The construction of any building begins with a blueprint. Those fine blue lines indicate what goes where and allow a builder to understand the size and proportion of each room in relation to another. It also allows the construction team to use their tools and materials wisely so the building may be reproduced as intended.
In business, it’s sometimes easy to forge ahead without such a plan, when we have the tools and the people that enable us to take action. But when providing customer service, life can quickly become complicated when you haven’t thought through all the different ways that customers reach out for help, or anticipate and plan for how quickly your business might grow. Scaling and providing consistency across channels, as many as you can offer, requires an omnichannel support solution—informed by a strategy that keeps the customer at the center of your business. Here’s how to get started.
Map the customer journey
Begin by mapping the known points of interaction with your business. Consider, for example, whether customers are visiting review sites before making a purchase with you, or whether they typically have pre-sales questions. Then walk through the point of sale, and the types of post-purchase support that customers most often need. Which channels do you offer at each interaction point? What’s missing?
For example, is your team handling social media or comments on a review site as part of a separate, disconnected process? Or, are there types of questions at a particular interaction point that might be better served by another channel? Often, a support team may receive pre-sales questions by phone or email when perhaps a well-placed live chat widget might offer a faster way to offer personal, timely help that keeps the customer engaged within the context of their journey.
Lay the foundation
Once you have the lay of the land, it’s time to think bigger and ask yourself some What if? questions. What if you could offer any channel you wanted? What if you could automate or solve time-consuming processes and questions with an intelligent knowledge base? It’s worth looking at the points of interaction you’re not covering well today, places where volume is high or resources are thin, and documenting your real-world baseline. It’s also worth considering what your support organization might look like in an ideal world. Or even in a year from now.
The value of an omnichannel solution is that it’s possible to integrate or turn channels on and off as needed. By contrast, adding channels and tools as you go creates disconnected customer experiences and operational challenges.
Invest in infrastructure
Once you have your channel strategy in place—based on where your customers are, what they need or want, and by thinking through how the channels you offer can help aid conversion or increase customer satisfaction and loyalty—you’re ready to implement a solution. An omnichannel solution should allow you to provide support through any communication channel your customer might use, and to keep a record so that conversations always travel with the customer and agents always understand the customer within the context of their journey.
When choosing an omnichannel solution, ask:
- Does your software allow you to serve customers through all the channels your customers need?
- Does your software allow you to integrate with other tools so that customer data never gets lost or siloed inside different systems?
Turning your omnichannel support strategy into a reality depends on choosing a solution that allows you to scale and shift in cadence with customer demand. If there’s a long lead time on getting a new channel up and running, customer data will be lost.
Make sure it’s mobile
Another key consideration is whether your strategy accounts for mobile-first channels like messaging or to seamlessly embed support within your website or app. No one needs stats on how prevalent mobile usage is, but—consider that 63% of U.S. adults use mobile devices at least several times a month to seek customer support and, in addition to that, Software Advice found that 90% of survey respondents had poor experiences seeking customer support on mobile. For any business hoping to differentiate itself on the basis of the customer experience, it’s crucial that you bake into your strategy the customer’s mobile experience.
Sell the strategy up
Let’s face it, even once you’ve done all the work to design a thoughtful, tailored omnichannel strategy for your customers, it’s easy for someone at the top to say, “That’s great, but what’s the minimum viable option? Start there.”
The good news is that with an integrated omnichannel solution, it no longer makes sense to start small and offer just one or two channels when you could offer three, or more, with the same products and resources. The insight your organization stands to gain by integrating channels through a unified solution can be a literal goldmine and have far-reaching impacts. The more data you have about customer conversations, the more you can predict trends and optimize your support to focus on the highest-value interaction points.
Learn more about Zendesk’s omnichannel solutions