Customer behavior has evolved significantly over the years. Just offering support over email and phone is not enough anymore. Customers also want to talk to businesses through other channels like SMS, WhatsApp and social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc).
It’s become increasingly important for businesses to not just have a presence, but to also be able to provide customer service through a variety of channels.
Customer service is an integral part of the customer experience, which eventually plays a pivotal role to grow and scale your business. A Salesforce study of about 17,000 consumers and business buyers found that 88% of consumers consider the experience provided by the company as crucial as its product or service.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of omnichannel customer service, its benefits, and best practices that can help you enhance your omnichannel customer service efforts and outcomes.
88% of consumers consider the experience provided by the company as crucial as its product or service.
What is Omnichannel Customer Service?
Omnichannel customer service is a customer service approach where customers are provided seamless support across all channels.
In short: Meet customers where they are!
Customers are using a wide range of channels in the current day. So, when looking for help from a company, different customers have different preferences - some want to reach out over email, others over the phone, some over sms while on the go.
More importantly, customers now expect you to be on those channels and respond to them in a timely fashion.
Before, customers went to brands. Today, brands must go where their customers are. Brands would be wise to start adopting this behavior now.
What are the different channels for omnichannel customer support?
Here’s the list of most commonly used channels:
Gladly’s 2020 Customer Expectations Report found that 86% of customers expect you to recognize them even when they switch from one channel to another.
86% of customers expect you to recognize them even when they switch from one channel to another.
Example of Omnichannel Customer Service
Let’s take this real-life example of omnichannel customer service:
A customer initially had an email conversation with the customer support team at Zappos. But while trying to answer the feedback survey, the customer faced some issues and chose to reach out to the customer service team via Twitter.
Also, the customer has a follow-up question regarding the previous email communication. The Zappos team does a good job in replying to the customer on the same day and asking the customer to text them.
As you can see, the customer is going from an email to a tweet to a direct message on Twitter. This is a great example of how customers expect companies to address their queries through different channels.
More than 50% of customers say it’s important for them to easily contact the customer service team through the channel of their preference.
Why is Omnichannel Customer Support Important?
Providing omnichannel customer service tends to require more resources and processes. But it’s definitely worth it! Let’s go over Let’s go over some of the key benefits of omnichannel customer support:
Leverage Customer Behavior Data
Providing customer support on multiple channels is also a great opportunity to analyze customer behavior. Collect data from all your channels, identify customer preferences, and make the most out of it when creating personalized marketing strategies.
On top of that, you can use these insights or customer feedback to improve or develop your existing products or services. 63% of customers expect brands to use their purchase history to provide them with personalized experiences. So, why not gather insights from their burning questions?
63% of customers expect brands to use their purchase history to provide them with personalized experiences.
Deliver Top-Notch Customer Experience
One of the primary goals of omnichannel support is to create a seamless and hassle-free experience for customers. According to Gladly’s report, 73% of customers say their top frustration about customer service is that they have to explain their concerns over and over again.
You can eliminate such issues with omnichannel customer support and offer a great customer experience. As an added benefit, customers will feel more positive having received great service over their preferred channels.
73% of customers said their top frustration about customer service is that they have to explain their concerns over and over again.
Improve Your Customer Retention
Gartner research has found that 96% of customers who have a “high-effort service interaction” tend to be more disloyal as compared to only 9% who experience “low-effort service”.
In simple terms, the more you make it effortless and easier for customers to interact with customer service, the more loyalty they will have for your company. With enhanced customer experience, omnichannel support can help you boost customer loyalty and retention.
In my Omni-Channel Customer Care research, the data shows that companies with well-defined omni-channel customer experience management (CEM) programs achieve a 91% higher year-over-year increase in customer retention rate on average, compared to organizations without omni-channel programs.
Expand Your Reach to a Broader Audience
By interacting with customers across multiple channels, you’re inherently expanding your brand’s reach to a diverse and wide-ranging audience.
Each customer has unique communication preferences, and catering to these preferences is vital in building strong and lasting relationships.
Did you know that 62% of customers are willing to recommend a brand to their friends because of its great service? Providing exceptional service is critical to business growth.
