAs and KPIs.
  • Plan a pilot. Be sure that you’ve planned what the pilot process looks like and who your audience is during the different phases. This includes understanding the dynamics of small pockets of agent resources—smaller groups require more idle time.
  • Establish a clear communications strategy, including publicity and advertising, for when you’re ready. How you can use gamification to encourage customers to use new channels and to take part in feedback to help you further improve?
  • Proceed with caution. Promise very little to stakeholders. Whatever happens, you don’t want to be in a position where you’re under pressure to drive against the clock toward a launch with something that isn’t ready.

While companies that use this approach also use multiple channels to engage their customers, they distinguish themselves through two additional factors—consistency and focus on devices involved within client interactions.

These companies are diligent to ensure that their customers receive the same experience and message through different channels and devices involved within their interactions with the firm. For example, a company that provides customers with the ability to engage it through a mobile app, social media portal, and website would be focused to ensure that the look and feel, as well as the messages they receive across each touchpoint, are seamless.

Interested in learning how to ensure that your multi-channel customer experience strategy provides customers with a consistent engagement across channels? Download our executive brief, Technology Roadmap to Omnichannel Customer Experience.