People hold the key to satisfying customers in a multi-channel world

Simon Thatcher says training plays a crucial role in customer satisfaction.

As our world becomes ever-more digitalised, more channels of communication – such as social media, webchat and mobile apps – have emerged to blend with more traditional contact channels.

This multi-channel world means that customers have more ways to engage with businesses than ever before and that, to keep customers satisfied businesses must adapt to allow customers choice in which channels they use. With this change comes the sizeable challenge of ensuring enquiries can be handled across all channels.

However, many UK businesses are currently falling some way short in this regard. In fact, roughly two thirds of customer service advisors have expressed trepidation over their confidence level in handling service enquiries across multiple channels, which is a real area for concern.

Retaining customers in a world of choice

Today, customers have more supplier choice than ever, and will not hesitate to take their business away from a company that they feel has let them down. Recent research underlines this, finding that switching suppliers is an annual event for more than one in three (34%) consumers. On top of this, a third of consumers would switch solely as a protest against poor customer service.

The wealth of digital channels available to the modern consumer means the impact of poor customer service is vaster, quicker, unfiltered – and thus potentially more damaging.

There are real consequences for brands that get customer service wrong. A common saying often heard in training seminars is ‘give bad service to one person, and they will tell ten more’. The wealth of digital channels available to the modern consumer means the impact of poor customer service is vaster, quicker, unfiltered – and thus potentially more damaging.

Training investment matters

So, how can businesses improve their multi-channel customer service offering? By ensuring that their advisors are trained to deliver the highest levels of customer service, no matter what the contact channel may be.

With this in mind, here are some tips on how businesses can go about this:  

  • Treat (and train) employees as individuals

A personalised training approach is vital, as each employee is unique and will come from a range of different age groups and backgrounds. Because of this, their respective exposure to – and skill level with – each different channel of contact may vary greatly.

One of the most essential first tasks a business therefore needs to carry out is a full training needs analysis. This is beneficial to find out employee strengths, weaknesses and unique developmental needs. It can also help businesses avoid making stereotype assumptions around trainee capability.

However, whilst it can be deemed incredibly important for advisors to have at least basic level proficiency in all the most common contact channels, it’s equally important not to overburden employees by training them in areas they are not suited to.

Recognising this early on can ensure employees don’t become overwhelmed; after-all multi-skilling doesn’t suit everyone.

  • Multichannel – avoiding the dangers of multi-tasking

Every customer should be treated as an individual and given dedicated attention, and this is something which must be emphasised during training. Dealing with, for example, six webchats at a time, or handling social media and calls at the same time will fragment advisor attention, thus inhibiting their ability to give individual customer queries the attention and care they need.

Because of this, it is crucial to instil within employees exactly what the business expects with multi-channel contact handling.

  • Building a multi-channel tone of voice

Tone of voice is, as ever, imperative to effective customer service. This is important for trainers to convey to trainees, as it enables them to tailor their responses by channel. For example, is messaging intended to be friendly and casual, or is it supposed to be more professional and direct?

Once employees understand the tone, style and remit they are looking to achieve within each channel, trainers should build exercises and frameworks that support skill development in this area.  

  • Reflecting on examples and experience

Sometimes trainees may express unease over using certain channels, and often this is due to the fear of the unknown. Highlighting real life examples of success and failure can help here, ensuring to link examples back to customer satisfaction scores.

Also, encouraging employees to use an array of communication channels in their personal lives can help build experience and confidence as can reviewing how other companies use their channels to respond to customers.

Another great example of an exercise for trainees is to go back through previous customer interactions and categorise them by channel. Not only does this help reveal common themes, questions, and responses, but it also allows trainees to discover for themselves the correct tone of voice to apply to each channel.  

  • Guiding customers through a multi-channel world

Finally, help trainees recognise how to use their knowledge and skills to support customers in making the right channel choice as a contact evolves.

For example, while a customer may have tweeted the business initially, their query may become a more complex, sensitive issue better suited to a conversation over the phone – well trained and confident multi-channel advisors will recognise that it is fine to offer customers choice and should be able to guide customers in the right direction.

The value of the human touch in a multichannel world

What’s clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for customer service, or a single communication platform that works for every customer, and therefore businesses must be prepared to offer equally effective customer service on all communication channels if they are to engage and retain customers, and this relies on a confident team of well trained and empowered advisors.

However, what remains of utmost importance is that whatever their choice of channel, customers are looking for a resolution to their contact. So whilst multi-channel training is important, it’s vital not to focus solely on how to respond in each channel, but to remember that training should be centred on the practice of delivering great service to all customers every time. 

Look after your people, and they will look after your customers.


About the author

Simon Thatcher is senior learning and development consultant at specialist outsourcer at Echo Managed Services


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