ICMI Report: Multichannel Is Already Here

Customers have more options in seeking out services and products, and contact centers need to leverage those options. According to the USAN-sponsored report by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), “Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center,” those options are the traditional as well as new portals (and exits) to “already crowded contact centers.”

The 30-page report analyzed survey results from 361 respondents and focused on answering those questions. Key findings deal with the importance of customer engagement, and the report is “intended to provide contact center professionals with the data they need to understand why and how to use emerging channels in their customer service offerings.”

What is multichannel customer support?

Multichannel is already here, according to the report:

“Whether an organization acknowledges that they officially support a multichannel customer service strategy or not, chances are good that they do….Multichannel support simply implies that customers can reach an organization for customer service through a wide variety of means.”

Not surprisingly, the majority of channels used are the traditional inbound phone, email, outbound phone and the web. Traditional phone service came in at 98 percent with the web anchoring the mix at 70 percent.

Bringing up the rear are self-service IVR (interactive voice response), offline fax or mail, social, self-service portal*, chat and mobile – each ranging from 39 to 49 percent, with social channels comprising 47 percent of the mix.

(*A note on self-service portals: 57 percent of the respondents reported self-service channels increased “deflection rate or lower volume to other channels,” which frees up live agents when more personal service is needed.)

Some surprises in the report:

  • While 72 percent of the respondents considered mobile channels necessary, only 39 percent actually supported those media. This is despite the fact that smartphones and apps are proliferating the market place.
  • Online chat usage, though still a strong 39.8 percent, fell from a high of nearly 48 percent in a previous survey.
  • Nearly half of the respondents are still using offline resources like fax and regular mail.

Opportunities abound

All these new channels might seem a daunting challenge, but the report concludes, “Contact center leaders have the opportunity to use them to the advantage of their customers, their company and their agents.”

How so? The conclusion continues:

“If planned out and implemented correctly, the emerging channels can improve the efficiency of support operations, greatly increase customer satisfaction, and generate a renewed sense of customer engagement and loyalty to the brand.”

Download the complete report here.