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Dream A Little Bigger – Why Multi-Channel is Dead

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to help Professor Jerry Wind write his latest book, ‘Beyond Advertising.’ The research touches over a few concepts, including the need for businesses to create marketing campaigns and brand alignments resulting in benefits not just for themselves, but for their consumers and beyond. Backed with a worksheet-style framework and a slew of case studies, Professor Wind suggests that consistent messaging, distributed and orchestrated over a wide variety of channels, would lead to a consistent and altogether more effective customer journey.

Professor Wind was correct in his conclusion. In a generation where people have shorter attention span than goldfish, are forgetful and chained to their phones, and consistently lost and addicted to immediate gratification, it’s not enough to focus on how small interactions affect customer behavior. To move from these reactive, ineffective attempts at understanding people, marketers and customer service agents need to move away from analyzing points, tickets, and individual channels. The first step is cutting out this idea of marketing and customer service as multi-channel.

Multichannel Marketing and Customer Service is Dead

Bailing a Sinking Ship With a Solo Cup

To break into this concept of moving past multi-channel, it’s worth looking at a concrete example as to how and why multi-channel strategy doesn’t work in the first place. There are any number of case studies which address the topic. My personal favorite might be an onboarding study in the telecom business. A large telecom company tracked interactions that customers, such as an initial price consultation. In every given stage, customers were asked to rate their experience. Over all the polls, their experiences were positive. Viewed holistically, however, customers had a negative opinion of the process and the brand itself. Executives had to take a step back and think about not just the reaction of such calls, but the reasons behind them. By spending the time to examine the reasons why there were so many interactions, as well as bringing in customers to help them design a better process, they were able to engineer a far more effective onboarding process.

The brand needed to understand customers and their emotions rather than resolving sets of tickets. To compare this to the view of multi-channel considered originally, although consistency of quality was carried out over the different channels, the experience itself was not necessarily well-received.

A contrasting point is the success of healthcare IT company Flatiron Health. A large portion of their success is based in breaking down silos between patient touch points. By relating data between things such as EMRs and clinical research, as well as back and forth with patients, Flatiron is able to find successful trends in clinical and patient care. Additionally, by putting their product managers in hospitals to shadow nurses and doctors, Flatiron was able to listen more effectively to not just their clinic customers, but also to the patients their system is used for. By putting a focus on informing patients – not just doctors – both parties have an improved experience. Patients understood their therapy better and had easier ways to alert their doctor of changes while doctors had better information to inform future decisions. Flatiron’s astronomical growth rate and funding rounds speak for themselves in terms in contrast to the success and usability of traditional EMR systems. By focusing on net experience, rather than traditional touchpoint management, Flatiron was able to deliver better product and growth.

To formalize this into concrete business concepts, Chris Meyer proposes a possible explanation in Harvard Business Review about the customer experience

Multi-channel marketing and customer service is built on CRM management – tracking events, instances, and facts without focusing on the experiences and problems underneath. While there is a wide breadth of this information, it is still distinct from the concepts of motivation, experience and feeling. To really switch, businesses require a fundamentally different view towards how they try and get brands to align with people – or more simply, just seeing people as people.

While multi-channel itself an ineffective management strategy, it is worth mentioning how this thinking is ineffective for corporate sustainability as well. With customers using a wider number of channels – and methods of using those channels changing as well – thinking about channels as rigid entities sets a business up to be permanently behind the rate of change. In one Entrepreneur article, the writer posited that the rate of capturing the value of new platforms wasn’t as much of a problem anymore as the rate at which companies can adopt to them. Focusing on multi-channel will leave managers on an adoption rate treadmill, exacerbating the lack of visibility they have on their customers.

An Experience is Worth More Than 1000 Words

Nearly as soon as Professor Wind’s book came out, parts of its research were already bending to the breakneck speed at which digital marketing is changing. As IBM observed in their most recent CMO survey , the traditional silos – both in terms of industry and channel – are breaking down. CMOs are no longer the masters of ‘the campaign’ or creative geniuses, they are engineers of customer experience. Concisely, in the same survey, Mohamed AlTajer writes “There won’t be CMOs in the future; there will be Chief Experience Officers who are responsible for the overall customer journey.”

