Building a Multi-Channel Strategy? Take the esurance Approach



Brian Cantor
06/11/2012

Not all brands jump at the opportunity to praise others for their customer service savvy, but in the case of Lenovo, hesitance could not have been further from the mind.

In a 13th Annual Call Center Week presentation exploring the impact of multi-channel analytics on adding value to the contact center, Lenovo’s Asish Braganza pointed to one of esurance’s famous taglines as a guiding light for customer management professionals.

"Technology when you want it, people when you don’t."

When customer-facing organizations invest in strategies for multi-channel interactions, they are often doing so for the wrong reasons. They are looking at cost-efficiency and determining how technology can be used to deflect calls and limit the resource and cost crunch of live person interactions.

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From a short-term, shallow business perspective, such a philosophy can indeed carry rewards. If even a small percentage of live phone interactions can be moved to less-costly, less time-consuming web channels, the cost of serving customers can decrease dramatically.

At a workplace home prior to Lenovo, Braganza found that his organization’s live phone interactions cost approximately 65 times what those same interactions did via online platforms. To C-level hounds in a budget-conscious business world, it is hard to mask the scent of that blood.

Unfortunately, when driven by this internal drive for efficiency and productivity, organizations risk a misalignment between their multi-channel strategies and the needs and wants of the audience. Customers, after all, are not driven by a desire to improve the organization’s bottom line, and the strategies that achieve that goal are therefore unlikely to speak directly to customer values.

The goal, then, is to introduce a multi-channel strategy that works because it works for the customer. Calls are directed from live phone interactions to web self-service because they will yield a more beneficial, enjoyable and valuable experience for the customer in that mindset, not because live phone calls are so costly and taxing to the organization. When phone interactions are urged, it is not because the organization does not staff its Twitter or live chat consoles after hours but because the customer will get optimal value from an in-depth, relationship-minded interaction with a live agent.

"Technology when you want it, people when you don’t."

Though the financial cost savings of new and online media channels can be impressive, they underrepresent the true value of a multi-channel strategy. Multi-channel is a true necessity because it assures the brand can connect with the customer in the manner the customer ultimately desires. It assures the organization can deliver the appropriate customer experience, which is beyond a necessity for creating the satisfaction and loyalty that drive future business.

If multi-channel also helps relocate calls from the pricy call center to the less expensive web, then that represents a fresh cherry on the top of the customer experience sundae. But customer management leaders must seek the improved outward customer experience—not the improved internal budget management—when investing into new channels. If leaders fail on that ground, they have no means of assuring they deliver what customers want and will therefore risk greatly exacerbating the cost challenges associated with the contact center.

Throughout his presentation, Braganza was quick to note that "call deflection" is an auxiliary outcome of a successful multi-channel effort—it is not the key driver because it could only be so if customers’ greatest priority was to help the organization reduce the load on its call center.

ROI and cost remain relevant questions for any business strategy, but when pursuing opportunities in multi-channel, organizations need to remember that the channels should only exist because they close a gap between brand and customer.

What does your customer want?

Tell me an emphasis on live chat, Twitter support and web self-service saved my organization money, and I’ll probably smile.

But tell me an emphasis on live chat, Twitter support and web self-service will bring a more valuable, loyalty-inducing experience for my customers, and I know that I’m on the customer management track on which I absolutely need to be.

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