In our digital-first world, staying competitive means staying nimble and prioritizing your customer experience. Your product or service may be incredible, but if your customer experience doesn’t match, your customers will start looking for other options. Unified communication channels can help you keep up with customer expectations and streamline your contact center operations.
On average, most consumers today own and use more than three digital devices daily. If you’re like me, you have a phone in your back pocket, an Apple Watch on your wrist, and you work on a laptop.
This kind of connectivity suggests customers communicate across multiple communication channels throughout the day. As a result, customers expect seamless interactions with businesses on a variety of channels. They don’t want to repeat themselves as they move from channel to channel. They want to move through the customer journey without any hiccups.
The Benefits of a Unified Customer Journey
A smooth, unified customer journey has some seriously incredible benefits. First and foremost, your customers will be able to reach you on any communication channel they prefer. That means they get to connect with you on their terms, putting them in the best position to have a first contact resolution (FCR). And considering FCR and CSAT are inextricably linked, you’ll see a boost in your customer satisfaction.
A unified customer journey also simplifies your agent workload. When information is shared across communication channels, agents see the full picture of a customer’s inquiry. Plus, they get the context they need to support customers. This means agents are more productive and empowered to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
It’s also important to note that with a unified journey, data is linked between each communication channel. That means your customers won’t have to repeat themselves if they move from a chat to an email or phone call. And, agents won’t have to update customer information across multiple channels for continuity. It just…happens.
6 Communication Channels Your Customers Hope You Have
Before we dig into strategy, let’s consider what channels are essential to meet customer expectations. Here are the top six communication channels today’s customers want.
- Phone support. Voice support remains a top choice for customers today, particularly among older consumers. So, it’s important to offer direct phone communications, especially for customers needing immediate help with complex issues.
- Email. Although email is a more formal communication channel, it’s essential in customer support. It allows for robust documentation and record-keeping and enables detailed discussions.
- Live chat. Live chat is great for real-time support. Plus, it lets customers continue their day without waiting on hold for hours. Live chat is ideal for quick questions or helping customers who are browsing a website or using an app. Chatbots can field simple customer questions and offer self-service tools without involving agents.
- Social media. Social media platforms are a popular way for customers to request support. Use direct messaging with customers or provide a forum space for broader audiences. Just as with live chat, DMs on social media enable users to ask questions and continue their day.
- Self-service portals. Did you know that seven out of ten consumers try answering a question on their own using self-service tools before reaching out for support? A self-service portal with FAQs and knowledge bases lets customers find answers on their own. This relieves agents from handling every customer request.
- SMS. This convenient and direct channel lets customers engage via text message. SMS communications are a quick and accessible way for customers to ask questions, receive updates, and ask for help. What makes SMS unique is its flexibility. Customers don’t have to sit in front of a computer to interact with you. They can communicate on the go.
Want to learn more about unified communications for your contact center? Check out our UCaaS solution.
3 Steps to Simplify Your Customer Journey
Ok, so you know what communication channels customers use most. But how do you build out a customer journey that allows for a seamless, unified experience? Start by simplifying things. Here are the first three steps to a simplified customer journey.
1. Map and Streamline Customer Touchpoints
First, understand your complete customer journey. Identify every possible touchpoint a customer has with your brand. Locate where there may be unnecessary or redundant steps along the way. Then, look at which channels are used most and where there are inefficiencies.
Next, figure out where you can automate repetitive tasks to reduce the workload for your agents. See where you can add tools like chatbots and automated emails for common questions or processes.
2. Create a Unified Database for Customer Data
A unified customer journey is only possible if you have a centralized place for customer information. Use a database or CRM to house all your customer information. Track purchase history and interactions across channels.
Then, empower agents by making this information accessible during customer interactions. This lets you offer personalized and efficient service without repeating information. And with omnichannel tools, you can provide a truly seamless experience.
3. Provide Sufficient Agent Training and Support
It doesn’t matter how cohesive your communication channels are if your agents aren’t trained correctly. To streamline your processes, invest in comprehensive training programs for your agents. Ensure they have the necessary skills to handle various customer needs.
Provide ongoing support and resources to assist agents in resolving issues. This can include a robust knowledge base, coaching sessions, and internal communication channels.
How to Decide What Communication Channels Are Right for Your Business
Choosing suitable communication channels for your contact center involves careful evaluation and strategic planning. Here’s a checklist to help get you started.
Step 1. Understand Customer Preferences and Needs
To determine the right communication channels, you need to know your customers. For instance, if customers won’t use SMS, then it’s just not worth the investment. Start by analyzing your customer base and their preferences.
- Demographics and behavior. What are your audience demographics? How old are they? Where are they located? What channels do they use most?
- Survey and feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for feedback! Conduct surveys and gather feedback from existing customers. Learn about the channels they prefer when interacting with businesses. Ask about their expectations for response times, convenience, and channels.
Step 2. Assess Business Objectives and Capabilities
Your communication channels should align with your business goals and capabilities. Think through the following to determine what works for your contact center.
- Business objectives. What’s the goal for incorporating specific channels? Determine if a channel is primarily for sales, support, marketing, or building brand loyalty. Then, align your chosen channels with these objectives.
- Resource allocation. Assess your team’s capabilities and resources to manage different communication channels. Consider factors like staffing, technology, and the training needed for each channel.
- Integrations and scalability. Evaluate the ease of integrating the channels into your existing systems. Can they fit into your operations? How will they scale as you grow or experience high call volume?
Step 3. Testing and Iterating Strategies
To determine what makes sense for your strategy, you need to test and iterate different communication channels. Here’s an execution plan you can follow.
- Pilot programs. Conduct pilot programs or A/B testing to gauge the effectiveness of different channels. Measure metrics like response time, customer satisfaction, and conversion rates.
- Monitor analytics. Track the analytics and performance metrics for each channel. Identify trends, customer preferences, and areas for improvement.
With a full picture and strategy, your team can make informed decisions about the communication channels that fit your business needs and customer experience goals.
Interested in learning more about our all-in-one communication and collaboration platform? Schedule a demo for b-hive Communicator.