Relating to Professor Wind’s book, his work sets the stage for what will be a needed change in outlook and approach. People fundamentally expect the same experience over any channel we interact with. In other words, people don’t just want consistency when dealing with companies, they want an ongoing conversation. Too long has marketing and customer service focused on what is corporately efficient without realizing that by accommodating and listening customers, both succeed.

This is a relatively abstract concept that is illustrated well by clothing company Patagonia. Patagonia is built upon a number of principles including use of recycled materials, a permanent one percent of revenue commitment to grassroots activism, and a culture based off the mountain climbing past of it’s founder, Yvon Chouinard. They branded around the catchphrase “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” urging customers to consider the environmental implications of the clothes they were buying and to encourage them to buy use. In an act in line with their guiding principles, considerate to their customers, and seemingly flying in the face of a proper sales campaign, Patagonia’s sales actually exploded. () By sticking to their philosophy and informing their customers, Patagonia has maintained it’s shopper experience as an outdoors brand and continued to be a model brand of customer and corporate goals aligning.

Bottom of the Ninth

In an age where social media and customer management is an increasingly crowded landscape, what do businesses needs to change to actually understand their customers?

In part, the change in cultural. Think about the idea of the traditional sales team. The concept, although certainly profitable, is not always the most healthy extension of company culture. This introduces a risk of divide between the culture of the sales team and the rest of the team. In an ideal corporate structure, everyone in a company believes in their brand alignment and, through their work, help contributes to its success. To cite Michael Keller, CEO of Pearson’s Candy, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

To illustrate this, consider REI, the outdoor clothing and supply behemoth. REI seeks out employees passion about their products – in other words, ‘outdoorsy people’ – and the same people that would buy the products themselves. REI employees also lead sessions teaching things such as kayaking, get discounts on their products, and even days off to go outside and play. This unapologetic commitment to culture has led to a massive boon in sales, especially in comparison to some of their less-focused competitors. Rather than focus on channel-specific campaigns and tracking, by curating a culture, REI was able to drive sales effectively.

To tie this concept more directly to the sales and marketing front, Atlassian stands out. As one of the few Australian unicorn companies, their lack of sales team has generated a lot of buzz. While potentially alarming at first, it is relatively easy to see this success is attributed to founders devoted to the need for their own product, building a culture where people want to work, and making all aspects of the company, to some extent, marketing. By creating a product that they loved themselves and employees that wanted to work there, the marketing came from largely word of mouth. Combined with distributing their software for free, Atlassian blossomed into a massive company. Co-founder Scott Farquhar notes, “I passionately believe about giving experience. Mainly to employees but also to customers… People remember experiences that you give them.In other words, your own employees should be your brand’s biggest advocate, and their actions will help a product sell itself. In the same vein, Palantir, backed with a 0 dollar marketing budget, relies nearly entirely on the passion of its employees to drive and perfect it’s product. As one of the most valuable privately held companies in the valley, it’s safe to say the tactic is working.

A Product Is Worth a Thousand Words

Aside the more intangible changes of culture, the answer isn’t to stop tracking points – in fact, tracking is as relevant as ever – but to approach how we integrate conversations into marketing, sales, and, most importantly, product differently. As companies break down their multi-channel induced silos, they need to integrate customer interactions with how they build their product.

I think summary of all of this can come from a talk I went to with Eone Watch’s founder, Hyungsoo Kim. In his attempt to make a watch for the blind, he quickly realized that his perceptions of building and selling the product were completely wrong. He had made a series of assumptions about the blind, including that they could read braille and wouldn’t care as much about the appearance of the watch. In testing, soon realized how painfully wrong he was, with around 10% of his test users knowing braille and appearance being one of the most asked questions. Bringing the product back to the drawing board, the watch was re-designed to be appealing and usable to blind and sighted alike, an intuition that only came from having blind people work closely with the product team.

