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A Channel is a Channel

Headlines shout the power and benefits of the newest “servicing” channels – one day it is social media and the next it is chat. In fact, no single channel is more important than another. What matters is that customers, prospects, partners, and everyone else receives a response in their channel of choice on a timely basis.

The market continues to be surprised that vendors of customer relationship management (CRM)-related platforms, like PegaSystems and Salesforce, are either purchasing or building omni-channel servicing platforms that bring together various modes of communication. Really, though, there is no surprise here. As the title of this column indicates, any channel, such as chat, IM, SMS and even social media (which has hundreds of different modes), is nothing more and nothing less than a mechanism for communicating with others. Organizations that want to deliver a wonderful and consistent customer experience need to build a servicing environment that standardizes the handling of all channels. The underlying solution can come from a vendor who has built a universal queue that can consolidate the receipt and distribution of interactions, regardless of the channel in which they are received. (Due to the maturity and technical issues surrounding some of the channels, this is not as easy as it sounds, but it is a necessity.) Or an organization can undertake the technical and operational challenges of building their own universal queue. This is often a major challenge, as many companies have separate servicing systems to handle each channel. (Many companies purchased a different servicing solution for each of their channels, as they became available.)

Simplifying Servicing Environments

Companies are facing tough and potentially expensive decisions. Providing omni-channel support is not an option, as it is what customers (and consumers in general) want and expect. However, it’s expensive and difficult to obtain the budget required to start over and buy a single platform that brings together all current servicing channels and is capable of addressing newer ones, as they arise. The “saving grace” for this major enterprise challenge is the cloud. Under the guise of complying with company directives to migrate to cloud-based solutions and implement a digital transformation, service organizations and contact centers may have a chance of getting the budget to consolidate their servicing channels.

Justifying Investments

After having spent billions of dollars, the market understands that having one system that takes care of all sales, marketing, customer service and e-commerce interactions is not so simple. (Few organizations have reached this stage of CRM nirvana, regardless of the extent of their effort and size of their investment.) It’s a great concept, but the practical needs of various operating departments, each with its own unique goals, have prevented this from becoming an enterprise reality.

Consolidating channels is challenging, but is much easier than changing the way departments operate. Forcing managers to use a single system that is sub-optimal for all of its constituencies isn’t going to work. Rather, the first step toward consolidation is to accept that there is nothing sacrosanct in the handling of any channel. The second stage is to build a plan that lays out the operational steps that will follow the technical changes. Once these two major steps are done, companies should find that simplifying their operating environments will result in major cost savings, especially when the plan includes the use of robotic process automation (RPA) to automate tasks that do not require the cognitive capabilities of human beings.

Final Thoughts

Digital transformation, which includes standardizing the handling of all channels, is as inevitable as taxes. (So is a migration of systems to the cloud, in most enterprises.) Service and contact center leaders need to make sure that they are included in these initiatives so that they can work with their peers throughout the enterprise to improve the service experience at every touch point.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at