By Christine Friscic-Oracle on Jan 05, 2016
By Daniel Foppen, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Service Cloud
Few would disagree that in the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of new communication channels and are facing a dizzying array of modern channels consumers use to interact with organizations. In addition, how to deal with this tremendous increase is as much a challenge for marketing as it is for customer service departments. Customers do not simply have one channel they always use. They have a range they use depending on the circumstances. Some of these channels are expected, while others are experimental channels.
Expected channels, are channels customers expect to have available for them. It is implicitly understood that these are reliable and customers can count on them when the situation requires it. They expect to get a timely, accurate response to their inquiries. Typical examples of such channels are phone, email, live chat, etc.
Experimental channels are – as the name implies – less robust and reliable. They can be experimental for different reasons; e.g. because it’s a new platform increasingly used by consumers to interact with each other, because availability is out of control of the organization, because the organization’s structure and processes are not ready to support this channel, and so forth. Typical examples are video chat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
Clearly, there is a risk associated with investing in experimental channels. In addition, it is not always easy for organizations to decide on the right balance of expected vs. experimental channels. So how does a business decide whether, when and how to add experimental service channels to the mix? We would encourage asking the below questions before making any decisions…
1. Where is the channel on the Hype cycle?
New technologies typically go through an initial hype phase. When considering channels, it is important to consider where the channel currently is on the ‘Hype’ cycle. If it is too early, expect a decrease, slow growth or steady decline to occur. Vetted, strong channels will gradually emerge, grow and become mature with a bit more time.
2. Can this channel be embedded into a multi-channel service strategy?
Adding an experimental channel as a silo-ed stand-alone channel can be easy. However, it is important to be able to embed new channels as part of a multi-channel strategy. Consider how to give agents access to a unified, connected interface where they can interact with customers in this channel, but at the same time have context around who the customer is, what their purchased products are, what previous interactions they have had, etc.
Similarly, also ask how to store the conversation thread from this channel so that the next time the agent uses an expected channel like email, phone or chat, the context of the interaction in the new channel is made available for agents. In addition, consider how to establish service levels for this channel. Is it possible to design service processes and workflows for inquiries coming in through this channel?
3. Can this experimental channel actually become an expected channel?
With many experimental channels, there is little control early on, but some channels are easier to adopt. Twitter for example has clearly indicated that they encourage using their channel for delivering customer service. Their Public APIs are robust and well documented. Many software vendors have integrated Twitter with their software. Public APIs are not always the case, so this is definitely something to analyze.
Now that we have provided an overview of the distinctions between expected and experimental channels as well as a framework for evaluation for experimental service channels. Look out for Part II, where we dive into specific channels to explore in 2016!