62% of customers are willing to recommend a brand to their friends because of its great service.
Speed Up the Resolution Time
Time taken to resolve a customer’s issue is critical for customer satisfaction. 90% of customers consider an immediate response as an important factor while seeking a resolution for their customer service question.
When customer service agents can see the previous conversations (across all channels), it gives them valuable context which ultimately helps provide faster resolutions.
90% of customers consider an “immediate” response as an “important” or “very important” factor while seeking a resolution for their customer service question.
11 Best Practices to Build Best-in-Class Omnichannel Customer Support
1. Analyze Customer Support Metrics & Feedback
Providing a consistent experience across all channels is a key factor to successful omnichannel customer service. But how do you know if you’re really nailing the consistent experience?
You need to analyze customer support metrics and customer feedback and ensure you’re able to deliver similar quality of service across all platforms. Gather and study the following data points from your customer interactions:
- Average response time by platform
- Number of interactions to resolution
- Customer wait times
- Navigation ease
- Response satisfaction
2. Streamline Your Data Across Channels
Imagine yourself chatting with a customer service agent for an hour and then explaining the same concern to another agent over a call. Sounds a bit frustrating, isn’t it?
Now, just think how nice it would be if the next agent already had the context about your previous conversion! It’ll not only save you time and frustration but also make it an easier support request to handle for the agent.
In fact, Salesforce research found that 76% of customers expect to have consistent interactions across different departments.
76% of customers expect to have consistent interactions across different departments.
Even before you can use gathered context, you need to ensure that your data is captured and managed effectively. Since you’ll need to collect data from different platforms and departments, it’s important to keep organized. We recommend using an omnichannel customer service software like Enchant.
3. Integrate the Online & Offline Experiences
Omnichannel customer service is not limited to just digital platforms. It also covers in-store customer service experience. Every customer interaction with your brand may influence customer buying decisions. As a result, it becomes crucial to blend interactions across channels to create a seamless and cohesive customer experience.
Even talking from my personal experience, as a customer, I know how important it is for a brand to have a consistent experience. When I needed to buy a laptop, I first researched online, and then went to stores to check them out in person… interactions with online customer service (to answer quick questions) or with store staff (as I’m getting closer to my purchase decision) all have some impact on what I buy and who I buy it from.
… and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who does this. In fact, Think with Google found that shoppers have now become omnichannel. Nearly 60% of internet users initiate shopping through one device but then continue or finish it on a different one.
Shoppers have now become omnichannel. Nearly 60% of internet users initiate shopping through one device but then continue or finish it on a different one.
80% of smartphone users take help from their phones to look up information online when they’re about to make a purchase in a store. You need to ensure the customers have a consistent experience whether they inquire through online platforms or in-house stores.
80% of smartphone users take help from their phones to look up information online when they’re about to make a purchase in a store.
4. Offer Mobile-Optimized Experience
A recent survey found that 57% of Americans stated that on average they spend at least 5-6 hours on their mobile devices on a daily basis. If you want to provide support to customers where they are, mobile devices are non-negotiable.
57% of Americans stated that on average they spend at least 5-6 hours on their mobile devices on a daily basis.
When talking about providing customer service on mobile, of course, phone and SMS customer service play a crucial role. But apart from these two channels, your website needs to also be mobile-friendly.
If you have a mobile app, you can also develop seamless in-app customer support so that customers don’t have to switch apps to get in touch with support.
5. Offer Self-Service Options
Self-service customer support is one of the most cost-effective methods to elevate your omnichannel customer service efforts. But it’s not just about the cost, customers want you to provide self-service options.
A Microsoft report shows that 66% of customers try to use self-service first instead of immediately contacting customer service. The reason is quite simple: customers want quick and hassle-free resolutions.
66% of customers try to use self-service first instead of immediately contacting a customer service agent.
Here are the different tools that can help you create and enhance self-service options for your customers:
- Knowledge base
- Automated IVR system
- Online community
- Educational blog content
- In-app tutorials
- Help desk software
6. Make Channel Specific Response Time Targets
Response time expectations differ by channel. While it’s normal for an email response to take a day or two, it’s not normal for a response to an SMS or a tweet to take days. Your internal targets need to match customer expectations.
