The Omnichannel KISS: Keep It Simple Service

I’ve shared a little bit in recent posts about what we uncovered, two years ago, in the ICMI survey we sponsored called Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center. Recently American Express released a new study titled 2014 Global Customer Service Barometer. I was really surprised by how much of the results of our own study are consistent with—in most cases identical to—the American Express study.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

amex-omnichannel-study-statisticsWe spent a bit of time in our own survey probing the issue of preferred channels. Live agent was number one on our list, followed by web, then by the other channels. The American Express study probed the same issue. The Amex survey brings out an additional insight into the customer that ours didn’t—because they asked a richer question. While we asked “what’s your preferred channel,” they asked “what’s your preferred channel for simple tasks, moderately complex tasks, and very complex tasks?”

Their answers dovetailed almost exactly with ours when it came to moderately and very complex tasks, and veered away only slightly from ours when it came to simple tasks.

The Amex report also compares its 2014 responses with an identical survey they conducted in 2012—two years earlier and before our own 2013 study. They asked the identical question to get a perfect apples-to-apples comparison.

Here is how they defined simple, moderate and complex inquiries in both studies:

Simple: locating a product or checking an account balance.

Moderate: returning a product or getting assistance with a product issue.

Complex: making a complaint or disputing a charge.

The concept is spot on. Customers prefer self service—as we also revealed in our 2013 study—and when the task can be handled that way (when it’s “simple”), customers prefer to go it alone.

I think, though, that the definition of a simple inquiry has changed significantly, and that change is a key driver in how you design, structure and implement your omnichannel solution .

One perfect example is “return a product.” Now that might have been a struggle for self service three years ago but, today, what could be simpler? I can fill out the return form online or on an app, have an RMA sent to my email—filled out except for the signature—and use postal or in-store to return it. Now, that’s at least three channels in operation, and maybe sometimes more. None of which involved either an IVR or a live agent.

Simple has changed a lot in three years.

And it’s omni-channel that’s changed it. Simple is about information. It’s about knowledge. The more information the customers have, the simpler their inquiries become. With the omnichannel in place, connected to the customer and to back end platforms and systems, getting that information to the customer is, there’s no other word for it, Simple. Your logistics system, your warehouse system, your accounting system, your marketing and service/support systems: all are available to the customer (within limits you impose).

Live agents will never go away. VIP customers still need concierge-level attention. More complex tasks, such as home decorating choices, new insurance policy selection or identity fraud reporting still demand human interaction. But as your omnichannel evolves—and bite-at-a-time is always the best approach—you’re going to find that you’re going to be able to provide more and more information and automate more and more tasks for the customer.

Everything is going to be simpler.