The road is not your final destination
Social media and internet came as quite a shock for the world of customer care. Through these new media, clients could get in contact with companies using a bunch of brand new channels and this created quite a messy situation. Many companies panicked: how can one tackle ALL these incoming messages, without getting lost in the madness?
The understandable confusion drew a lot of attention on to the topic of multi channel customer service, that quickly became a leitmotiv for every blog and business in this field.
And while talking about channels, content started to fall behind.
Suddenly it was more important to “be on Twitter” instead of having something to say. Companies started to think that having a chat was, in itself, a way of improving the customer experience. Facebook pages became a way of marketing. And the world wide web became full of content that nobody even cared to read: you just had to be there and to fill the space.
Companies forgot that “media”, by definition, is just a path and not the final destination. The channel became more important than the content it was supposed to channel… and customer care quickly became devoid of its own original meaning.
Of course, having a multi-channel customer care solution in place is not an option anymore, and that goes without saying. Multiple channels simply HAVE to BE there… but they are just paths that you need to open up for your customers. To make the difference you need to travel that path in the right direction, and to arrive where you are supposed to: it’s not about the road that a customer has chosen, it’s about the destination they are headed toward.
Multi channel customer care is just the beginning
So, you have all your roads paved and in place: now what? This is not even a first step, it’s simply setting things up: your customer care hasn’t even started yet.
First step is actually being there, at the end of that road. Setting up channels is quite pointless if there’s nobody there to take care of incoming customers! Having a chat that is not fully functioning is just a waste of time; being on a social network without paying attention to it can backfire very badly; creating a website that doesn’t have the right information will actually just mess things up. Multi-channel customer care requires the right workforce and cannot be taken lightly.
The second step is being sure that your team fully understand how every channel works. Different channels need to be used in different ways: they all have their own specific lexicon that needs to be understood in order to talk with customers and they all use a very specific set of rules, both written and unwritten.
Of course, a tweet is 140 characters and an email should end with something like “Best regards”, but there’s more to it than that, which is not so precisely spelled out. An humorous tone might be just right for twitter, but can feel truly out of place in a chat conversation. Being too polite on Facebook might actually make you sound false and hypocritical. On a social network, diverting a public conversation into a private chat can be useful, but it might look like you are hiding out from your customers.
Timing also changes radically: it’s quite all right to wait a day or so for an email but on chat and social networks an answer is expected within MINUTES.
Your customer care team needs to understand all this and to be ready to interact in the way and place that the customer has chosen: that’s what “multi-channel” actually means.
The next step is keeping it personal, because empathy is the only way to actually solve a problem. You really need to be sure that your team is able to manage the conversation in a direct and personal way to actually help the customer out and solve the problem, without getting lost in a swamp of internal rules and company policies. You can’t ask your team to be effective if you are not ready to let them take full responsibility for what they are actually doing.
Multi channel customer management inside out
Multi-channel customer care doesn’t mean that all those different roads will never cross each other. A truly multi-channel platform should be able to integrate all the conversations into a single one… because at the end of the day it’s not about the channel, but about the customer. Of course a customer could reach you through different media… but he will also expect you to keep track of all his requests and to work in a truly integrated way, without having him start the conversation again every time he reaches out! This can become incredibly frustrating and can actually backfire on you: multi-channel customer care done right should be flexible and integrated.
All the different teams of your customer care department must be able to communicate with each other, and to deal with the same customer without losing sight of his history and his previous interactions.
Multi-channel means a lot more than creating a couple of social network accounts: it means being ready to solve any type of request, coming from anywhere, in a very specific way.
Multi-channel support shouldn’t let us lose sight of the big picture: channels are nothing more than channels, they are pathways to come and go… but the true aim of customer care is at the end of the road.