According to a SproutSocial report, 76% of customers expect a response from a brand’s social media team within 24 hours. 35% of customers expect it within just 1-2 hours.
76% of customers expect a response from a brand’s social media team within 24 hours. 35% of customers expect it within just 1-2 hours.
Now it may be difficult to keep up with all your social media messages, especially if you have a smaller customer service team.
That’s where a social media communications software like Enchant can fit in. Enchant combines all social media messages from different platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter into a single central hub. It will not only save your team’s time and effort but also enhance the quality of your customer communications.
7. Leverage Automation to Boost Agent Productivity
Some customer service interactions need human intervention for a proper resolution. But there are many others that can be tackled with the right automation solutions.
When you blend automation with the human touch, it can speed up your response times and enhance the productivity of your agents.
Here are some of the automation solutions that are worth considering:
- Chat bots: Chat bots can handle immediate communication with the customer, gathering any additional information as needed and routing the request to the right internal team.
- Auto Responders: An auto response (either via email or through a chat bot) can help set customer expectations by providing information and expected response times. It can also include a set of suggested links based on the customer’s question.
- Business Rules: Setup business rules in your customer service software to automatically handle common actions, like escalating a customer request if you receive a negative satisfaction rating.
- Macros and Bulk Actions: When there’s an issue with your website or there’s a new product launch, you may get a large number of requests with the same question. Having software that enables bulk actions or bulk responses can save a lot of time in these situations.
8. Use Data History to Personalize Communications
Personalized communications are crucial to building a solid bond with your customers.
Develop a data-driven approach to make your personalization more effective. Data can help identify the sub-segment that customers belong to, which you can then use to tailor messaging to the customer.
Personalized communications increase sales and conversions. In fact, 59% of customers that experienced personalization from brands say it has a noticeable impact on their buying decisions.
59% of customers that experienced personalization from brands say it has a noticeable impact on their buying decisions.
9. Live Chat Support to Grow Your Sales
If a customer is in the process of researching something on your website and has a quick question, it’s highly likely for them to try to ask their question over live chat, instead of sending an email or sms. Being able to respond to that chat quickly will help ensure the customer has a great experience.
Kayako conducted an interesting survey, where they found 79% of businesses stated that offering live chat support has had a positive effect on their sales, revenue, as well as customer loyalty.
79% of businesses stated that offering live chat support has had a positive effect on their sales, revenue, as well as customer loyalty.
10. Train & Motivate Your Staff to Deliver Their Best
Omnichannel customer service is more demanding on the customer service agents. They may find themselves context switching more often in an attempt to respond to customers quicker.
To effectively implement an omnichannel customer service strategy, your team needs to be onboard with the plan and have had the appropriate training:
- Provide Comprehensive Training. The team needs to understand the differences in expectations of the various channels. Live chat requires near instant responses. Social media can be slower but not as slow as email. Length of responses are also typically shorter on social media and SMS platforms.
- Offer Rewards & Recognition. Rewards and recognition can motivate your agents to deliver excellent support. Keep in mind that monetary rewards are not the only motivational factor. You can recognize the top performers with badges or awards like “Rep of the Month” and “Rep of the Year”.
11. Begin, Evaluate, and Scale Up
Omnichannel customer service is a complex beast. You don’t need to jump into everything at once.
Begin with a few channels that your team can effectively manage. Evaluate how those channels are performing and see if there are any areas of improvement.
As you start getting positive results with those channels, start adding more channels or optimizing your existing channels, as applicable.
… and remember that it may take some time to streamline everything.
The quality of your customer service matters. Developing an omnichannel approach improves the customer experience and helps your business grow.
You don’t want your customers to go to your competitors because of ineffective customer service. Salesforce research has found that 48% of consumers switched to a competitor’s brand to experience better customer service.
48% of consumers switched to a competitor’s brand to experience better customer service.
Omnichannel customer service will improve customer satisfaction and loyalty… it can even become your company’s unique selling point over competitors.