While companies talk to a variety of customers, usually not as specific of a market segment as the one targeted by Hyungsoo, it is easy to make a number of simplifications and projections based off what we as businesses feel like we should be focusing on and what people will want. Multi-channel, as Professor Wind examined and built on, is necessarily reactive. It precludes companies from seeing the underlying motivations behind customers and precludes them from building their best products. If we follow stories, rather than words and points, it’ll be much easier to predict the next chapter. So let’s stop thinking of marketing and customer service as pages, but rather books about people.

Managing Multiple Customer Channels

The way people reach your business’ customer support has changed significantly in the past couple of years, primarily because of the advent of the internet, social media and more importantly, smartphones. Companies are now expected to answer the customer’s grievances over a vast array of channels – these can include emails, messages over social media such as Facebook and Twitter, SMS, contact page on the website and last but not the least, the very traditional but still relevant… phone.

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The customer expects your representatives to be available for any queries around-the-clock, 24/7 and wants prompt replies. Failure to address your customer can result in losing out on important business resulting in loss of revenue. All the different channels of communication should be consistent with each other, for instance handling the customer’s emails should not keep your agents so preoccupied that they miss out on a customer’s phone calls.

Here’s How to Manage Multiple Customer Channels

1. Different Channels – Different Challenges

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Each channel has its own set of requirements, challenges, resources and your customer representative team will have different skills. You can’t expect one agent to perfectly handle all your channels with perfect tenacity. You will have to gauge their strengths and weaknesses and assign them certain roles accordingly. You will need someone with good communication skills in order to handle a large number of phone calls, while fast typing speed would be required of someone who is handling emails and social media.

Related: 
The Art and Science of Customer Engagement

With phone calls and chats, both the customer and the support agents are available at the same time and this can allow you to find common ground very quickly. Channels such as SMS and emails mean that neither the customer nor the support agent are burdened with the pressure of time, and can respond to each at their own leisure (not really true for support agents). While both channels have their strengths and weaknesses, the main purpose of a well oiled customer support team is to ensure that your customer has access to useful information in a short amount of time.

How you can go about designing your customer support team depends entirely on the size of your business and how much volume each channel receives. Depending on the type of business – whether it conducts most of its business online or offline – most customers might try reaching your support team on social media than on phone. This is most often the case with media publication sites with a strong online presence. For insurance or professional service companies, however, phone calls and traditional letters seem to be the order of the day.

2. It isn’t Practical to Blindly follow someone else’s Multichannel Strategy

It really isn’t one size fits all, and the preferable means of communication really depend on the customer. For most small scale businesses in Australia, it really isn’t a good idea to invest in every single type of channel you can get your hands on. It takes time and resources to gather useful, talented individuals and train them to properly handle their roles. It isn’t practical to be available 24/7 across phone, email, SMS and social media. Pick one service that might work best for you. If you’re an online seller, chances are that your customers might not really try to reach you on phone. However, that might not be the case if you’re a physical business with a physical store. For restaurateurs, it is more beneficial to have support agents dealing with phone calls 24/7 or during working hours, rather than having a team address customers online. Your preferred method of communication also depends on which channel the customer themselves choose.

3. Variety is Beneficial for both Employees and Customers

A key point to understand is that your support team also needs a break from the hassle of going through a monotonous job on a daily basis. You need to change their roles every now and then to keep them engaged so that the quality of your support teams doesn’t falter. For instance, one week an agent would be addressing the customer over chat, the next they might engage them over phone. The idea is to ensure they don’t get bored. Boredom can kill productivity and your customers might actually interpret this as lack of concern or empathy for their problem.

The operator over the phone needs to have an encouraging, bubbling voice that exudes enthusiasm which can instill confidence in your customer. So even if their problem might take some time for your team to get back to, they will always be patient because the person on the end of the line was so… enthusiastic.

Studies have shown that deploying omnichannel solutions can boost the employee’s morale by more than 80% while giving your customer more options to reach you.

