Friday, April 26, 2013

Do big brands really get Multi Channel?

I have my doubts.

I have recently changed mobile provider and TV/broadband provider and the customer experience was both fascinating and frustrating. I took me ages to to finally buy so it would be interesting to see how each brand measured the ultimate result, but I doubt most major brands can combine the data effectively enough for insight - but that's another topic. What this post is about is how poorly big brands are using smart technology in the digital domain causing additional contact through more expensive channels while annoying customers.

Web chat

Web chat is pretty common across all big telcos and TV/broadband providers. I am a big fan of web chat and also work on web chat programmes as part of my day job. But there are things that wind me up as a customer and also professionally. Here is a taste.

Issue 1 - setting up chat for sales only

This is a pretty typical practice, the results are very compelling with up to 20% increase in orders, almost a no-brainer proposition. Often the brand's stakeholders within sales are different from those in customer service so this decision is often taken in isolation.

The problem is this, web chat succeeds by proactively inviting people to chat, if the person who accepts the chat actually needs customer service, the usual response is "sorry please ring customer services". As a customer experience this is truly awful, and commercially the brand has increased the cost per touch by 200%. How simple would it be to implement chat customer service at the same time, so the chat sales person can transfer the customer to customer services ? Not that hard really. And when you measure the customer satisfaction increases and cost benefits of chat for customer services over channels like email, I am constantly amazed that it isn't implemented.

Issue 2 - passing the buck

When hunting for a mobile phone, I came across another web chat faux pas, this time a sales one. All I needed was to understand the details of the tariff which I could not find on the website, I hunted, I googled and when one provider gave full details, I expected to find the same on my chosen provider, no such luck.

Ah phew, up pops a chat invite. All I asked for was the URL of the tariff details. One would have thought this would be a much used item and probably easily at hand in the chat operators canned statements, err no. What happened next ?...... The chat operator suggested I visit the nearest store. Amazing!

Customer experience wise this is ten times worse than asking me to call and the cost to the brand is a  massive increase when comparing a chat contact with a face to face meeting. As it was I did visit the store so the cost per acquisition for my sale was pretty poor compared with online and chat.

In truth that could have been avoided by making sure the web site had the information, but that is a topic for another post.

Issue 3- inappropriate sales techniques

When chosing my broadband and TV provider, I knew what I wanted as it is very simple to configure your options online, but I had some questions. This time I clicked the chat button instead of waiting for an invite.

Boy did I get the heavy sales treatment. It ended up with the operator making a now or never sales offer. Despite my real protestations that I needed to discuss it with my wife, the chat operator wouldn't listen, it was now or never. When I questioned whether this (now or never) was really the case, as it was plainly obvious that the deal was available online (and probably through the contact centre), the advisor lied and continued to try and close a deal. Trust gone, no way in hell I would buy from this shyster. Simple solution, I phoned the contact centre and had a very pleasant sign up experience - with the same deal. So the brand's cost per acquisition increased and if this is happening for a lot of customers,  it could represent considerable amount of wasted cost.

Solving these issues is just common sense.

  • Implementing chat for customer service is a clear win-win if done properly - see 
  • Training advisors properly so they can answer product queries and behave appropriately is basic stuff. Additionally chat transcripts provide excellent insight to improve advisor skills, where needed. It is easier to quality assure and perform root cause analysis on chat than it is on voice and you can study more chats than phone calls in the same time.
  • The harder one is to combine data from all channels. As my identity was known by my email address across all of them - the brands should be able to detect the flow of my journey and the failings of certain channels. I doubt this has been achieved. In a multi channel world a single customer view is pretty critical to achieve this level of insight.

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