Omnichannel Marketing Pushes the Reset Button on Customer Service Expectations
Consumers are engaging with brands across all types of communication channels. It's up to brands to create an omnichannel customer experience strategy to keep up.
The Internet has changed marketing and customer service in impressive ways. Most small business owners still don’t really appreciate the impact that online media and mobile technology has created for their industries and the future of local commerce. The problem is that they still hold a very binary view on the relevance of technology in their line of business.
When I attended networking events, I found that 80% of business owners fell into one of two groups:
- They believed that digital technology was a complete waste of their time. They found success with traditional marketing channels, so they didn’t see any incentive to invest in online marketing or customer service strategies.
- They felt that digital technology was the wave of the future and was going to make their previous marketing strategies obsolete. They were considering abandoning their traditional outreach strategies in favor of a more tech-savvy approach.
Both of these perspectives are largely flawed. The most successful marketing and customer service strategies take a much more nuanced approach. Omnichannel customer engagement strategies have a better track record. They are going to be even more important as a greater number of customers follow a fragmented approach to brand engagement.
Companies that embrace omnichannel customer service have a strong competitive edge
Omnichannel customer service is a complicated concept that many brands struggle to grasp. They might be more motivated to utilize it if they saw the compelling statistics on it.
Over the last few years, a growing body of research has shown that customers expect companies to provide a stellar customer service experience across all channels. Zendesk published one of the first reports discussing this trend. They collected research back in 2013, when omnichannel customer service in marketing was still a very new concept. They found that nearly 40% of customers expected the same level of service on every channel that they used. Almost half of customers expected to be able to return products on any engagement channel.
Those figures have increased in recent years. Brands are under more pressure than ever to adapt omnichannel customer service strategies. One study by the Aberdeen Group found that companies with omnichannel strategies retained a whopping 170% more customers.
Developing a sound omnichannel customer service strategy
An omnichannel customer service strategy can be very beneficial for customer retention. However, it needs to be carefully mapped out to get the best results.
The first thing that small businesses need to understand is that omnichannel and multi-channel customer service strategies are not the same thing. An omnichannel customer service strategy is a multi-channel strategy by default. However, multi-channel strategies are not always omnichannel.
What is the main difference? A multi-channel customer service approach enables customers to engage with the brand on multiple fronts. They can speak with brand representatives at the physical place of business, connect through their mobile device or use their desktop to communicate through various social media platforms or the business’s website.
Brands can have a strong multi-channel customer service strategy, but it can also be very fragmented. The core branding message might be different on every channel. This is by far the biggest mistake that businesses make. If the brand messaging is inconsistent, then customers will have little faith in the core promises the brand is trying to deliver on.
Another issue is that the approach to customer service could differ from one channel to the next. Customers might receive expedient service when they call, but they may have to wait over three days to get a response from an inquiry through social media. Customers that try using channels that don’t deliver a quality experience will be less favorable towards the brand, regardless of the quality of customer service on other channels.
A true omnichannel strategy ensures that the messages and quality of service are the same on every point of engagement. This requires a bit of thought and preparation, but it will pay substantial dividends over the long-term.
What steps can brands take to develop sensible omnichannel customer service strategies?
What factors separate successful omnichannel strategies from less effective ones? Here are some of the steps that the most successful brands take.
Focus on providing a much better mobile experience
Too many companies put all of their digital customer service resources into reaching customers using desktop computers. This approach may have made sense 15 years ago, but it is no longer a viable strategy. More customers use mobile devices then desktops to engage with brands these days.
Unfortunately, too many companies overlook the importance of a decent mobile experience. This is easily shown by customer satisfaction polls. Around 90% of customers have said that their mobile experience with a brand has been negative.
The repercussions of poor mobile customer experiences can be massive. Around 60% of customers will not do business with a company that doesn’t offer a good customer experience on mobile devices. Customers will have an even less favorable view of companies that don’t deliver good customer service through mobile technology, because they are often already frustrated.
Reduce social media response times to less than an hour
Many companies barely check their social media messages. They only access their Facebook or Twitter accounts a couple of times a week to post new content.
They don’t realize that customers often reach out through social media when they have a question or concern. These customers expect response times to be similar to those they would receive from a phone call. One poll found that 32% of customers expect a response within half an hour. This may not be feasible for every business. However, you should at least get back to them within one hour.
You should have a separate customer service team that is solely responsible for answering inquiries through social media. A number of new jobs will be created in the customer service industry, as more employees are needed to handle social media customer service requests. Customer service representatives that are responsible for handling phone calls will probably be overburdened and unable to check social media regularly.
Provide self-service opportunities for mobile customers at the place of business
A growing number of businesses are merging in-store marketing with mobile technology. Although some aspects of omnichannel customer service can be fragmented, as long as they are consistent, this is an area where seamless integration is essential.
Many customers don’t feel comfortable dealing with an employee while they are visiting a store, especially if they have a lot of questions that need to be answered. Mobile technology can solve this issue for them. Retailers can use mobile technology to cross-reference inventory databases and help customers find what they are looking for. They should be able to find products they are looking for without needing to engage with an employee. This will make it easier for employees to handle increase from remaining customers, which should further improve the experience for all customers.
Update and aggregate data in real time
Omnichannel customer service strategies are much more effective when they rely heavily on customer data. If there is a substantial lag in updating this data, then the customer experience will suffer.
Customer data should always be updated in real-time. This is essential to ensure all necessary context is available for customers seeking important information.
Live chat should be an option for all customers
Many customers are not comfortable speaking over the phone. Some of them have speech issues, which make traditional call center customer service infeasible.
Live chat customer service is an ideal alternative for many customers. One study by Forrester found that 63% of website visitors are more likely to return to a site that provides live chat service.
The primary reason customers prefer live chat is that they don’t have to wait for service. Chat bots are able to assist them immediately with most routine inquiries.
Chat bots are also highly effective for marketing. Brand representatives that utilize them are able to upsell customers more frequently, which means that they are both improving customer satisfaction and revenue at the same time.
Omnichannel Customer Service Must be a Top Priority for All Businesses in the Days Ahead
Digital technology has given customers a lot more options to engage with brands. While this has offered more opportunities for brands trying to scale revenue and gain brand visibility, it has also created new complications. Omnichannel marketing has raised the bar for brands trying to offer reliable customer service. They need to compliment it with a sensible omnichannel customer service strategy.