Extreme Engagement: USAN and ICMI Study Omni-Channel Service

I want to point you to a research study conducted by International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), and sponsored by USAN, a little less than two years ago. We wanted to know how call center management thought omnichannel customer service would impact (or is impacting) their operation. ICMI talked with 361 people, more than 2/3 of who were call center managers and executives. The study focuses heavily on three core channels—mobile, social and advanced self service. It uncovers issues of customer demand, of existing and planned investments, of training and measurement—and much much more.

I’m pointing it out for a couple of reasons (beyond the fact that it’s one of the most comprehensive studies I’ve seen to this day). First our own every day interaction with call center managers tells us the numbers still hold up. And second, it provides a great set of benchmarks for each of you to use when determining how effectively you and your customers are using omnichannel customer service.

What sticks in my mind is the presence of what I’ll call the Need/Have Divide. When it comes to omnichannel self service, that means respondents said, basically, ”We need it, but we don’t have it.” For instance, over 70% of the respondents said that having mobile self service is “a necessary customer service channel,” but less than 40% actually have one. Similarly, close to 85% of respondents said that an advanced self service capability across an omnichannel was necessary, 60% thought they would lose customers without it, and once again less than 40% had plans to put it in place.

That aligns with our experience today, especially with B2B. They’re on the edge of that rail: recognizing a need but being slow to act. Why? Primarily, we find, it’s a misunderstanding of what’s involved in creating an omnichannel. I’ve talked about that in this post. I think it’s also an almost traditional lag in the B2B world to implement things that emerge out of retail—a kind of kneejerk (but temporary) response that what works for Macy’s won’t work for Avnet. (I touch on that here.)

That’s just one takeaway from the report—my own. So much of what we do here is help companies understand that the omnichannel isn’t a behemoth that sweeps away all infrastructure in its path. Rather, it’s an engine that connects the channels that already exist. (Incidentally, that’s another strong finding—for most respondents, most of the channels they need to connect are already in place.)

There are answers to 60 questions, many of them focused on the value and usage of mobile, social and advanced self service channels from the perspective of both the call center and the customer. There’s also some key observations and best practices from the people at ICMI—including former CEO (and current Senior Advisor) Brad Cleveland. I’m going to explore a few of the key findings in the coming weeks, but I also encourage you to download the report yourself, and see if it doesn’t help you find insights as well.