The first thing that most people get wrong about omnichannel is that they think it’s about having a presence in every channel possible, from Facebook and Twitter to email, text messages, and snail mail. But, as Robert Deignan of ATS Digital Solutions points out, this is simply not the case. Rather, omnichannel is about providing a seamless experience across all the channels—even if it’s just a few—that your company has a presence in.
So, while your company might only have a Facebook page, a blog, and a customer support team, you can still have an effective omnichannel strategy. That is as long as the messaging, positioning, and overall experience is closely aligned across all channels. Perhaps the most difficult place to get everything right is through your customer service voice channels. Unlike web pages, support calls are dynamic, and maintaining consistency across many agents can be difficult.
Fortunately, we can draw on experience from ATS Digital Solutions, a company founded by Robert Deignan, that offers tech support to all varieties of consumers. They have a few digital channels and a voice channel (their call center), but for simplicity’s sake, let’s just focus on their website and their call center.
So for them to have an omnichannel strategy—which they very much do—the experience you have as a customer when you browse their website and when you talk to them on the phone should be closely aligned.
In fact, if you take a look around their website and place a support call, you’ll find the experience that both experiences have plenty of similarities. But why is the omnichannel strategy so important for a good customer experience?
Familiarity Breeds Comfort
From an evolutionary standpoint, human beings have generally preferred things that are familiar to them. Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. Imagine yourself as a prehistoric human who has to worry about all sorts of predators, or other humans. Things that are familiar, like your immediate family, or your home, or an animal you’ve seen many times and had no problems with, are comfortable.
In fact, you’ll probably grow to like, for example, a harmless cow that hangs around near your home. Alternatively, if an animal—whether it’s dangerous or not—that you’ve never seen before comes upon you in the night, your default mode is to be scared.
To survive, we had to adapt to be afraid of the unfamiliar. After all, if we weren’t scared of a strange animal in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t try to get away.
But what does this have to do with omnichannel?
Put simply, when your brand, which includes messaging, imagery, and tone, exists continuously—like Robert Deignan’s does—across several channels, the customer develops a feeling of familiarity much more quickly. If, on the other hand, the feeling they get about you is different depending on whether they visit your website or call your support agent, you lose the opportunity to build familiarity with that customer. As a result, they’re less likely to like you or your company, which makes them less likely to buy from you or use your services.
Continuity Eliminates Confusion
To be sure, communicating your company’s values and services quickly and efficiently has always been vital to an effective customer experience. Go back a hundred years (or more) and no customer wants to buy something that they don’t understand the value of. Now fast forward a hundred years and take a look at the amount of information that customers are assaulted with on a daily basis. Whether they’re browsing the internet, watching TV, checking their email or physical mail, or listening to a music streaming service, they’re being blasted with advertisements.
Because of the mass quantity of advertisements that people are bombarded with each day (as well as the distraction of smartphones), you have to make the most out of every interaction you have with your customer. Robert Deignan recognizes this and has a made a concerted effort and investment to make sure his company’s communication, through support calls or otherwise, is seamless and continuous.
Moreover, there are very few niches or industries left (if any) where you’re not going to be competing against someone. The continuity of omnichannel helps you clearly communicate your company’s value proposition which differentiates you from your competitors. Otherwise, customers aren’t 100 percent clear on what you do and they may lose their interest before they realize that you are different.
Customer Expectations Continue to Rise
You ever notice how quickly a child tires of a new toy? Embarrassing as it may be to admit, adults do the same thing, especially with new technology. A new technological advance, such as WiFi-enabled airplane flights is extremely exciting when it first happens. But give it a few months (at most) and people begin to expect that they will have WiFi available on their next flight. And, without fail, if a flight does not have WiFi, there are going to be customers who are angry even though just a few months ago they never got WiFi on their flights.
Such is human nature. But executing omnichannel as effectively as someone like Robert Deignan can help you keep up.
For example, if somebody is on your Facebook page or your website, they expect to be able to reach a customer support agent if they need to. Further, they expect to be able to do it directly from your website or your Facebook page. Part of implementing an effective omnichannel strategy includes creating seamless connections between digital and non-digital channels like customer support. And when you can do this, you clearly differentiate yourself from companies that make it more difficult for customers to go from their digital channels to their voice channels.
Not Just Another Trend
Whenever something new pops up in the world of customer experience, it’s tempting to discount it as hype, rather than a paradigm shift. But omnichannel is different, and in many ways, it’s actually not all that new because it’s really about delivering a consistent experience across all customer interactions. Which is exactly why you can be sure that omnichannel is not some passing trend, because it’s about creating a better experience for your customers. And that’s something that will always be a top requirement for any company hoping to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace.
Service agents have an underappreciated and tough job: solve customers’ technical problems. This job can be emotionally taxing and frustrating, but it’s also so important to customer satisfaction that you can’t afford not to do it right. Robert Deignan founded ATS Digital Solutions to help consumers with their technical problems, so he knows more than a few things about successful customer support interactions.
5 Ways for Service Agents to Drive an Omnichannel Effort
Using a few examples from how Robert Deignan has his agents interact with customers, we’ll explore the 5 ways service agents can make themselves a key component of the omnichannel strategy. In addition to positioning your agents as the engines of your omnichannel efforts, these tactics also give your agents the best chance of having a successful customer support interaction.
1. Have Patience
When you spend all day, every day fixing people’s technical problems, you become a master at solving those problems (hopefully). This is great for your customers because you know everything there is to know. But it also makes it a challenge for you because you’re dealing with people that have what you might see as very simple problems, which might make you impatient. However, acting impatiently—something agents at Robert Deignan’s ATS Digital Solutions never do—is extremely detrimental to the customer support experience.
