Which Channels Should You Add for Multi-Channel Customer Experience?

In part 1 of this three-part blog series on common expectations, misconceptions, and strategies for multi-channel customer experience (CX), we discussed why your contact center should deploy a multi-channel customer experience strategy. In part 2, we’ll evaluate the various channels available.

Phone or inbound voice still represent the lion’s share of customer contact—with email steadily increasing; web chat coming in third; and SMS, social media, and mobile apps becoming important additions. In certain industries, there’s no getting away from paper documents, although typically scans of these are acceptable and volumes are a small fraction of the total customer contact.

Typically, customer engagement that requires agent resources are more expensive for a contact center to provide than interactions that customers carry out with a system. Technology is usually a high investment with low operating costs, whereas the opposite is true for an agent team. The short duration of an automated transaction often satisfies customers, although the impersonal nature is inappropriate for some interaction types.

If you really want to diversify your customer experience, it would be a good idea to add channels that have a different look and feel, rather than adding channels that don’t differ very much from what you already offer. To help choose which channel is best, I’ve defined two main groups that channels fall into—agent and non-agent:

Agent: Unstructured Communication An agent channel is comprised of unstructured communication. Customer experiences often require a human touch, assistance, and explanations. They can also involve complicated, multi-faceted interactions.

Non-Agent: Structured Communication On the other hand, a non-agent self-service channels involve structured communication that could include transactional interactions, auto-pay, balance inquiries, requests for a copy, and other structured requests.

If you already offer a channel that relies on real-time, live-agent input, what value are you really providing by adding another channel that also relies on real-time, live-agent resources? If the answer is that one is voice and one is written, that may be a valid response—depending on what your customers tell you. It may be more appropriate to add a channel with automated self-service, which opens a whole different realm to your customers (typically 24/7, customers are in no rush and can take their time, sit around a computer with a partner, etc.).

I recently applied for a mortgage with my bank and did it all on their website. I entered in all of my details and then uploaded all of my supporting documentation. Over the following days, I used the website to monitor the status of my application as my documents were revised and accepted. I only got a phone call near the end of the process to finalize a couple of details and arrange a date for signature. For me, this was the perfect blend: I did it myself with no rush and, for the softer touch part, I dealt with a human being. The agent I dealt with was fully aware of everything I had done on the website, and I wasn’t asked to repeat information that I had already given through the other channel.

As it happens, I can also communicate with my bank via SMS, smartphone app, and by going into the office. I do like the fact I have a choice and, at different times, I think I’ve used all of the various options. But I don’t notice a massive difference between going in to the bank and calling the phone line. Likewise using the app, the website, or SMS are all pretty similar to each other.

In an ideal world, all contact centers would provide a multi-channel customer experience and would be all things to all customers. If, for the moment, you’re only going to do phone plus one other channel, consider what you’re aiming to achieve with the new one. Are you going to stick with live-agent support, but add a digital channel (web chat, SMS, email, web forms) alongside your voice channel? Are you going to stick with just voice for the live-agent support and add an automated channel alongside that (website, IVR, app, SMS)?

Now that we’ve assessed the various channels, part 3 of this series covers the steps to a successful launch of a new customer contact channel.

Interested in learning how to make sure your multi-channel customer experience strategy provides customers and your employees with a consistent experience across channels? Download our ebook, How An Omnichannel Agent Desktop Helps Your Employees Personalize Customer Service.