Customers in every industry have come to expect self-service options. From using an app to order coffee to texting companies for support, these channels give customers another way to quickly and easily get what they need. While some businesses are moving in the right direction with their omnichannel strategies, many are missing a strong enough internal framework to understand customer-facing implications.

A recent Salesforce report found that 59 percent of consumers and 71 percent of business buyers said self-service availability affects brand loyalty. Another study found that 93 percent of customers think providing this experience is important, putting it high on the priority list. As a result, companies are adding channels faster than ever—and sometimes to the detriment of the customer experience. 

It’s clear that digital self-service is a big piece of continued success, but simply having a strategy is not enough. A customer’s experience isn’t just about receiving service—it’s about getting the best possible service. When establishing new channels, it’s important to step back and look at the bigger picture to absorb how those channels will impact the customer journey.   

Don’t follow the hype 

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of all customer service interactions will take place using a chatbot. It’s true that these types of self-service communication channels can create a better experience, but in all the excitement around artificial intelligence, companies can get caught up in the pressure to innovate and deploy new solutions before they’re ready.  

According to a recent report, 44 percent of marketing and customer experience leaders say they offer four or more channels to communicate with their brand, but 58 percent admit their customers only use two or three. Even though many companies don’t know exactly how their customers are using channels, they continue to add more options. And that puts them at risk of dehumanizing the customer experience.  

Even in a digital world, customers want a human connection, and technology won’t cut it. If companies are too focused on chasing technology without proper preparation, they risk ignoring the customer service teams who have the ability to offer the best possible service when customers need them most.  

Map technology to the customer journey 

There’s no question that it’s important to deliver a flawless omnichannel customer experience, but only 45 percent of companies think they’re doing a good job. Why? Because they aren’t looking at the bigger picture: 39 percent say they don’t have the ability to combine customer interaction data from all channels, and 42 percent say employees are not being trained consistently across all channels, or that training is ad-hoc.  

For companies to successfully implement digital self-service, they must look at how those channels map to the overarching customer journey. By using data to view the existing customer journey, businesses gain a firm understanding of customer behavior and the steps that customers want to take. From there, they can deploy comprehensive strategies that create a connected, convenient journey that exceeds customer expectations.  

Find the right people for the right channels 

Customers interact with companies in a variety of ways, but on the other end of those interactions are humans who are analyzing interaction data to better understand what customers want. And those people have the power to make or break the customer experience. Unfortunately, only 55 percent of U.S. companies have changed the way they hire customer service staff due to the increased number of channels, and only 59 percent of companies have specialized or skills-based customer service agents for specific channels, versus blended customer service agents. 

With omnichannel on the rise, customer service staff working in the contact center are more important than ever. To accommodate the changing technology landscape, companies must hire for specialized roles to ensure that customers are getting outstanding service every time. After all, the same agent who is fantastic on the phone may not have the same skillset to delight customers via chat or text. When companies change their hiring practices to be channel and skillset-specific, they are one step closer to hitting the mark for customers.   

Omnichannel strategies are important to any company’s future success—but only if executed correctly. By deploying the right technology to meet customer needs and combining it with a qualified, specialized team of agents in the contact center, businesses can meet customer satisfaction metrics and build brand loyalty—no matter which channels customers prefer.

Rebecca Martin is CMO at Calabrio 

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