After all, no one wants to feel like they’re being talked down to, nor do they appreciate it when someone who’s supposed to be helping them is obviously annoyed. Of course, as a customer support agent, there’s going to be customers that are technically inept, and they may test your patience. But just remember: everyone has to learn sometime, and not everyone has had the opportunity to grow up with or learn on computers. So be patient; it will work out better for everyone in the long run.
Moreover, consistently showing the patience and perseverance necessary to solve problems will reflect positively on your brand. That way, as people browse your website or engage with you on social media, they’ll have that same positive experience when they call in for support. The benefits of this won’t always be clear in the short term, but as the perception of your brand—across all channels—improves, the work you put in will pay off.
2. Communicate Clearly
You ever wonder why some people—regardless of their skill level—are better coaches than others? For example, there are plenty of professional basketball players who can’t coach as well as a guy who only ever played college basketball. That’s because doing something yourself, and guiding someone through doing it, require completely different skills, one of which is communication.
This applies to customer service as well. And that’s why, even if you have all the knowledge you could possibly need for a given customer support request, if you’re unable to communicate, things aren’t going to go well. During a customer support call, Robert Deignan ensures his agents are getting to the problem at hand quickly and efficiently. He also makes sure that his people are communicating clearly, keeping things simple, and leaving nothing to doubt.
As you might imagine, clear, simple communication is also a strong bedrock on which all your customer interactions should rest. By providing clear, simple language on your website as well as through your support calls, you’ll build long-lasting trust with prospects and customers alike.
3. Know Your Stuff
Few things make a customer happier than calling in with a problem and having it taken care of immediately by a knowledgeable rep. But to be that all-star service agent who creates that great customer experience, you have to really know your stuff. Not only will being extremely knowledgeable help you solve problems as they come, but it will also help you anticipate problems.
Without fail, people will tend to have similar problems and make similar mistakes. When you pay close attention to customers and know your products or service very well, you’ll naturally start to see problems ahead of time. Eventually, as soon as the customer explains their problem, you’ll already be a few steps ahead. This happens all the time at Robert Deignan’s company, ATS Digital Solutions, because he has decades of experience solving customer’s technical problems.
Here again, the tie back to building brand equity is clear. People want to deal with competent, diligent, and hard working companies. If you don’t show that competence and diligence in your support or sales calls, why would customers believe what you say on your website, social media, or through email.
4. Recognize Your Limits
We always want to go above and beyond for our customers, but remember that you are only one person. You have limits and won’t be able to solve every single problem by yourself. Sometimes, you’ll need to call in someone else. And it’s vital that you understand the right time to call in someone else to help.
That said, it’s a delicate balance. Customers don’t like to be given the runaround, but if their problem is going to get solved faster and more effectively by passing them off to someone else, that’s what you should do. After all, while they might not like being redirected to another rep, they’ll be even angrier if they spend a bunch of time talking to you without getting their problem solved.
In a way, this tactic shows your prospects and customers that you’re honest, humble, and willing to do whatever it takes to help them. The brand equity you build will be well worth the investment.
5. Don’t Take it Personally
It doesn’t matter how skilled, tactful, and knowledgeable you are as a customer support agent. People are going to be rude and get frustrated. Think about it. Even when people are on vacation—at their most relaxed—they might get angry at the service they’re receiving. Now imagine that same person when they’re calling into customer support, probably already frustrated with a problem. As you can see, from the very beginning of a customer support interaction, you’re starting in a tough place.
So while some people may act rudely, it’s your job as a customer service agent to not take those words or actions personally. To be sure, you shouldn’t tolerate abusive, hateful language, but if you’re going to take it personally when customers get annoyed or hang up, customer support is going to be a tough gig for you. Moreover, your customers will be less likely to be satisfied because when you take things personally, it’ll be harder for you to keep up a cheery disposition.
Plus, prospects and customers are far more likely to report an especially negative experience on social media or on third-party review sites. Of course, some people will be unreasonably harsh towards your company even if you’ve done nothing wrong. But, for a successful omnichannel strategy, you want to minimize the chances that people are spreading negative brand mentions throughout social media and third-party review sites. And maintaining a calm disposition when interacting with customers by not taking things personally is vital to minimizing the chances of those negative brand mentions.
As you can see from this article, being a successful customer support agent is as much about being technically savvy as it is about knowing how to deal with people. After all, compared to dealing with angry, impatient, and frustrated customers, solving a complicated problem with a computer is a walk in the park. And, being a successful agent means that you’re consistently building brand equity with every call.
That said, if you feel like you have a ways to go before you can successfully implement a few of the tactics mentioned in this article, don’t worry. We often underestimate how hard it is to develop the skills needed to be an all-star customer support agent. But the benefits of developing those skills for your brand are difficult to overestimate. Moreover, it’s quite possible to get better at everything we mentioned in this article every single day, little by little. All you really have to do is pay close attention to what’s going on during each of your calls.
If you do take something personally or fail to communicate clearly, learn from it. Find out what you could have done better and where you went wrong. As long as you commit yourself to do that, it won’t be long before you can serve customers as effectively as Robert Deignan and the professionals at ATS Digital Solutions. Once you understand and implement these basic fundamentals, you’ll be well on your way to creating a seamless, omnichannel experience for your customers. And, as you’ve seen in the beginning section of this article, an effective omnichannel experience positions you in a league of your own relative to your competitors.