Switching to omni-channel customer service may seem like a major undertaking – but big plans on the horizon are no excuse for failing to make valuable improvements to your IVR now.
For many customer experience managers, true omni-channel service is the Holy Grail, and understandably so. Customers frequently use more than one method to engage with your organization or brand and it’s disconcerting – even downright infuriating – when those avenues don’t match up.
But creating a truly seamless omni-channel experience, fully integrating your contact center with your website, mobile apps, email, SMS messaging and IVR, can feel like a big ask, if you try to do it all in one go. It seems to demand time, budget, planning and, potentially, throwing out existing systems and starting over.
For those tasked with managing and maintaining the IVR, this generally draws one of two reactions:
Channel integration is currently unachievable, so it’s not worth thinking about;
Omni-channel is coming eventually, so we’ll stick with what we have until then.
Usually, this “all or nothing” response to channel integration is a mistake. It means many organizations fail to map their interactions with customers, and spot quick, easy changes that would improve customer experience, increase customer satisfaction and reduce customer effort right now. And that’s particularly relevant to IVR, which tends to be the most siloed channel, the most neglected, and usually the one most in need of CX attention.
Finding the friction points
In the UK, the Institute of Customer Service regularly shares the findings from its Customer Satisfaction Index, drawing upon 42,500 customer responses across 13 sectors. It revealed that 42% of customers use more than one primary channel for each brand, suggesting businesses have much to gain from smoothing customers’ transition between contact types:
Many customers choose a mix of channels to interact with organisations and expect the experience to be integrated and seamless. Organisations therefore need to map customers’ journeys across and between all channels and touchpoints, identify potential gaps and use appropriate measures to evaluate the customer’s experience.
On the one hand, customers want fast, efficient and straightforward service for regular and routine transactions. But they are also looking for personalised, empathetic and proactive help and advice. Organisations will therefore need to consider how they fulfil and move between customers’ transactional and relationship needs.
– The Institute of Customer Service: UK Customer Satisfaction Index, July 2016
True omni-channel service is a valuable ambition, but for many it’s still a long-term goal. Mapping your customer’s journey with your organization – looking for the moments they cross between channels, or transactional and relationship “modes” – is a quick and achievable way to reveal valuable service fixes you can implement while you wait.
Start at the beginning: your IVR
The Institute’s research also suggests that, where customers do use more than one channel, it’s usually telephone-plus-one. So making it easy to switch from other channels into your phone system (for example, by offering click-to-call) and back again (enabling self-service email and SMS options through your IVR) could be a sensible place to start.
Omni-channel is the buzzword on everyone’s lips at the moment, but you don’t need an all-singing, all-dancing omni-channel suite for your customers to benefit from channel integration.
Focusing on a handful of tactically-implemented cross-channel journeys can deliver huge dividends in terms of customer satisfaction as well as call deflections and call resolution times.
“A handful of tactical cross-channel journeys can deliver huge dividends in terms of customer satisfaction and lower costs to serve.”
What does it entail?
This fix involves identifying the two or three simple cross-channel integrations that could help customers to complete their journey faster, and at lower cost to your organisation.
Once these have been identified, the aim of the exercise is to design, implement, test and deploy the integrations, then monitor the results to understand the impact on the caller and the impact on the business.
The types of integration will vary depending on the nature of your business and the focus of your contact centre, but some common ones include:
Offering the option to receive an SMS with extra balance details or a payment confirmation code. This saves the customer writing it down or calling back to confirm a transaction or get more information.
Rather than playing a message saying “did you know you can go to our website?”, offering the option within the IVR to receive an SMS with a customised link. When the caller clicks on the link they’ll be taken straight to the right page and will be automatically logged in.
On your website and/or mobile app, providing the option to ‘click to call’ a customer service representative. People don’t mind trying automated services if they know they’ll get help when they need it.
What will the impact be?
Small integrations like these can have far-reaching results. At Cable & Wireless Corporation in the Caribbean, for example, a simple message in the IVR, offering SMS progress updates on a broadband outage, directly resulted in 30% of callers choosing that option – deflecting a significant volume of calls from the contact centre.
Don’t wait for omni-channel; make fixes now
Having a big, strategic change on the horizon is no reason not to make sound, tactical improvements – and reap the benefits – while your omni-channel project is progressing. There’s never a bad time for a quick, easy win.