Connecting the online and offline customer experience

This post is from Cherryleaf guest blogger, Derek Bishop. One of the most common issues affecting organisations and the ability to maximise the profitability of contact centres is the disconnect between the online and offline experience.

Derek argues that a well constructed online and offline approach will ensure that customers are receiving the same levels of service, irrespective of how they ‘touch’ the organisation, and they will receive the same brand and proposition messages and as a result, customers will be more likely to buy from them and existing customers will be less likely to switch to competitors.

In an increasingly Web-enabled world, customers are displaying an increased desire for completing sales and service over the Web – as it provides greater flexibility and choice and is often the quickest way to achieving the desired result. In order to remain competitive, most organisations now offer some form of Web-based interface, with the level and complexity of the online solution dependent on the type of product or service on offer.

Organisations are embracing this shift by adding more and more content to the Web, which is fuelling the customer’s thirst for knowledge.

However, what they are missing is that this increase in knowledge is leading to an increase in questions of a more complex nature. As a result, there is a requirement for good offline support to be available for where the online FAQ’s do not provide the customers with sufficient information. Equally, if the right information is displayed online, but is too difficult for customers to find the necessary answers, they will revert back to traditional offline support.

In my experience, I often find that whilst the online proposition is well thought through, design and implemented effectively, similar attention is not given to the offline experience! It is critical that offline support should match the online experience – thereby providing a consistent and joined up end-to-end customer experience which matches the brand and proposition.

This is not always as easy to do, as perspectives often tend to be focused on specific elements of the service proposition, but in order to deliver a consistent and coherent message to the customer, organisations must take a step away from the business and map the end-to-end customer journey, taking time to consider all the ‘what if’ scenarios. Customers who need to contact the contact centre (e.g. by phone or email), and are then let down by the poor quality responses delivered by the offline support, are more likely to take their business elsewhere.

Contact centres often end up costing the business and failing to have the impact on the bottom line that they should be for one or more of the following reasons:

Poor email responses

Poorly responding to email enquiries from customers is a common problem for many organisations and this has been re-inforced by recent research from eService provider Transversal (www.transversal.com). Transversal’s study evaluated 100 leading UK companies in the banking, telecoms, insurance, travel, consumer electronics, grocery retail, fashion retail, CD/DVD retail, consumer electronics retail and utilities sectors for their ability to answer simple routine questions, via email, their Web site and by phone.

Transversal revealed that only 46% of the routine queries emailed to the organisations were answered adequately, and the average time to respond was almost 2 days – and more shockingly 28% didn’t reply at all! So with such a slow (or completely lacking response) it makes it very easy for customers to start looking elsewhere as their experience makes it difficult for them to do business with the organisation, and perhaps leaves them feeling the organisation isn’t interested in their custom or values it highly enough.

Understanding that customers are different

In high volume businesses, organisations have often driven for efficiency, in order to keep operating costs low, by standardising processes and service delivery models. A common assumption made by organisations in this situation, is that customers all want the same thing and can therefore all be serviced the same way.

Customers have different needs, wants and expectations,  so it is fraught with danger to assume that all customers will be happy to interact with an organisation in the same way. Offering a joined up multi channel approach is vitally important, unless of course your proposition is quite clearly positioned as self-service online and you manage expectations around offline support service (as do some of the low cost airlines, for example).

Connecting online and offline promotions

Another common problem is that staff in the contact centre are not aware of promotions that are available online to customers. If a customer contacts the contact centre about a particular online promotion and the staff have no knowledge of the offer and are therefore unable to help the customer make the purchase, this creates a very disjointed experience and increases the chances of the customer taking their business elsewhere.

Looking back at the Transversal survey results, 48% of the email responses, which were provided, actually pushed customers back to the Web site. It is highly unlikely that 100% of those customers will do this, and so many will end up taking their business to other suppliers.

Good communication links between the various parts of the organisation is essential for ensuring the proposition is embedded throughout the customer touchpoints, and that promotions are fully understood, whilst also using the opportunity of offline interaction with the customer to gain insight to help future marketing/proposition development.

Utilising customer insight

Many organisations tend to miss the fact that customers phoning or emailing the contact centre is a prime opportunity to gain further insight into customers experiences and how the organisation may be able to improve for future growth. For example, if customers are struggling to find answers online and are regularly contacting the contact centre to find the answers, use the opportunity to understand more about how the customer struggled online and how it could be made easier in the future. Use this information to improve your online experience and hence improve future profitability by achieving the sale without the need for assistance from the offline Contact Centre. Often these practical feedback loops do not exist or where there do, are not actively used to their full potential.

You also gain greater insight to the customers themselves – use the contact as a subtle market research opportunity by building in some key questions into the dialogue which don’t detract from the main question but that will give further information to allow you to extend the proposition, or provide more offers to customers in the future.

Summary

A well joined up, well thought through end to end customer experience – both online and offline, will add significant value in re-inforcing the organisations proposition and ensuring that poor customer service is not one of the reasons for customers switching to the competition.

2 thoughts on “Connecting the online and offline customer experience

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Connecting the online and offline customer experience Cherryleaf Technical Authors Cherryleaf Technical Authors Blog -- Topsy.com

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