― Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Why the ‘omni’ in omnichannel customer service is more important than ever.

Earlier this week I had the privilege to be joined by two bright thinkers in an hour-long episode on VoiceAmerica Talk Radio otherwise known as Coffee Break with Game Changers: Brent Leary (@BrentLeary, Co-Founder and Partner of CRM Essentials), Dan Gingiss (@dgingiss, Head of Digital Customer Experience & Social Media at Discover) and I discussed the latest trends in social customer service.

Before I’ll share some key takeaways from this discussion in this blog, one thing became more obvious than anything else:

In today’s business context, shrinking margins and increasing market volatility are making a positive customer service experience perhaps THE number one differentiator. Luckily, most customer service executives share the same view on this: Forrester reports that 93% of customer service decision-makers say that a good customer experience is one of their strategic priorities. Key ingredient for a “good customer experience” is to provide choice in the way customers can reach support. This is why multi-/ cross-/ omni-channel customer service is so important, because it has to be easy for someone to reach out to support no matter what that outreach looks like.

Dan Gingiss hit the nail on the head by saying

“Companies must service their customers in the channels in which the customers wish to be serviced.”

But now back to our conversation on trends in social customer service. Here are a few additional sound-bites and my thoughts:

Brent Leary stated:

“Companies will maximize chances to succeed with social service if it is a meaningful, well-connected part of the overall customer experience strategy.”

My POV: Couldn’t agree more, this is absolutely critical for a positive customer experience. A reply from a customer service agent to a tweet or a message on a company’s Facebook page needs to be as relevant as a call center agent on the phone. This requires tight connection of those social media channels with the company’s main customer service operation, so that whoever replies to a social media message knows exactly who the customer is, what he/she has purchased in the past, and what other service interactions have occurred so far.

Dan Gingiss stated:

“A quick response isn’t valuable if it isn’t answering the question.”

My POV: Absolutely. While speed of response is increasingly important, it’s equally imperative to provide a satisfying answer. Otherwise a reply can quickly become a mere ‘Thanks for your inquiry’ note, which is meaningless.

Brent Leary says:

“From Zero to Hero – Companies can change naysayers into brand advocates via fast, relevant, engaged responses.”

My POV: Brent should copyright that phrase, so true is it. Companies should absolutely allow the tough conversations. An interaction with a dissatisfied customer conducted in the public eye can quite simply become a powerful marketing asset (provided a positive outcome can be found). Case in point: A recent study showed that influence posts like blog posts, discussion forum posts, ratings/reviews are viewed by 150 people on average. Last year, people in the US alone created 1.64 billion of those influence posts, which leads to a whopping 250 billion impressions.

In summary: Social media as customer service interaction channel is here to stay, and will only gain in relevance over time. A solid omni-channel customer service strategy is therefore more essential than ever for companies of all sizes and across all industries.

Care to share your perspective? I’d love to hear it.

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Kai Petzelt is Senior Director Product Marketing at SAP. Follow Kai on Twitter @kaipetzelt.

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