After establishing and aligning your business goals with leaders across departments including Customer Service, Support, Sales, IT, Operations, and Marketing, you should discuss how to best approach these goals as a collective team. If you think switching to omnichannel is the best route forward for your team, get buy-in from other leaders first and consult with them to see if they have any specific needs as you evaluate channels and vendors.
To successfully employ digital omnichannel, you must first evaluate which channels you already have and consider which ones you want to incorporate into your digital strategy.
According to Marketing Week, 15 years ago the average consumer used two touchpoints when making a purchase and only 7 percent regularly used more than four. Today, consumers use an average of almost six touch-points with nearly 50 percent regularly using more than four.
You don’t need to be available to your customers on every single channel in order to benefit from a digital omnichannel platform. Use data collected from previous interactions such as web traffic data, FCR by channel, and how many inquiries each channel gets to learn how your customers are reaching you and which channels they prefer. When considering new channels, consider whether your customers and prospects are active on that channel and whether they might like to be served there, or if it would seem intrusive from your brand.
You should only add new channels if it makes sense for your audience. The key here is to do your research and make sure you are not just following a trend, but actually providing a useful service to your audience.
On the other hand, do not ignore a channel just because you have never tried it before. In a post-chat survey, The Cumberland found that 62 percent of their customers said they wouldn’t have reached out at all if live chat hadn’t been available – something they didn’t know until they tried live chat!
If you’re not sure which channels to use, don’t worry. You could always test a channel, promote its availability to your customers, and see how much engagement you get. With digital omnichannel, it’s easy to add and subtract channels from your existing strategy with virtually zero additional agent training.
Here are the top channels to consider adding to your digital omnichannel offering:
Live chat uses a small window on your website or mobile app to connect customers directly to a live agent or chatbot from any desktop or mobile device. It is one of the most popular ways for customers to communicate with brands online. According to research by J.D. Power, live chat is preferred by customers over both email and social media. Live chat can increase website conversions by 20 percent or more on average, and customers who use live chat are three times more likely to make purchases than those who don’t. The best live chat solutions include audio and video chat, co-browsing, easy file sharing, message or field encryption, and even automatic translation. This makes the live chat service experience even more personalized for the customer and more productive for the agent, while application- level security makes it one of the most secure forms of digital communication.
Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, social media brings brands into customers’ personal spheres and lets customers engage with companies publicly or privately. One- to-many, public customer interactions on this channel are important for managing public opinion of your brand and building brand affinity. Direct Messages (DMs) are important for responding to direct, private inquiries. With a digital omnichannel approach, agents can handle social media queries directly from the agent console, just as they would any other channel. According to a survey by Twitter, 85 percent of SMB Twitter users say it’s important for businesses to provide customer service using the network. Of the customers surveyed, 83 percent said that getting a reply on Twitter improved their opinion of the business.
Ticketing and Email
Email is the original digital channel and the first real alternative to voice, pre-dating web- based contact forms by several years (think AOL and Compuserve). Chances are you’ve been using email for customer support for quite some time now. That said, email clients like Outlook and Gmail weren’t designed for customer service, so they come up short in this department.
That’s where Ticketing comes in. If you’re not familiar with ticketing, think of it as ‘email meets to-do list’. A ticket is a digital case – a discrete issue that isn’t solved in real time and needs follow-up action. Ticketing lets businesses manage more complex customer queries that require either more time to resolve, collaboration from multiple agents, or both.
Tickets are a tried-and-true component of any serious support team and don’t necessarily adhere to any specific channel. In the digital era, many companies automatically create tickets from email submissions while also allowing messages from other channels — chat, social, SMS — to be converted into tickets as well. Complete messaging history can be attached to tickets so that agents have access to the customers’ full story, even if the issue switches hands (or channels). Ticketing allows for more agile and effective customer service than a simple email inbox system. With easier routing and collaboration, it yields quicker resolutions and happier customers.
SMS texting is the single most used smartphone feature worldwide. It is the dominant way of communicating between individuals, and soon will be between individuals and the brands they support. According to research, 48.7 million people will choose to receive business SMS messages in 2020. Texting is so ubiquitous and trusted that it is the ideal channel for sharing important information with your customers that requires relatively quick action. (SMS messages have a 209 percent higher response rate than phone, email, or Facebook). From appointment or shipping confirmations to security alerts and product recalls, texting – both inbound and outbound – should be a standard channel for every organization.
Social messaging (or Instant Messaging) is like texting, but via an internet-based application. You might be familiar with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter DM, WeChat, and others. Social messaging apps can be accessed via a mobile device or a desktop, and include robust features like file sharing, video, and more. Facebook Messenger is the most popular messaging app in the United States with 106.4 million unique users of this platform.
With frequent Business API updates and a rich set of features, it is also the easiest to integrate with your customer service software. Worldwide, WeChat is the most popular messaging platform, with more than 1.6 billion users, compared to 1.3 billion for Facebook Messenger.
Knowledge bases – self-serve online directories containing hundreds or even thousands of articles – are available to customers at any time of the day and are critical for customers who prefer to take matters into their own hands. More than six in ten U.S. consumers say that their go-to channel for simple inquiries is a digital self-service tool, according to a study by American Express. Since information distributed through this channel is consumed when and where customers want at their own pace, this tool can help buyers understand the product or service better before purchasing and helps increase loyalty post-purchase.
A knowledge base means that your customers will never have to wait in a queue to get the answers they need.
Make sure your customers can access your knowledge base directly via a web page and right from your live chat window. The more accessible it is, the more it will serve customers who prefer to self-serve and the more it will deflect queries away from your live agents. Searchability is key!
According to the Aspect Consumer Experience Index, 61 percent of consumers feel that having chatbots in customer service is the way of the future. Chatbots can be deployed on live chat and on social and SMS channels as well. Chatbots have a high success rate of solving customer inquiries—Comm100’s 2020 Live Chat Benchmark Report found that bots completed 68.9 percent of their chats without human involvement, up from just 25 percent in 2018. Chatbots are not only cost-effective alternatives to a 24/7 human customer service team; agent-facing AI can also assist customer service representatives by listening in on conversations and suggesting knowledge base articles, building standardized response models, and facilitating agent training.
Together, these digital channels span both real-time (instant) and anytime (within hours or days) customer communication. Self-service channels like knowledge bases and chatbots take pressure off agents by reducing the volume of support requests made in real-time channels and after hours. Real-time channels will thus have lower queues and wait times, and agents will be more readily available for complicated queries which can be more fulfilling to handle.