Over the last three decades, channels for interacting with customer have grown immensely. Face-to-face interactions and telephone calls are gradually becoming outdated. Slightly over two decades ago, emailing and messaging made inroads. Telephone calls and emails made it unnecessary for customers to physically visit a service provider. Before we decide to visit any organization in person, we always ask – can we call or email? Many orders have been placed on telephone and loads of information exchanged via email. Today, emails are rarely used by millennial customer to make simple queries. Emails and telephone calls are being replaced by online contact forms, web chats and by use of social media platforms.
The advancement of the internet has been at the centre of the most intense evolution of customer interactions channels. We have witnessed the use of different online tools to better serve customers. Websites, webcasts, web-chats, video demos, live streams etc. are among the ways in which organizations have stayed connected with their customers online. More recently, customer interactions have taken an interesting turn. This has resulted from the rapid growth in use of social media platforms in the last decade.
Today, many customers get all the assistance they need via social media. In particular, customer interactions via Facebook, twitter and Instagram have soared among the millennials. Today, millions of customer enquiries are handled via these social media platforms. Teams have been set up to manage social media enquiries. Social media platforms have been integrated into call centre softwares and into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. Many call centres have transformed into customer contact centres. These centres are no longer just about handling a single channel but have taken a multi-channel approach to serving their customers.
Whilst customers use diverse social media platforms to interact, my favourite one over the years has been twitter. Having sent many Facebook enquiries that were ignored on the onset of social media, I decided that twitter was a better option. For example, when Kenya Power decides to switch off the lights, I tweet them. If I have a query to Safaricom or to my bank, I tweet or inbox them via twitter. I am often confident that I will get a response from these companies within a very short time.
Unfortunately, in many organizations most customer interactions channels are being mishandled. Many of us have experienced telephone calls that do not go through or are never answered. We have had to deal with emails and web contacts queries that were ignored. Why create an email account or a contact us page and not respond to customers’ queries? Many organizations have also set up social media accounts that are never manned. As a result, many customer queries via social media go unanswered. Why set up a social media account for the sake of setting it up and fail to manage the customer queries that come through it? To improve customer experience, smart companies need to pay a keener attention to all the many channels available. They must in addition, determine which channels need to be prioritized and how multiple channels can be integrated to meet customers’ growing expectations.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy