We had a great webinar last week on top trends in the contact center industry. (Here’s the on-demand version.) The “trends” theme always brings out a large and lively audience, and this time was no different.
One of the topics we covered was the growing challenge of the increasingly complex customer journey that has become typical for many companies. Being able to deliver consistent and effective service in a multi-channel / omni-channel environment is a tough challenge. That, along with rising consumer expectations for rapid and hassle-free customer service, has made it critical for companies to focus on this challenge.
Because we received a ton of questions on that topic, I will expand on it a bit here by sharing some images, some of which were in the webinar, and some that didn’t make the cut.
One of the big challenges for retailers is the “showrooming effect”, where customers use physical stores to examine merchandise, but then go online to find the lowest price and purchase. It’s easy to sympathize with the companies who have to stand by while sales go to the pure online competitors who don’t have to cover the overhead of a physical presence. I shared this cartoon during the webinar, which captures the issue succinctly:
When this phenomenon started, everyone thought the answer was for all merchants with physical stores to also have an online option. But now we’ve learned even that isn’t enough. If a retailer has a competitive online price, they can still lose to another online merchant who has better mobile app, a friendlier website, better SEO or faster online chat response. (For more, see my earlier post: Why Omni-Channel and Multi-Channel Will Ultimately Mean the Same Thing.)
In other words, any gap left in the customer service plan is a spot where sales will leak out to the competition. Part of closing those gaps is having a good way for online shoppers to escalate to a phone call if needed (one of the things Fonolo can do for your company). In fact, 45% of consumers will abandon an online transaction (and switch to voice) if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. The Dilbert cartoon below captures some of that complexity. (It required too much reading to be in the webinar.)
Customer Journey Maps
One consequence of the omnichannel impact is that the “Customer Journey Map” has become an essential tool for understanding the how channels work together to shape the overall customer experience. Ten years ago, the map would be so trivial it wouldn’t be worth building. But today, if I were running a contact center, I would make all of our planning revolve around customer journey maps. I would make it a regular exercise for the leadership team to review and update the maps that are most common for our customers. Then I’d print them out and hang them on the walls. We wrote about journey maps here: 5 Things to Know About Customer Experience Journey Mapping.
Here’s a common format for a map that I’ve seen duplicated in many places, where the vertical axis is channel. The one below is from Forrester.
And here’s another example, this time from Nuance, and with the vertical axis indicating the stage of the buying process:
Channel Preference Surveys
All major analyst firms perform regular surveys of channel preference, which is a good indication of the importance of this topic. Some survey consumer groups, while other focus on contact center personnel. The chart below, from Harris Interactive Research, shows the preferences for “Gen Y” and how they are likely to change in the near future. Voice remains dominant, although decreasing. Both voice and email are giving way to increases in social media, text (SMS), and chat.
Here’s a similar pie chart, but from the perspective of the contact managers. Contact Babel surveyed 200 of them for their 2014 North American Contact Center Buyer’s Guide.
And here’s a slightly different take from that same Contact Babel report. This time, the managers were asked to predict which channels would increase of decrease.
The surveys listed above are valuable, but they are what an economist would call “lagging indicators”. In other words, if you’re planning your 2016 projects by reviewing surveys in 2015 based on interviews from 2014, you might miss the mark with your audience.
How can you get ahead of the curve? One way is to look at data that shows how people are communicating with each other rather than with companies. Then make the assumption that the trends you see there will soon migrate to the customer service domain.
Here’s an example of such data, taken from Ofcom, the independent regulatory body for the UK telecom industry. (Brought to my attention by the “Mobile is Eating the World” deck compiled by analyst / twitter superstar Benedict Evans.) Look at the stunning collapse of email and phone calls among youngsters. It begs a very important question: To what extent will they adopt their parents’ channel preferences as they become adults, and start dealing with companies?
Finally, a unique example comes from the analysis one man did on his own communication. Nicholas Felton is famous for overhauling Facebook’s timeline interface in 2013. For his latest project, he analyzed all the interactions he had with other people over the course of a year, and turned them into 16 pages of charts and graphs. (The whole report is here.) One image I found illuminating was “Communication Channel Affiliations” which show how different people in his life cross between channels. Is this the journey map of the future?