Omnichannel customer service has become a buzzword among large enterprises. But can small and medium businesses benefit from a similar strategy? Find out how omnichannel customer support can catapult business growth in this complete guide for SMEs.
In the age of instant gratification, consumers have grown more impatient than ever, forcing businesses to deliver faster, more adaptable services. As customer expectations continue to increase, companies must make sure that they’re adaptable enough to meet the needs and answer the questions of their target audiences.
The challenge is that consumers have varying preferences in how they reach brands. And as a business, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you’re present in your customer segments’ preferred communication channels.
This is where omnichannel customer service comes in. This doesn’t just mean answering customer queries on various platforms – it means ensuring seamless customer service and delivering consistent support quality across channels.
Businesses are always looking into how they can improve their customer service, and this strategy is one of the best solutions. The question is: is this service a worthwhile investment for small businesses with a limited market reach?
The answer is yes! Read on to find out how this cross-channel strategy can fuel your business growth.
What is omnichannel customer service?
Omnichannel customer service integrates multiple contact methods for customers. It provides a unified brand experience, allowing customers to switch between different channels without impeding conversation with the customer support agent (CSA). Ultimately, this strategy improves your customer experience across online and offline touchpoints.
This kind of customer support strategy is invaluable in an age when consumers expect companies to provide a blend of digital and offline communications channels. More specifically, consumers expect businesses to be present on specific platforms, namely email, telephone, SMS, website and in-person.
The differences between omnichannel and multichannel
Omnichannel and multichannel customer service are often used interchangeably, but they’re different strategies. Each communication channel has its own silo, data storage method, and attending agent in a multichannel support environment.
The downside to multichannel is that the channels are separate from each other. This means the context of the conversation and customer history isn’t shared across platforms, affecting the smooth flow of the conversation.
In an omnichannel support environment, all the communication channels are interconnected. It unifies social media, SMS, email, live chat and other methods into one dashboard. This integration makes sure that customers can reach you anytime and on any channel. On top of that, you’ll be able to record all customer interactions, which is helpful for your customer relationship management.
3 benefits of omnichannel customer support
Its main goal is to shift the focus of customer service from complaint resolution to customer relationship building. If executed properly, this strategy should give you an opportunity for new customer acquisition at every touchpoint.
However, many companies are wary of making the switch since it requires a significant technological overhaul. But the benefits of this support approach far outweigh the costs. You’ll be able to maximise your ROI with the right strategy, eventually fueling your business growth.
Below are some of the headline benefits of this customer support strategy:
1. Cater to a broader range of audience
Offering customer support through various communication channels widens your audience reach. This reach is valuable for small businesses trying to increase their customer base or expand to new markets.
If you limit yourself to specific platforms, you’re losing out on lucrative chances to engage with potential and existing clients. Not addressing queries and complaints leads to disappointed customers, which can quickly lead to brand abandonment.
Your choice of customer channels depends on the kind of consumer you want to reach. For instance, social media is one of the ideal platforms if you’re aiming to tap younger audiences. According to the 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report, millennials believe that social media is an effective customer support channel. And 74 per cent of the millennial population say social media responsiveness improves their perception of a brand.
2. Improve response times
An omnichannel strategy also shortens your response time across communication channels. This makes sure that you continue to meet consumer expectations when it comes to customer service.
Customers associate short wait times in service interactions with a greater sense of achievement. One of their greatest frustrations when reaching brands is the lack of immediately available CSAs.
According to a study, 32 per cent of customers on social media expect a response within 30 minutes and 42 per cent want a reply within 60 minutes.
Improving your response time also allows you to resolve customer complaints quickly. The faster you can find out what the issue is, the sooner you can address the problem. And promptly resolving customer queries can increase customer loyalty and confidence, which directly affects your revenue.
3. Increase customer retention and loyalty
Other than improving the speed of your conflict resolution, cross-channel customer service also benefits your sales funnel. This strategy encourages customer interactions at every stage of the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration and decision. With this strategy, you can nurture these different relationships through quality communication across channels.
To illustrate, new visitors can use your website’s live chat feature to inquire about your products and services. This action falls somewhere between the awareness and consideration stages. New customers can provide feedback about your product by sending an email, which counts as a post-decision interaction.
When you satisfy customers’ concerns after their initial purchase, you’re increasing their chances of making a second transaction. This eventually improves your customer retention and loyalty, generating brand evangelists who willingly recommend your products and services.
Best practices to follow
Remember that you can only reap the benefits of omnichannel customer service if you execute it properly. To maximise your ROI, abide by best practices to ensure your strategy enables seamless customer communication across channels.
1. Leverage cloud technology
Cloud technology is the cornerstone of omnichannel support. A cloud-based unified communications (UC) system streamlines all your communication channels into one easy-to-use dashboard. This gives you the ability to keep a close eye on all your platforms, eliminating room for missed customer interactions.
A cloud-based UC system also supports remote work arrangements. Even with a scattered workforce, your employees will have the tools and connection they need to monitor all your communication platforms.
Besides a unified communications system, small and medium businesses can also benefit from a cloud contact centre. Every business needs a customer contact centre, even small companies. It lets you provide 24/7 customer support, which helps solidify your reputation as an approachable brand.
Since it’s on the cloud, your call centre will have the scalability you need to accommodate surges in customer queries. This scalability also allows your company to grow at the pace you want, giving you the bandwidth you need to expand and tap new markets.
2. Improve your mobile customer service
Consumers are growing increasingly dependent on their smartphones for shopping. They’re seeking out information, buying and interacting with mobile brands. It only makes sense to make your customer service channels mobile-friendly. People are constantly switching from gadget to gadget, and your customer support strategy should accommodate this level of screen-jumping.
Unfortunately, some businesses fail to keep up with this expectation. One study showed that 90 per cent of customers report having a poor experience when seeking customer support on mobile devices.
Be sure that all your customer support options – chatbots, contact forms and FAQs page – are accessible on mobile devices. If you’re sending out email newsletters or feedback forms to new customers, make sure these are also sized appropriately for all types of screens.
3. Provide a human option
Automated customer service is rising, with innovations like chatbots and virtual call receptionists offering many convenience benefits. However, customers still want to speak to human CSAs. Some issues are complicated and don’t fit into the predetermined categories available in chatbots and interactive voice response systems.
Make sure you have an option where customers can talk to a real person when they want to. A cloud contact centre can provide the human element your customer service strategy needs. The best thing about this solution is that you don’t need additional hardware to receive calls since you can take them through cloud-based audio call platforms.
4. Enable self-service
Some customers prefer answering their questions themselves. Self-service options are dedicated to people who would rather not talk to CSAs to resolve their issues. A study by Nuance Enterprise reveals that 67 per cent of global respondents prefer using a self-service portal over calling an agent. This significant figure means that your customer service strategy can’t afford to skip this channel.
You can enable self-service customer support through comprehensive and organised FAQs, how-to videos and portals on your website to pay bills, track the status of an order, or adjust contact information.
It can be daunting to expand your customer service into new channels. Our tip for small businesses: plan your omnichannel strategy with your audience in mind. This customer service approach aims to nurture your relationships with your target audience, so the channels you choose should correspond with your customers’ behaviours.
As long as you design your omnichannel support strategy around the needs of your prospects, leads and existing customers, your company will reap the rewards in loyalty, higher revenues and business success.