In a world of expanding customer contact channels and the departmental silos that go with them, is it possible to optimize the customer experience and deliver on business objectives? The answer can be a resounding “YES!” given a carefully constructed multi-channel strategy, an effective governing body, and the right people, processes, and technologies to support them.
Three foundational technologies serve as the “glue” to create a consistent framework for service delivery and channel management: Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Knowledge Management (KM) or Wikis, and cross-channel analytics. They serve three critical business objectives:
- Knowing who your customers are so that you can tailor your products, services, and channels to their collective and individual needs
- Delivering information about your organization and its products and services accurately, efficiently, and consistently for internal and external consumption
- Managing all of your customer contact channels as an integrated whole to optimize both the customer experience and operational costs
CRM is the centralized repository of information that records detailed information about customers – who they are, what they prefer, the business units and channels with which they interact, and the inquiries or transactions they’ve pursued. It provides a consistent window into the customer relationship no matter which business unit or channel they engage.
KM captures, manages, and shares information. KM solutions mine repositories (databases, document libraries, intranets, extranets, websites) in response to natural language queries and provide tools to add new information and insights. They’re adept at managing the organization’s intellectual assets as well as “tribal knowledge.” Solutions built to realize in-house efficiencies can be extended to web self-service with appropriate screening, filtering, and security provisions.
Wikis can be a faster, lower cost alternative to KM solutions. They’re collaborative, web-based applications that equip nontechnical users to create and edit any number of interlinked web pages using simple text editors. What they lack in capacity for mining existing repositories they gain in speed of information capture, organization, and presentation.
Cross-channel analytics is the discipline of measuring, analyzing, and fine-tuning the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of customer service delivery across all customer-facing channels. It traces customer paths within channels, across channels, and across time as they complete (or attempt to complete) transactions and assesses what’s working and not working by channel and across channels. [Read my post on Selection Criteria for Cross-channel Analytics!]
While responsibility for managing customer-facing channels may reside in different departments, customers should experience the organization as an integrated whole. Technology can be an enabler for delivering consistent treatment across all points of contact. But it requires forethought and planning to ensure that the critical technologies for service delivery are accessible across the organization and work together seamlessly.
Before you get too far down the road of building out your technology infrastructure and applications, get a cross-functional team together to set multi-channel goals and identify the tools necessary to meet them. Establish a process for evaluating technology investments against a strategic view of customer contact, not the individual department or channel owner’s needs. In the end, it will serve all of their interests.