Digital channels: What’s your mix?

Have you noticed an uptick in customer service inquiry levels during the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, you’re not alone. Top brands know that this is exactly the time to ensure they are keeping customer satisfaction top of mind. That’s because customer satisfaction is key for customer retention, which is more important than ever as COVID-19 causes revenues to fall in almost every industry.

This means the pressure is on. As Kate Leggett, VP, principal analyst at Forrester, has noted, “The modern customer expects more when engaging with a company. They expect that their time is valued and that ‘any desired information or service is available on any device at a person’s moment of need’ and that it’s delivered in a highly personal manner.”

What customers and prospects absolutely don’t want is the dreaded ‘on hold’ music for minutes – or, in the worst cases, hours – at a time, or to hear ‘your call is important to us’ played on repeat. 

It’s true that traditional contact centres are struggling to keep up with demand (as are agents). Customer frustration sets in as they find themselves stuck in a loop when they would prefer to communicate via a different channel. Convenience – that is, getting the answers they need, when they need them – is hard to come by.

So, how do you ensure you’re using the most appropriate and effective channels to serve your customers?

Asynchronous messaging

Traditional contact centres typically employ synchronous forms of support – that is, communication where both parties are engaged together at the same time. Phone and web chat are classic examples of this type of support. However, synchronous messaging is inefficient for contact centres and frustrating for agents and customers alike.

Asynchronous messaging, on the other hand, does not require both agent and customer to be ‘on the line’ (so to speak) simultaneously. Great examples of asynchronous messaging channels are SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – and, compared to traditional session-based channels like voice, they offer far greater efficiency. On these channels, customers have a choice between engaging either in real-time or at their own convenience. And their conversation history is always available to agents, so they won’t be forced to repeat their request or question over and over (a major source of frustration for consumers).

To learn more about the differences between synchronous and asynchronous messaging, click here.

Choosing your digital channels

Now, although top customer service brands typically offer communication via a variety of channels, no brand uses every channel. If you’re running a contact centre, you’ll have to select a few – and it’s important to choose wisely. Here are a few steps to consider:

  •   Identify high-traffic entry points. Discover where and how your customers are most likely to ask you questions. Is it via your website, using maps, search or QR codes? Focus your attention on the highest-traffic channels, and prioritise those in your customer care strategy.
  •   Ensure that a digital option is available as a priority. A modern, asynchronous channel isn’t worth much if your customers don’t use it. Be sure to make your digital messaging channels easy to find on your website by promoting them along with, or even before, your telephone number.
  •   Augment and promote further channels. Your contact centre should grow with your organisation – and not just in its number of employees. You should also re-evaluate your channels on a regular basis (at least annually, but preferably every half or quarter) to see if you’re missing important traffic on a channel you didn’t prioritise at the beginning. To help with this process, be sure to invest in a digital care solution that can scale with your organisation, adding channels as you grow.
  •   Track performance metrics. Perhaps this should go without saying, but as you integrate digital channels, you should also be measuring and optimising to see which ones are most effective. Asynchronous messaging conversations can be measured based on agent activity, utilisation measures and quality of service. It’s also important, of course, to measure agent performance to detect and avoid practices like cherry-picking, which can negatively impact business outcomes.

Goal-driven success

One of the worst mistakes you can make when modernising a contact centre is to add channels blindly, or without guidance. This doesn’t mean you have to know exactly how a channel will perform when you add it (that would be impossible), but it does mean keeping your goals in mind at all times and making decisions based on those goals. Are your goals any of the following:

  • increase customer service operational efficiencies
  • decrease friction in a customer journey
  • increase agent effectiveness, or
  • promote proactive engagement?

If so, you’re ready to start, or level-up, your digital-first approach to customer service. If you identify a goal of transitioning voice calls to asynchronous SMS, then consider starting there and adding channels, like Google’s Business Messages. If your social goals encourage a social-first approach to customer service, start with social channels and then expand from there. Use your goals to inform your choices, then define success and iterate. 

And finally…

What are the top digital channels, and how can you integrate them?

Each channel has its own uses, advantages and disadvantages, and each brand has unique needs. That means not every channel will work – or even make sense – for every brand. With this in mind, however, the top digital channels are: Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google’s Business Messages, WeChat, SMS and In-App Messaging.

That’s a lot of channels, and it would be a nightmare to try to manage all of them manually. However, Khoros has now made it possible to unify multiple channels in a single workflow. This AI-powered partner helps brands harness human connections across every digital interaction, streamlining your messaging and digital communication, with the built-in ability to scale and engage across a wide variety of touch points. 

To find out more, download Khoros’ guide to digital channels.