ICMI Report: Social Media Is “The Core” Of A Multichannel Strategy

This is the third in our series of briefings on the USAN-sponsored report, “Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center” by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI).  Previously we noted the de facto presence of multichannels in everyone’s business strategies, and we summarized the alternatives – adjuncts really – to the traditional inbound telephone customer contact centers.

The ICMI report goes on to recognize the importance of emerging multichannels, but nevertheless observes:

“While…the customer preference for using the telephone is strong, organizations must still understand how the other channels are perceived and where their evolution is heading.”

The report prioritizes those “other channels” – social, mobile and self-service – as widely recognized by industry as “necessary channels and competitive differentiators.” (Competitive differentiators is jargon for, “They compete, but they offer a different approach to achieving the same or similar results.”)

The triad of other multichannels

In its section titled “The Top Three Emerging Channels of 2013,” the report highlighted the three top competing multichannels, based on their research. Their survey asked the question, “Do you feel that [one of the three multichannel resources] as a customer service channel is a competitive differentiator?”

The three channels and the customer responses were:

  Yes No
Social Media 52.5% 28.2%
Mobile 63.2% 16.6%
Self Service 81.2% 9.9%

Highlights of each response:

  • Social media is “at the core” of multichannel strategy “because it has such vast impact on an organization’s brand.” Consider the prominence of logos and customer brand loyalty and combine all that with the “buzz and hype” of Facebook, Twitter, et. al, and all that becomes self-evident.
  • Mobile customer service. Over 72% of survey respondents “agree that mobile is a necessary customer service channel.” However, only 39.3% actually support mobile as an active channel. Over 75% of the respondents who have the mobile service offer it in a self-service mode supported by a mobile app. Somewhat less than one-third of the respondents have interactive agents and texting for assistance or live agents supported by “click-to-call, IM, text/SMS, or video/Facetime.”
  •  Self-service. For years, self-service has been the best alternative to “unstructured access into customer service.” The major reason for the popularity of IVR (interactive voice response) has been its obvious advantages: It handles incoming callers efficiently and quickly and routes them to the best-suited agent or manages the customer queue. In fact, over 67% considered self-service “to be a necessary customer service channel.”

Finally, what are respondents’ plans for multichannel adoption? When asked, “Do you plan to add [one of the three multichannel resources] within the next 12 months?” here were their responses:

  • Social Media: 70% said No for a variety of reasons, most prominent of which was, “It’s not a necessary channel for our business” (39.6%).
  • Mobile: 56.2% said No.
  • Self-service: Despite the overwhelming agreement that self-service channels were necessary, about 61% said No.  One typical survey response was, “…user acceptance is currently changing too quickly [because of the volatile technology roll-out]. We need to wait and see what ‘sticks.’”

So whatever “sticks” will obviously be part of the multichannel mix, where the traditional telephone contact with a live person will continue to play a prominent, but not exclusive role in call center strategy.

The complete 30-page report is available for purchase at the ICMI website.