4. Make Notes about the Customer

By keeping a history of the customer’s purchase history, complaint records and other such data, your support agent will be able to address their problems more efficiently the next time they receive a complaint. This also means you can track the customer’s trends by quantifying key business metrics such as the customer loyalty and retention.

Customer Service Software: The New Foundation of Marketing Strategies

More than 75% of customer-company interactions now occur online. Customers are continuously reaching out to companies over social media. Marketing teams that originally focused just on marketing over social media are now responsible for the customer service interactions. Customers constantly interact with these companies and expect quick meaningful responses.

Here are some great examples of customers contacting companies via social media. Shane from Canada contacted Samsung and explained to company representatives how he is a loyal customer. He told them all the products he owned and then kindly asked if they would send him a new phone for free. In return he offered this picture…

customer-service-samsung-canada

Samsung took this opportunity to show off its excellent customer service and market it to thousands of people. They sent him a new phone, and even customized it by putting his drawing on the back! Social media is a great way to get in contact with your customers, but remember, it’s okay to have some fun once in awhile. Samsung and other companies around the world often showcase their excellent customer service over social media because their marketing channels are so well established.

For a better customer service, use conversational technology to easily manage customer conversations. Request a demo now!

Woveon, an intelligent customer service startup, is paving the way in this online industry. Woveon is an easy-to-use online application providing businesses a centralized location to manage their customer channels, such as social media and phone calls. Using machine learning, social listening, a wide breadth of data, and a clean user interface, Woveon helps prioritize inquiries, identify valuable customers, and suggest personalized content. It levels the playing field for small businesses to compete with larger social media teams and helps enterprises visualize customer journeys. It simplifies online customer relations and makes businesses more efficient in managing the touch points they have with customers.

Learn How Woveon Can Improve Your Marketing Strategy

I recently read on Forrester, “I believe consumer behavior will continue to push eBusinesses to re-evaluate their approach to social media and move to more strategic interactions between marketing, branding, and customer service. Consumer adoption of both direct social support and peer-to-peer support has exploded in the last few years. Further, the majority of consumers expect a reply to their Facebook and Twitter posts.”

Companies should be working their best to get their customers to interact with their brand online. This can include Facebook, Twitter, email, YouTube and Google Ads. Millions of consumers are already online, and it is easy to reach larger audiences. But once you have reached these larger audiences, how do you manage the questions?

Single Platform Integration

Most companies have multiple channels of communication with their customers. Woveon has created a platform that combines all of your customer channels onto a single page. The simplicity allows your marketing and customer service teams to never miss a conversation.

Conversation History

Conversation history is another important feature when dealing with customer service and marketing. It helps to look at past interactions so that if a similar problem arises, you can quickly solve the problem with the steps in front of you. This feature also allows you to know the customer you are dealing with better.

Conversation Prioritization

Woveon’s advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities can prioritize customers. The program looks into the customer’s social media or purchase history and identify more valuable customers. This can include people with large followings on social media. Your customer service team can quickly respond and market how well your brand takes care of its customers.

Customer Service, The Foundation of Online Marketing

Every company’s priority is its customers. So why not focus on your valuable customers and solve the problems that arise? Woveon has the ability to simplify and better market your customer service. With so many different social media platforms, it can be hard for companies; however, integrating all channels onto a single page makes it extremely easy to keep track of all customers conversations. Conversation history allows representatives to look back on past interactions to learn more about your customer before interacting with them. It takes a software platform like Woveon to provide superior customer service. 

CTA marketing strategy template

The Art and Science of Customer Engagement

It’s a no-brainer that we no longer interact with customers the same way we did face-to-face in brick and mortar. With customers increasingly using social media, apps and websites to shop and browse, they are being empowered with more information and more choice. With so much choice available to the customer, it really boils down to the quality of their customer experience with the company that ultimately wins a customer and gains their loyalty. For any company that wants to increase their conversion rates and retain their customers (which company doesn’t, really), you need to excel at customer engagement.

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What is Customer Engagement?

