The Spirit of ‘And’
A popular song told us that “video killed the radio star” and explained how one form of media was ultimately eclipsed by a newer and more popular one. Many people view customer service this way, expecting newer channels to cannibalize the older ones. However, this does not seem to be happening. Rather than cannibalization, it seems that the world of customer service simply continues to grow. Customers do utilize the most innovative channels available: they visit the website, use the chat feature, even review Facebook comments for ideas. But ultimately, they call too.
When it comes to customer service, customers communicate in the spirit of ‘and’, not in the spirit of ‘or’. In other words, most will follow a similar path to what was outlined above, hitting channel A and channel B and channel C, often for the same question or request. Companies must prepare for this environment by offering multiple channels for customers to choose from. Many believe that you should “meet customers in the channel that they prefer,” which is a noble and worthwhile endeavor. But also recognize that the same customer is likely to show up in multiple channels as well.
With that said, it is very important that the spirit of ‘and’ only works if the channels they offer are actually good! Keeping customers in a single channel is nearly impossible, but it is actually impossible if that channel offers a poor experience. It is very important for companies not to simply offer multiple channels because they think they need them, but rather to implement excellent channel offerings – even if that means there are fewer. The spirit of ‘and’ is more about effortless, seamless experiences than it is about a host of ineffective communication portals.
Customers want good options so they can string together the best possible experience with your brand. Build channels that work together synergistically to add brand value. It’s not which one of your many channels your customers will use, but rather, which combination of channels.
As our friend Nancy Jamison likes to say (and we’ve quoted her many times), “You’re only as good as your weakest channel.” So, instead of neglecting channels, focus on making each channel remarkable and easily accessible to represent the best image of your business. Don’t force customers to make a choice between two poor channel experiences; serve them in the spirit of ‘and’.