Should You Use Omnichannel for Your Customer Service?

Omnichannel is a coordinated operating strategy that consolidates different types of customer communication into one channel. I recommend omnichannel because it makes it easier for businesses to monitor and respond in a comprehensive and timely manner to all inbound communication from customers. Here, I’ll share why setting up an omnichannel is a great approach for customer service; six best practices when using an omnichannel, and trends to keep an eye on.

An omnichannel helps you adapt fast to customer service needs
6 best practices for setting up a customer service omnichannel

Omnichannel trends to keep an eye on

An omnichannel helps you adapt fast to customer service needs

Many of my clients use the omnichannel approach to solve a lot of customer service problems. It makes it easier for customer service teams to respond quickly to questions, whether the outreach is by phone, email, chat, text, social media, or another form. It makes it easy to capture data and change course when needed. It also helps a business respond quickly to manage new forms of customer service requests as they develop.

One of my clients—an event-based business—recently used their omnichannel set up to respond quickly and seamlessly to a customer service situation. Here’s what happened.

My client’s customers were reaching out to them in new ways through social media. Some were direct messaging the company for information. Others were loving my client’s latest posts about their events, requesting through the post to be contacted by text message for reminders or payment information.

My client’s team eventually noticed these requests and brought the issue to the customer success manager. The team did a quick review of the current procedure on social media and of the response metrics. They realized if they wanted to capture the sales they needed to monitor and engage with their clients in this new way. The simple fix was an add-on service integration that incorporated SMS, or text messaging options.

A situation that could have resulted in frustrated customers and loss of sales was easily resolved. With this tool in place, the customer service team can now track and respond faster to this new stream of sales-generating customer requests.

6 best practices for setting up a customer service omnichannel

Most of my clients use an omnichannel strategy to capture and manage their fast-paced and continually changing customer service needs. Here are some of the best practices when managing a customer service omnichannel.

1. Decide how many channels to consolidate

An omnichannel can be set up in a couple of different ways, depending on the business and preference in their operations, and there are many omnichannel products to choose from.

Some software platforms offer to streamline all channels into one system. Others set up several channels independently and train their customer teams to monitor them.

Traditional communications like email and phone are standard when receiving customer inquiries. But companies are starting to incorporate new channels like text messaging, chats or web widgets, AI technology/bots, and social media in their regular communications.

Depending on the service or product, most of my clients typically will set up a minimum of one to two channels to start and then add more options as the business scales or where the customer demands are.

2. Monitor customer communications channels regularly

Plan to have your customer support team monitor the channels of communications beyond just answering questions. Their role with an omnichannel is to not only respond at the expected times, but to watch for patterns of customer inquiries that change or escalate. They also need to report metrics to management so that if any adjustments or settings need to be updated that can happen in a timely fashion.

3. Consider the benefits of self help options

Always consider using the self-help or self-service features available for customers in the omnichannel to support them and answer their question if possible before they reach out to you. For example, if you have a chat widget on your website you may consider providing customers with knowledge or FAQ articles for access to quick answers before they submit their tickets or ask to chat with your staff.  This cuts down on customer response times and makes for a better customer experience.  

Another example is when you have a chatbot in your system and you set it so that there are a couple of prompts that gather customer information to confirm the issue before they chat with your staff.  This gives the customer service team base information on what customer issues are. It also gives additional information, such as order ID and customer name, emails, etc. that can help customer agents have information early and ready once they speak to the customer. This approach once again provides a faster response time to deal with customer issues and find resolution.

4. Choose the best channels for your business and customers

Carefully think about which channels are best for your business and customers. Where do you find that customers reach out the most prior to purchasing and how does your team interact with customers in those channels? Getting feedback from your team and customers will usually expose the best ways to communicate and service your clients. It’s not always necessary to have all the channels available. It’s more important to assess where customers are reaching out the most.

5. Select an omnichannel with options for a mobile device format

Mobile devices are everywhere and people use them for all things beyond phone calls and texting.  More people are shopping online and choosing to communicate with customer service through their phones. Consider how your interfaces or software are set up for mobile devices and make sure that there are options to communicate with ease if you find that your customers trend toward using mobile devices versus a computer desktop. Contact forms and websites aren't always formatted for mobile devices and can make the customer experience to submit a ticket or an inquiry a very painful process. Your customers may also prefer a text message or an option to open up a chat widget rather than the option for an email or contact form.

6. Monitor for customer behavior changes

When I have a client whose customer service team has been using an omnichannel for some time and their annual customer system review is coming up, we consider all the metrics from the different communication channels they’ve been using—phone, email, chat, and social media, for example. We look at whether customers have started to disappear from social media for unknown reasons. Or maybe a couple questions have come through but not a lot of other activity. If this is happening to you, you may want to consider offboarding a channel or setting up an automation in the channels through which customers are simply not reaching out. Many times, depending on the changes in a business, customers will change the way they communicate. You can waste valuable staff resources if they are continuously monitoring in areas where no customer interaction is happening. So when reviewing, be sure to keep in mind where higher communication volume is versus where communication is minimal and can be automated.

Omnichannel trends to keep an eye on

Here are some important trends to keep an eye on when considering an omnichannel approach.

AI technology

AI is a hot topic in general but when it comes to customer service, it offers the opportunity to gain understanding of customers from a behavior and metrics perspective. With machine learning, AI tech is able to predict customer response behavior and adjust accordingly so that eventually responses are accurately and intuitively resolved. This can be as simple as greeting the customer and updating them on the latest promotion, to resolving an order issue while your team is offline.

Omnichannel software specializing in customer service

Software companies that specialize in CRM or customer support software have developed compatible products under one brand that can be bundled or purchased all at once to provide seamless customer operations. This puts all customer engagement and history in one place.  Although these plans tend to be higher priced, they are an easy way to set up your omnichannel as you need it, without having to devote extra time to training your team on separate software systems.

Customer review platforms as a channel

An interesting trend that I’ve seen recently is customer review software that offers engagement and integrations so that customer support teams can triage unhappy customers that submit less than stellar reviews. Statistics show that many customers who shop online often read customer reviews prior to purchasing, so this area of business can provide key insight on how a company responds and communicates to its customers outside of traditional channels.

Going live for customer interactions and service

Some companies that have a high level of customer engagement in their social media channels have taken to having a live Q/A to address customer questions for new products coming out. They even use a live format to address a major disconnect that may be happening in their operations to clear the air and give customers the guidance on how to reach them if they are having problems with their purchases or with getting their orders. This approach can be highly effective as it restores trust with customers if things have gone wrong and it builds the relationship further as customers see and experience the team in a different way than a chat or email.

An omnichannel is a win-win for customer service

Incorporating an omnichannel service into your business can benefit your customers and your business. Setting up the aligned channels for your customers and training your team to service and manage them is a win-win. An omnichannel service will ultimately improve response and resolution times as well as bring value to the overall customer experience.

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Author
Sasheen M.
Top Rated
Customer Experience and Success Consultant
Coral Gables, Florida
Customer service

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