Customer engagement is, in its simplest form, the interaction between a company and their customers. But it should not be mixed up with Customer Service. Customer Service is an interaction with a customer as a result of the customer reaching out to the company.  Customer engagement on the other hand, is an interaction between the company and customer where both parties are actively reaching out to each other. On social media, this takes form of companies posting engaging content such as quotes and discounts to delight their followers, as well as responding and reacting to customers who reach out to them.

I’ll break this down with an example:

A customer has a problem with a company’s product. He takes a picture and posts this on the company’s Facebook.

Scenario 1: The company sees this issue and replies with a solution to the customer. End of interaction. This is customer service.

Related:
What are the Best Strategies to Ace Customer Engagement

Scenario 2: The company replies to this customer publicly with a solution; and privately messages him asking for his email address in order to send him a small token of appreciation for letting them know. This time, the customer posts up his satisfaction with how the company has handled the issue. In response, the company reply favourably to his post and reshares it to encourage other customers to also contact them about issues, because they are actively listening to their customers. This, is customer engagement.

How to do Customer Engagement right?

So, customer engagement is a little more work than your traditional customer service. It might be a real pain, but with such widespread use of the internet, that is the level of customer experience you need to provide to attract, retain and engage customers to develop them into promoters. Whilst there are countless ways to engage with your customers, there are three crucial points you need to address in every customer engagement strategy.

1. Be Omnipresent

customer engagement-customer service - omnipresent

Being omnipresent means that you’re everywhere at the same time. Meaning, you should be on social media, email, phone, chatbot and whatever other communication channel your company uses, all at the same time, around the clock. Customers expect a company to have presence on at least 3 to 4 social channels, as well as fast response times across all these channels. 32% of people who contact a company for customer support on social media expects a reply within 30 minutes. 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Crazy right! If you’re anything like me, you’re a bit of a sloth replying to your friends on social media. Just imagine if you had hundreds messaging you every day expecting instant replies.

zootopia slow sloth-customer engagement - timeliness - customer service

Some ways companies are overcoming this hurdle is by outsourcing customer service, using social media management platforms, or just start slow by using social listening tools. Customers want to have their voice heard on a channel they use, and very importantly, want to know that you value their time.

2. Provide seamless omnichannel experiences

customer engagement - omnichannel - customer service - cmo - customer support

Omnichannel experiences mean blending the touchpoints a company has with its customers to provide a wholesome, integrated experience. Not only will this improve customer satisfaction, but the reduction of customer effort has been proven to be a huge contributor to customer loyalty.

Disney and Tomorrowland are amongst the top in providing an omnichannel experience to their customers. Customers start from mobile optimised websites, to online itinerary planning, to a mobile app that can be used to find locations at the venue. They have made it easier for customers to transition from platform to platform and from online to offline, making these entertainment giants some of the most successful in the world.

3. Be Personal

Nothing better than having human touch, really. In a Genesys Global Survey, 40% of 9000 consumers say better human service mattered to them the most in customer support, much more than other options such as integration of more channels and enriched content.

customer engagement - human touch - customer service - cmo - customer support - personalization

Being personal goes beyond using their name when interacting with them or showing a picture of your face on the chatbot screen; it also encompasses being responsive to their emotions and knowing their history with the company. The end goal is for the customer to develop feelings of personal connection to a company or brand. Once they are in this comfortable stage, it’s much more likely they will end up becoming evangelists of the company.

A fantastic example of online personalization is Hubspot’s smart content. Smart content intelligently personalizes content to the user’s need. Using information such as their job title, average page views or stage in the buying process, smart content changes the content the user sees on the website. A regular visitor would for example, see different call-to-actions or forms compared to a new user. The result? Personalized content did 42% better.

Hubspot smart content - customer engagement - customer service - personalization

Whilst there is no one right way to do customer engagement, being omnipresent, omnichannel and personalized (even to some degree) has reaped many benefits for all companies that have implemented it. What are you doing in your business to engage with your customers? Share with us in the comments below!