Obinna Chima

During the past 10 years, companies have made enormous investments to provide customer service through digital channels, a report has stated. The report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), however, noted that although the adoption of digital channels was revolutionising how customers interact with businesses, the benefits in terms of cost reduction and customer experience had often fallen short of expectations.

Therefore, it stressed the need for companies to reconsider their approach.
The report pointed out that the fundamental challenge was that companies continue to develop digital channels independently of their existing human-support channels, most notably the contact centre.

“As a result, they fail to tap into the contact centre’s value in providing multichannel customer service and customer insight. This value is significant, even in the context of an existing “digital first” channel strategy.
“Because companies think about digital and human support separately, they make a common set of mistakes when designing and executing a multichannel strategy. They can correct these mistakes by following a corresponding set of imperatives that have the shared objective of leveraging the contact centre’s insights and capabilities to increase the impact of digital initiatives.

“By taking these actions, companies can realize benefits from an improved customer experience sooner, sustainably reduce cost to serve, and more successfully ease customers into the self-serve habit,” it explained.
It showed that a survey conducted by the BCG and NICE, a provider of customer experience data tools, found that 82 per cent of consumers in a sample from advanced economies use a web self-service channel. However, the survey also found that 82 per cent of consumers still call contact centres to speak with agents.

To this end, it stressed that the continued dependence on human assistance was an indication that companies and their customers were not fully capturing the benefits of digital customer service.
“Companies often decide which activities to automate on the basis of how easy it is to do so. The basic assumption is that digital self-serve channels will handle the simpler interactions, while humans step in to deal with more complex queries. However, this model does not always consider the real value to customers of the contact or how automating it might diminish that value.

“For example, most subscription businesses make bills available online, regarding this as a simple way to address billing inquiries. But customers often go online not only to find out how much they owe, but also to understand how a charge is calculated, dispute a charge, request a payment extension, or learn how to reduce charges in the future.

“If they cannot get help with such inquiries in the digital channel, customers must call the contact centre for assistance—and will likely be frustrated that they had to make multiple contacts to resolve their issue,” it explained.
To address these mistakes and promote a seamless multichannel customer experience, the report stated that contact centres needed to produce huge quantity of valuable information.
“Analysing data on where customers look first to get help can also yield valuable insights. For an increasing number of customers, a web search is the first recourse when seeking answers about products or services.

“And they often find what they’re looking for. Customers who Google a company’s contact number, for instance, typically see it displayed in a large font at the top of the search listings. Leading companies use search engine marketing to funnel search queries into relevant online answers.
“Rather than forcing customers into digital channels, companies should create the conditions that will encourage them to change their habits over time. In our experience in multiple service sectors, switching to digital channels is not a one-time event but rather a transition that typically requires up to two years,” it stated.