How Customers Expect You to Show Up Across Multiple Channels
Thu, 12 Aug 2021
Customers, like us, are everywhere.
They’re tweeting, Facebook-messengering, calling, texting, and sometimes even show up offline (well, at least for businesses that aren’t living the laptop lifestyle).
Wherever they go, they expect you to be there, but what exactly do they expect you to do once they reach out?
Step #1: Show Up to Prove You’re a Real Company
Ever needed to get something fixed at home, so you Googled some keywords or names a friend of a friend mentioned, only to come up empty handed and worry you’re about to bring an anonymous murderer into your home?
And with Warner Bros studio supposedly willing to risk 900 million dollars for the claim that ghost stories are based on true, historical facts (see video below), you might want to take an extra step and make sure you’ve got active website and social media accounts, so that customers feel a little safer buying from you.
While you know that you’re a real person who manages a real business – and we totally believe you – your customers might have some doubts if you’re not out there on the Internet engaging with them.
So the first step is to show up, and the extra benefit is that, by doing so, you’ll signal potential customers that your business knows how to serve people who live in the current century.
Step #2: Strategically Decide Where to Show Up
On how many channels should you show up?
According to Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report, 47% of Americans and 44% of global customers use 3-5 channels to contact customer service, which usually includes phone and email.
That said, 24% of Americans and 22% of customers around the world said they use 6 or more channels to contact customer service.
That’s a fifth to a quarter of the market.
Source Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report
Therefore, if you have the time, budget or team to pull it off and do it well, consider developing a presence on multiple channels online – say, chat and several social media accounts.
But if your resources are stretched, we still think it’s best to choose a small number of top channels, and maximize performance there.
Yes, customers prefer that you show up everywhere, but you’re better off prioritizing one or two social channels where the largest number of your customers – or your most important customer segment – hangs out, and provide the most quality customer service in your industry on these channels, build your authority and gain trust, then showing up half-heartedly on 10 platforms.
Customers will notice the difference.
Step #3: Have Enough Human Resources to Answer Fast When Customers Start Talking to You Online
As we said in our guide to the top 2019 customer service channels, many customers don’t actually like getting customer service via social media – they prefer far less public avenues – but they’re gradually opening up to the idea, and they appreciate you significantly more if you provide the option, whether they end up using it or not.
They also expect you to answer within 24 hours, though a few minutes or a few hours would probably be better.
Your reward for the investment in social customer service?
According to MarTech, “companies with the best social customer care experience 92% customer retention.”
Check out this quick talk from customer service expert Shep Hyken to see how you can use social media to drive customers to serve themselves and their fellow customers, while also standing out as a business that provides a great, fast service yourself:
Step #4: Share Necessary Customer Data Across Customer-Facing Departments
These days, you could have one person in charge of your Twitter account, three people answering calls and emails, and another person in a good ole’ brick and mortar store. They all handle the same customers, but neither of them knows what the other has already done for the customer.
Now, it’s important to protect customers’ privacy and not share sensitive information, like credit card details, with just anyone that works at your company.
But when customers call you, there needs to be clear documentation of what happened with them via Twitter, email and offline. Similarly, when they Tweet you, whoever’s in charge of your Twitter account should be able to easily track customer information, so they can provide quick and efficient service.
If you can, you’re better off including the bigger picture of this customer’s relationship with your company in your documentation as well.
As Jeff Jonas, IBM distinguished engineer chief scientist at IBM Entity Analytics, explains in the following video, “one of the things that organizations have historically been doing is they take the transactions that happen, the piece of data that just happened in the enterprise – which is like a puzzle piece, it’s like a pixel – and they try to make a decision about whether it’s good or bad by staring at the single puzzle piece. There’s a real limit to how smart you can be by staring at individual transactions.”
Think about it:
It’s possible that the customer who’s reaching out now isn’t the most ideal to your company, so she only bought your smallest product, but she referred 5 friends and 3 relatives who bought larger products. Or she’s a new customer, but she was referred by one of your biggest accounts.
The more context you can document, and give frontline employees access to, the easier it will be for them to ensure your company stands out with quality customer service.
Step #5: Avoid Split Brand Personality Across Channels
Did you hire your Twitter person because she’s funny and knows how to get great reactions to posts, and your customer service person because she’s compassionate and empathetic toward customers experiencing challenges?
Sounds like you’re thinking beyond the surface and doing many things right.
There’s just one problem.
When a customer reaches out to your team on Twitter and when she calls your business on the phone, it feels like she’s talking to two completely different companies.
If she heard of you through Twitter, she might wonder why your customer service approach over the phone isn’t as lighthearted. Or, if she first interacted with your business over the phone, she might be turned off when she tweets with you and discovers you’re not as sensitive online.
Ensuring brand continuity isn’t easy when you’ve got multiple team members, each doing their own thing, but it’s worth the effort to align the feelings you want to stir in customers across all channels.
How do you do that?
Here are some tips from Mary Beech, chief marketing officer of the fashion brand Kate Spade New York, from her talk at Columbia Business School’s conference, including some practical questions to ask yourself, and how the team at Kate Spade used them to figure out their brand voice:
To Succeed in a World of Almost Nonexistent Attention Spans, You Need an Omnichannel Presence, Not Just a Multi-Channel One (Here’s the Difference)
Many businesses are great about being on multiple channels. Sure, they don’t share data between different channel owners and they don’t guarantee that the emotional experience customers have on all their channels is the same, but they’re making an effort to make it as easy as possible for customers to reach them wherever they want.
That’s a multi-channel approach, and that’s a great start.
But if you want to take your customer service to the next level, it’s time to start integrating all the channels and guaranteeing a continuity of experience no matter how many times customers switch from one channel to another.
In a true omnichannel world, customers can approach your business on every channel you provide, and your team will know their names, will know what they’ve already discussed with the company, and will make them feel as great as the other channel owners – on Twitter, Facebook, SMS, phone, email, live chat, you name it – made them feel.
It might sound impossible, but enough companies are doing it for research to tell us that companies who pull it off really well retain almost 9 in 10 customers, whereas companies who don’t, retain only a third.
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