It’s Not About Channel Shift – It’s About Giving the Citizen Communication Options
Proactive customer engagement specialist VoiceSage is carrying out a series of customer Round Tables around CX (customer experience) and proactive customer engagement with the UK Contact Centre Forum. This latest one was all about defending customer choice in the public sector
To create omnichannel engagement, don’t force members of the public down any particular channel; instead, provide them with choice so they can find the option that suits them best.
That was the conclusion of our latest Round Table discussion with senior UK customer contact practitioners, which featured input from a number of public sector organisations, non profits, education services providers and an outsourced contact centre consultancy.
The whole notion of channel shift is very prevalent in the public sector at the moment but doesn’t take the citizen into account. We heard about one VoiceSage customer that had recently introduced a great new payment system using our visual text messaging and mobile payment solutions. That practitioner was adamant that flexibility is the only way to satisfy today’s customer: “It’s not about forcing them down the channels you want, it’s about giving the customer better options. If you offer the right range of channels, the customer will very soon gravitate to the one they like the most.”
This seems to be a huge issue for the public sector right now. While central government is very focused on narrowing down channels to public services to digitally only, Round Table participants pointed out that the reality on the ground – especially in local government – is about working with what people really want to use.
Which is more and more the mobile phone. “There’s something about the relationship we have with the mobile phone that’s so personal,” said one participant. This comes out in many ways, perhaps most markedly around promises to pay outstanding debts, which seem to be so much more dependable if it’s done by text with a customer, even the most delinquent; “I think it’s because it’s so personal, but also because there’s something about it ‘being in writing’ that makes it more binding,” added another. Astonishingly, industry figures suggest we look at mobile phones over 100 times a day – a statistic that CX experts should be taking notice of, agreed the panel.
Channel flexibility is also seen around the reception of social media by brands and public sector teams. “Personal is a big factor here,” said one CX leader. “WhatsApp is very personal, whereas an organisational Facebook page is much more open, and is seen by the public as a legitimate place to communicate with us,” they added.
The happyfrog16 problem
Most of the CX work going on in social media, it seems, is around ‘comments, compliments and complaints’ – “We try to keep it away from transactional as much as we can.” Channel shift in this context is, again, about breadth; practitioners say that their current use of social media is all about working with it but directing important discussions down more controllable channels as soon as is appropriate.
There’s also the issue of identification; who really is ‘happyfrog16,’ and what is the best way of dealing with their issues? Another issue is monitoring; some brands only deal with social on a strict 9 to 5 basis, while many social housing organisations, for example, feel it’s best to do so on a 24×7 basis to deal with emergencies.
So social continues to be monitored and studied by CX teams, but the lesson is clear: we need to work with citizens in as broad a way as possible to make omnichannel work. The motive is two-fold, agreed practitioners; one is to improve service delivery, while the other is the need to curb, as far as possible, expensive calls in to the contact centre. “The more we can do to reduce that cost, the better for us and the user,” summed up one delegate, to universal agreement.
And if it also means one less wasted journey by a courier, an engineer, or a social worker – all the better for everyone, surely?
Head of Marketing