Guest post by Robert C. Johnson.
68% of B2B buyers now purchase goods online via their phone or tablet (and soon maybe their Apple watch). With many areas of B2B procurement beginning to look more like consumer transactions, 83% of B2B sellers understand long-term success is dependent upon implementing an omnichannel strategy; however, most have yet to create one.
As digital communications platforms change the way people communicate with each other, businesses have tried to keep up, using new capabilities to give customers more choices in how they interact with companies. A toll-free customer support line open only during local business hours used to be the norm. Now, most businesses offer other communication channels, including email, customer portals and chat windows, and some also use social media like Twitter and Facebook to communicate with customers and manage support.
In addition to new channels, more devices are also now used in the customer support mix, with companies and customers communicating on smartphones and tablets as well as desktops and laptops and traditional landline telephones. Most companies have adapted to the ongoing communication revolution in piecemeal fashion, setting up new channels and appointing customer support personnel to monitor them as new platforms gain widespread popularity.
But this ad hoc approach to customer support channels has significant drawbacks. It’s tough for the customer support group to manage numerous platforms simultaneously – when the person in charge of Twitter is out for a day, sometimes that channel simply goes unmonitored, or the colleagues who are already busy handling their own assigned channels have to take on extra work. For customers, an ad hoc approach means a lack of continuity, with customers forced to repeat their name, product and issue whenever they contact the company via a different channel.
An omni-channel approach is a better way to serve customers and drive growth. With an omni-channel approach, customers can contact customer support agents on their preferred channel, using their preferred device. But unlike with an ad hoc strategy, an omni-channel approach integrates the information customer support receives in a single repository that everyone in the company can access. That means customers don’t have to start over each time they choose a new communication platform, and agents can easily collaborate with colleagues to find solutions.
To optimize information sharing, an omni-channel support strategy requires several components, including a self-service knowledge base customers can access 24/7 to get the answers they need. It should also centralize customer information and service records received across all channels, including chat, email, phone and social media. To promote continuous improvement, an omni-channel support platform should enable the company to track ticket resolution by customer representatives and customer companies so that B2B service providers can understand the state of their relationship with individual customers as well as the businesses they serve.
An omni-channel support strategy makes sense in a changing business climate where more and more companies and consumers receive services via the cloud and communicate across multiple channels and devices. These days, delivering a great customer experience is a genuine marketplace differentiator, so companies that take a more rational, integrated approach to customer communication can gain a competitive edge.
As companies move beyond brick-and-mortar operations to deliver products and services via electronic channels, it is wise to rethink the support delivery approach to keep up with changing preferences. An omni-channel strategy makes it possible to collaborate to improve the customer experience, and that can result in greater long-term growth.
Robert C. Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com, a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork, and faster issue resolution. A seasoned executive and entrepreneur who has founded and invested in numerous software and high-tech companies, Robert’s industry experience as a business leader and a customer inspired him to create TeamSupport to give Support Desk teams the tools and best practices to enhance customer loyalty and positively impact product sales.
Prior to founding TeamSupport, Robert was President and CEO of Sundance Digital, one of the world’s leading providers of automation software to television and cable broadcasters. The company was sold in 2006 to Avid Technology (Nasdaq: AVID).