How does your business interact with customers? Do you handle questions, orders, and problems over the phone, online, via social media, or through email? Or, have you expanded these options to include alternatives like: text messaging, online chat options, and direct messaging? The most forward thinking companies then take this even further by offering all of these channels and interweaving the activity in a manner that has them working together seamlessly. This unified way of communicating over various channels and integration of those channels with data is a concept called omni channel support. While many business buzzwords are overused and claim more than they can accomplish, omni channel support is one form of customer facing service that can be advantageous for many businesses across a wide range of industries.
What is Omni Channel Support?
Omni channel support offers consumers numerous ways to interact with businesses outside of visiting a brick and mortar store. These could include: websites, social media accounts, phone calls, print ads, text messaging, online chats, chatbots, and screen sharing. What’s unique about omni channel support is that all of these interactions are integrated so that any member of your team has a centralized location for tracking customer history in order to improve communication, marketing, and customer support. In short, omni channel support means that if a customer interacts with your business via email one day, they can continue that conversation the next day by text messaging without having to go into detail about the situation again, even if they are talking to a different employee. Omni channel customer support gives your company the opportunity to serve your clients in a variety of ways most convenient for them, that are not only effective, but can boost your brand’s image and credibility.
The Evolution of Business Interactions with Consumers
Over the last few years, customers have begun to fundamentally shift their manner of interacting with businesses. For numerous years consumers expected to interact in a fairly traditional manner such as physically heading into a store or making a personal phone call to a business to handle any type of consumer question. This required time to spend at a store or on the phone.In recent years, the standard of connecting with consumers evolved to more of an Ecommerce model. This meant that consumers interacted with businesses of all types using a company website to access, order, and gain insights into a company’s products and services. Smartphones have made this shift extremely easy even for those of us who like to shop around and find the best deals. According to Ecommerce statistics from OuterBox, 80% of customers have used their smartphone while shopping in a retail outlet to read product reviews, compare prices, and find alternative store locations, while research has shown that most Americans often switch between devices throughout the day. This model of business has allowed for small and medium sized businesses to get the attention of consumers in a more convenient manner.Ecommerce has been a highly successful model that has created opportunities for consumers to interact without leaving the comfort of their homes. Branching out from the Ecommerce model, many businesses have more recently started offering a number of options for consumers to connect with their business called multichannel support. It was, and is, still used for product support, marketing, sales, and customer support. Unfortunately, one downside to this model is that each channel stands alone and does not allow for integration, causing a silo effect. Simply put by FreshDesk online, “a company offering multichannel support offers customers many different ways to interact with them. That way, businesses can meet customers on the channel that they prefer using.” Omni channel support takes this one step further still. Context and customer history are not shared across channels in a multichannel support system, but are readily available in an omni channel support ecosystem.
Customer Service Stats
There are numerous studies regarding business interactions and how they relate to customer service and satisfaction that can help encourage the switch for many businesses to omni channel support. Let’s take a closer look at some of the statistics about customer service and how it relates to omni channel support before we evaluate the benefits of this varied mode of communication for your company. Today’s consumer utilizes many different types of devices, from smartphones to laptops. They connect with businesses of all types from dentists, to the doctor’s office, and even for banking to name a few. They want customer service that is multi-faceted, instantaneous, personalized, highly knowledgeable, and available around-the-clock matters.
An Aberdeen Group study showed that companies who delivered strong omni-channel customer engagement retained 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak customer engagement. Customer retention is critical because it costs more to gain new customers than it does to retail loyal ones.
In a report by Loudhouse, 63% of respondents expected to have a choice of channels, and a 50% expected their service rep to have access to previous interactions with the company.
In other studies, retail shoppers have shown a desire for a personalized shopping experience (47%), stored profile information for future use (50%), and access to social media across channels (24%).
Consumers expect to receive real-time customer support regardless of the channel (64%); 78% say a company’s reputation for customer service is important to them when choosing to buy from a particular brand; 75% of respondents would return to a company with excellent service and 56% would recommend it to family and friends; 33% will spend more with a brand if they receive excellent customer service; and 87% think brands need to work harder to create a seamless experience for customers.
A study by Dimensional Research and ZenDesk found that 67% of people have used live chat, social media, or texting for customer service. When they do not hear back from a company 51% of people will wait less than an hour before trying another contact method if they haven’t heard back.
These numbers show that consumers have distinct expectations when it comes to using all channels available to interact with businesses they patronize. Some may prefer traditional methods of phone or email use, while others enjoy the speed and efficiency of text messaging and live chatting. It also shows that consumers expect reasonably fast response times and if those expectations are not met, a consumer will look elsewhere to do their business. Losing customers because multiple channels and integration was not used is a shame, given the growing number of people that have instituted omni channel support.
Growing List of Benefits of Omni Channel Support
Seamless and multichannel communication is one of the hallmarks and major advantages of omni channel support. Consumers have a wide variety of channels to communicate with businesses and every time a connection occurs, the system integrates the interaction so that everyone in that business can see the client’s history. Improved response time is also a positive effect of this model. According to studies reported by SuperOffice online, “There’s a gap between when customers expect an answer after initiating contact and when businesses are actually responding. 32% of clients want an answer within 30 minutes and 57% of these clients expect the same turnaround on nights and weekends.” Unfortunately, the average response time for leading businesses is 157 minutes. The percentage of businesses who respond within the expected 30 minutes time frame is only 8%. And a full 12% of businesses don’t respond to customer messages on social media at all! Omni channel support can increase those numbers and allow for fast feedback regardless of the channel. Businesses with omni channel support can expect to see an improvement in sales numbers. Statistics show that customers have a greater willingness to spend more with companies who have an omni channel infrastructure in place than companies without one, and that omni channel customers represent a larger portion of revenue and higher lifetime value than the average customer base. Happier customers lead to higher loyalty rates. For companies that want to build on their current customer base, the ability to collect data from current consumers can help. Omni channel models allow for analysis of data, especially learning from and adapting to the ways that your specific company interacts with consumers can help with future marketing campaigns, budget allotments, and efforts to expand your customer base. Over the past few decades, consumers have become frustrated and disillusioned with how human connection has been lost in the efforts to make customers' interactions faster. Take, for example, the aggravation of trying to connect with a company over the phone only to reach an automated line that can not handle your unique situation. The cost for efficiency in that scenario is the loss of human interaction. While speed and human interaction may seem at odds with each other, using an omni channel model can help you achieve a balance between the two while meeting your consumers in a format they prefer. Spectra Networks is proud to offer this option for our clients, especially given the recent global health crisis, where consumers are more likely to reach out to businesses across all channels and are less likely to patiently wait for a response or to re-explain a situation to a new support personnel.