We have all been through difficult times with many changes and it is reasonable to assume that these changes will continue in the foreseeable future. The pandemic has been a huge driver of digitalization and has changed many living and working habits. The job market has changed and the proportion of home offices has risen sharply. A lot has also changed in our private lives. Purchasing behavior has shifted massively to online retail, and customer communication is no longer what it used to be.
As recent studies show, almost 50 percent of German consumers want to be able to easily switch between different customer channels. So it’s important to have the right channel ready for the respective request and to take an in-depth look at the channel strategy. This also means that communication must be cross-channel. The customer sends an email and we call in response. The customer starts a conversation in the chat and the customer service representative responds with an SMS. Predictions about the use of the various customer channels have not been verified.
All predictions that telephone contact would decline sharply have failed to materialize. During the pandemic, it has been shown time and again how important both personal and efficient exchanges are in a world that is becoming increasingly digital. KPIs, such as customer satisfaction and service levels, will remain consistently important for the success of a company in the future. When communicating via e-mail, SMS or social media, telephone contact with an agent is still recommended for very emotional, important, time-critical or complex topics, as this can convey one thing above all – customer proximity and empathy.
Contact via WhatsApp and social media is increasing which is following the trend. The proportion of customer contacts via apps and thus the use of WhatsApp and social media has rapidly increased. However, this changes how fast the reponse to requests must be made when using these contact channels.
If the majority of requests need to be processed very promptly or in real time, or anticipated and answered, the channel mix needs to prioritize real-time and proactive communication – i.e., chat, telephony, SMS, WhatsApp or even social media. If the topics are more factual, one-dimensional, and not time-critical, email is a preferred channel. Other advantages of communicating via email are documentability and traceability. Depending on the topic, the customer group must also be considered. Traditional customers, for example, also prefer traditional channels such as e-mail and telephone.
Today, hardly anyone can ignore digital communication channels. Chat is clearly the trend, especially among younger customer groups, but WhatsApp and social media are also gaining ground. Many companies already offer a choice of at least two communication channels – and the trend is rising. The bottom line is that there is an even distribution of contact volumes across a wide range of communication channels. However, the classic contacts via call and mail continue to be important and are indispensable. The proportion of digital contact has also increased significantly.
It turns out that the central point of contact between the customer and the company is still the contact center in customer service. Consequently, it is a decisive key element of customer retention. So, if you have set the goal of stronger customer engagement, you won’t be able to avoid a communication channel strategy. However, all your efforts and investments will pay off — you will be able to achieve better customer experiences and stronger customer loyalty. This can be done quickly and efficiently because you now have access to technologies that can easily implement these new channels.
Conclusion: In your search for a suitable strategy for efficient customer communication, the selection of channels should be at the top of the planning list. Contact center managers should be aware that the “one channel” through which all customer communication takes place has long since ceased to exist. Customers want to communicate on multiple and innovative communication channels. And they want to do so across all channels!
Udo Ociepka – Senior Consultant