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Taking customer service omnichannel


Johannesburg, 22 Apr 2020
Read time 4min 20sec

The world may be coming to terms with social isolation far better than it thinks. Today’s levels of interconnectivity mean being in quarantine or lockdown does not stop the level of interaction that’s blossomed over social media platforms and the like.

Pranay Desai, Head of Enterprise Marketing, Freshworks
Pranay Desai, Head of Enterprise Marketing, Freshworks

The key now, from a customer service perspective, is enhancing and trying to maintain the human touch.

The omnichannel concept originated from such industries as retail and financial services. It began as a strategy to serve customers across both physical and digital touch-points.

Omnichannel customer service has now evolved into supporting customers with continuous and connected experiences across channels of their preference, such as e-mail, phone, social media, chat and even messaging channels like WhatsApp. Truly omnichannel service allows customers to use multiple channels for the same journey, without having to repeat themselves each time.

“While the world is missing the physical connection, we are trying to foster digital ones by helping brands to stay connected to their customers as well as allowing remote teams to stay on the same page with each other,” comments Pranay Desai, Freshworks’ Head of Enterprise Marketing.

“With physical service and contact not an option at the moment, customers are turning to digital platforms. As are brands, because in the current environment, contact centres simply have to do more with the funds at their disposal.

“Statistics we have sourced by surveying over 3 000 global customers across regions and demographics demonstrate that 76% of consumers globally prefer to try to solve issues on their own first before contacting support.

“While we don’t have numbers that are specific to the African region, we believe the trends are globally representative and we’ve seen common themes emerge from all the customers we surveyed, regardless of their location. These include their expectation of seamless omnichannel service, proactive support and instant responses.

“Given the current situation, we foresee this trend becoming more popular – both with brands and with customers themselves.”

Desai says during these uncertain times, customers are anxious to get answers to their queries faster than ever. Brands, on the other hand, have to manage constrained budgets and a remote workforce to deliver on this expectation and increasing query volumes.

To tackle this, he foresees a surge in brands opting to set up ‘extreme’ self-service systems and turning to AI-powered bots and automation for help.

“By deploying AI-powered bots, brands can achieve deflection rates of as high as 70% and enable the answering of user-specific questions, detecting intent and executing custom workflows. This helps companies manage volumes without increasing headcount during these constrained times. It also reduces the burden on existing agents and gives customers instant assistance.”

There are examples of brands using AI bots, such as a digital payment app that supports over 250 million customers transacting with 6.7 million businesses. With the explosion of volumes, chatbots have come into play to deflect common queries and enable customers to solve queries on their own. Now, over 60% of its queries are tackled by chatbots without the intervention of human agents. This has given agents more bandwidth to focus on the complex or urgent issues.

“Omnichannel customer service software helps brands deliver connected experiences across modern messaging platforms to their end-customers. It can also unify customer service across channels onto a single platform and give agents a 360-degree view of the customer.”

Desai says while brands can be accessible to customers on the channels of their choice, behind the scenes, agents require a single view of the customer, allowing them to have seamless and continuous conversations, no matter how many channels the customer uses. This ensures agents are having valuable conversations and resolving queries faster and customers never need to repeat themselves.

The number of local languages in South Africa is also not a problem, according to Desai, as multilingual support overcomes language barriers and the choice of social channel or channels depends completely on the customers’ usage patterns.

“Brands need to understand customer preferences and invest only in those channels that they frequent. A clearly defined strategy, backed by customer data, will help brands make the right decision.

“An omnichannel strategy begins with creating a seamless experience on the mobile platform that can couple with online and in-store shopping. A clear objective of the strategy is to always focus on the customer experience first.

“It is essential that user data is correctly and effectively managed before engaging with customers across all channels. Nothing can be more off-putting or damaging to an omnichannel brand than mismanaged or clumsy data management,” concludes Desai.

Download a guide to omnichannel customer service here.

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