Optichannel Marketing: The Only Way to Cope With Changing Customer Psychology?
In January, VoiceSage conducted a special roundtable event with our partners at the UK Contact Centre Forum on the important contact centre industry issue of optichannel.
This is the second of a two-part summary of the main discussion points our invited delegates found most useful from the day.
How and why do brands use the channels they’re using to speak to their market?
It turns out to be a lot less scientific than it ought to be, according to frontline contact centre sector partitioners at our recent Executive Briefing held with our partner, the UK Contact Centre Forum (UKCCF).
Participants were professionals and practitioners from a range of areas of business, including public sector digital transformation consultancies, providers of outsourced contact centre services, CX (customer experience) experts, local authorities and Universities and the financial services sector.
And what they told us: most do ask for customer preferences on contact method after initial contact – but that this was not a consistent practice cross-industry.
It also is hugely influenced, of course, by the vagaries of how human beings actually act – which is not always consistently, and often influenced by culture and psychology in ways organisations struggle to keep up with.
“We have people who will call in to check, even after they’ve been sent an SMS,” said contact centre manager for a High Street Bank. “They just don’t see text as ‘official’, even though it’s cheaper for them and us to use it.”
“Letters are still seen as the highest level of ‘official’ and trustworthy,” added a New Business Development Manager at an Internet company.
These factors, as well as legal and compliance reasons such as Financial Conduct Authority rules and the need in the public sector to support vulnerable users means organisations feel they have to have a very wide range of channels, our Forum attendees agreed.
Could AI help not just the customer, but your staff, too?
But is that optimal? The idea of optichannel – that a more narrow range of channels, supported by the latest technology such as AI that offers immediate flexibility in case the user wants to reply by another method – may be a lot more practical, the group speculated.
One bank CX specialist shared a great use case where its whole support approach had been revolutionised by use of avatars backed up by a decision tree written by the support staff who knew what tended to confuse visitors.
“We offer this as really the only way in, and for the vast majority of contact it’s designed well enough that it’s fine,” she confirmed.
“It saves customers so much time, gives them what they want – and is also a ‘team member’ that never goes on holiday and is available 24×7, too!”
“We also use virtual agents, and I have to say the ROI has been fantastic,” added another professional, from an insurance firm.
“We are also finding it really useful for starting to automate our own internal processes in HR – it saves so much time with new starters, who get overwhelmed by a lot of emails and form-filling in their first few days – we find this a great way to cut that right back,” she enthused.
The verdict was that smart use of software like this should be used more in British contact centres and internally, as it can cut down channel proliferation but still give the user 90% of what they want, 90% of the time, with other channels there whenever they are needed.
That has to be an important message for CIOs, as ways to help reduce inbound call traffic but increase customer satisfaction via AI-powered optichannel feels like a real win-win.
John Duffy is our Enterprise Sales Consultant