The paradox of channel choice

The paradox of channel choice

October 17, 2017
The paradox of channel choice

More isn’t always better. Take your local supermarket for example. Say you need to pick up a salad dressing before dinner, but you’re famished—you just want a dressing that will taste good so you can eat in peace. Yet, with over 175 salad dressings to choose from, a quick trip to the grocery store could leave you in the fetal position in aisle three wondering which dressing would best complement your three-ingredient salad. A seemingly unlimited number of options can often be paralyzing.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Psychologist Barry Schwartz said, “Marketers assume that the more choices they offer, the more likely customers will be able to find just the right thing.” However, research has shown that when there are too many options, consumers are less likely to choose anything at all and if they do, they’re not as happy with their selection.

The paradox of choice
This paradox of choice also applies to the customer support channels your business offers. It might seem noble to meet your customers wherever they are with every possible channel option, but according to Harvard Business Review, “84% of customers would prefer a straightforward solution to their problem rather than a broad array of self-service channels (e-mail, chat, social media–based service, and so on).” Customers don’t want to have to sort through various support channels and then cross their fingers in hopes that they picked the best option to solve their problem. While we all have preferences when it comes to support channels, we would rather forgo our preferred channel if it means getting our problem resolved more quickly.

It’s good to offer all support channels, but not all the time, and not everywhere. You wouldn’t want to list your phone number as the preferred method of contact if your agents are only available 9 to 5. That’s why guiding customers to the best support channel for their needs based on your resources can not only reduce their effort, but can also streamline your company’s support and allow you to staff appropriately.

A clear multichannel strategy can result in:

    1. Reduced channel switching

    Guiding your customers to the right channel for whatever tier their problem is can reduce the odds of them switching from say chat to email, keeping support simple for both your agents and your customers.

    2. Reduced customer effort

    Customers don’t have to spend time wondering which channel might best suit their needs—they’re directed straight to the channel that will best solve their problem.

    3. Improved resolution times

    According to Aja Varney, Zendesk customer, Spartan Race, uses Chat because a growing number of their customers prefer to use chat over email to get an immediate response to simple questions. Placing certain support channels on pages your customers frequent most, or have the most trouble on, allow you to staff your channels appropriately and respond to customers more quickly.

    4. Increased goodwill towards your brand

    By strategically adding live chat to their checkout page, Spartan Race saw a 27% increase in retail sales and a 97% customer satisfaction rating for live chat contacts. When you create a seamless support experience, reduce customer effort, and improve resolution times, it’s a better experience for your customer all around.

So how do you create a multichannel strategy? The first step is to define your business objectives and priorities. Some priorities include improved CSAT, increased sales and revenue, reduced support costs, and improved response rates. Zeroing in on a priority can help you narrow down where and when to offer your support channels.

For example, if your goal is to improve CSAT and in turn increase sales, you’ll want to focus on the channel with the highest CSAT rating. With the highest CSAT rating at 92%, chat is a good channel to start with, but where should you offer chat on your website? First you have to consider the convenience of chat, and the context and complexity of the customer’s problem.

Let’s consider the four C’s of channel choice:

Convenience

Chat is great for urgent questions because of its convenience. If a customer needs a question answered immediately, live chat is a better option than email, because email might result in multiple touches and a longer resolution time. Chat is known to quickly resolve issues with minimal to zero wait times, and customers can multi-task while chatting with agents.

Context

Chat enables you to reach out to customers proactively, in the moment they need help. This makes chat a convenient channel for your brand to interact with customers and vice versa.

Complexity

The ability to chat in real-time and even send photos makes chat the go-to channel for resolving complex inquiries.

Cost

The cost of a new channel is always a key part in deciding whether to offer it or not. When you assess the cost of a channel like chat, you also need to account for the cost of not offering it—like the cost of customer retention or repeat purchases.

Turn ideas into actions
With the four C’s in mind, you might want to offer live chat on your checkout page where problems can get a bit more complicated. 77% of online shoppers want to contact a real person before buying. Many businesses also put Chat on pre-sales pages in addition to post-sales pages, to create a smoother customer journey and help drive conversions. Another idea? Putting a proactive chat on a failure page (i.e. if a transaction fails) or a 404 page.

Once you’ve decided channel placement, it’s also important to consider staffing. Foodpanda had difficulty coping with the increase in chat volume during meal-times and as a result, they missed a lot of chats. However, by observing chat volume and reorder rates in chat analytics, they were able to schedule and prepare agents to handle the increased chat loads. Today, missed chats are no longer an issue for them.

Questions to ask yourself when offering a popular channel like live chat:

  • Do you have adequate staffing?
  • Do you have dedicated agents handling your most demanding channels? (i.e. channels that require a quick response such as Twitter, Facebook, and Chat)
  • Are your agents handling more than one live channel at a time and do you know your agent’s session capacity?

With a little bit of thoughtful journey mapping, you can greatly reduce your customers’ effort with your business. And the most loyal customers are those who get their issues resolved with as little effort as possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about omnichannel support, check out the Omnichannel Revolution Webinar series

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