I don’t mind picking up the phone to speak with a customer service agent if that is the only option available. If, however, there is a Web Chat icon or another direct messaging channel available, then I will always try that method of conversation as my first preference. I like that it gives both the agent and me the time to provide concise and accurate responses without the need for going on hold or those uncomfortable agent/customer silences. I like that I have a word for word transcription of the conversation provided to me as soon as the session ends, and I like the ability to share documents during the chat easily. I am also happy with the knowledge that the agent can deal with more than one customer conversation at the same time when using chat messaging channels, as it means we are all waiting less time in the queue.
There are plenty of upsides for businesses that offer multichannel too; quicker first-time resolution, lower waiting times and abandoned calls, greater variety for their agents, and having immediate structured (plain text) customer data for Business Intelligence purposes.
As a Product Consultant at Geomant, I have daily discussions regarding the benefits of multichannel messaging between consumers and businesses. Consumers are increasingly preferring to communicate with businesses using the same methods that they use with their friends and family – predominantly instant messaging. We are told frequently that Generation Y and Z’s hesitate strongly to pick up a phone and actually talk to someone (and therefore are much more inclined to give their business to chat enabled organisations), but it’s worth noting that the fastest growth of Smart Phone ownership since 2013 in the UK is with 55 to 75-year-olds – more than 77% of them now have one .
When consumer to business messaging is done right, it’s a great experience for the customer and great marketing for the business. I have received excellent service using chat messaging with an online retailer, bank, and mobile phone company recently – experiences that I am more than happy to share within my social circle. Unfortunately, not all consumer to business chat messaging experiences are good though. Adopting a multichannel strategy can lead to a negative customer experience if half baked or done badly.
An example of what can happen when IVR steering goes wrong
I recently had direct experience of this when a member of my family was trying to contact her mobile phone provider around 6pm in the evening to resolve a mobile data issue. She dialled their contact centre and was greeted with an IVR message advising her of long queue times. This was turned into a positive though as she was offered the option to steer her voice call to text messaging rather than stay in the voice queue - as this should be dealt with quicker. So far, so good.
She received an instant text message back asking her to reply with her query, to which she received a message one minute later advising that replies to this service were not immediate but one of the expert team would be with her as soon as possible. At 11:31 the next morning, she received the next message; an apology for the long delay and asking did she still need assistance. This was 17 hours after she first dialled in! By that time, she had found public Wi-Fi the previous evening and completed what she needed to do away from her mobile data plan.
What could have been done better?
My job at Geomant is to design solutions that deliver great customer experiences. I found so many things concerning about this interaction. Should IVR Steering from a Voice Queue to SMS have been offered at all if there were no agents available to respond within an acceptable time frame? After all, if my wife had elected to stay in the voice queue, she would have spoken to a live agent eventually that evening. Could the messaging service have used AI to resolve the issue – the first text message clearly identified the problem and a Bot could have been able to resolve the matter promptly. And, could the agent that sent the message at 11:31 am the next day have seen that the matter had not been resolved by looking at the account status rather than sending a templated message asking if it had been? Maybe at that point a direct outbound call to her might have been more suitable than the SMS she received?
At Geomant, we believe that businesses that offer multichannel options to their customers have a significant advantage over their competitors that don’t. But this advantage soon evaporates if solutions are implemented poorly. Having the technology is just the start – you need to have experts that design and deliver a great customer experience via a user focused product that provides the ability for you to easily and continually improve your service.