Meet Your Customers Where They Are, But Don’t Always Keep Them There

Is it time to evolve the “serve your customers in their channel of choice” mantra?

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Contact CentreInsights

Published: July 9, 2024

Charlie Mitchell

Every industry has its jargon phrases. Upon each mention, you can feel your eyes rolling into the back of your skull.

The customer experience space is one of the worst for this. From a “holistic view of the customer journey” to “vendor-agnostic solutions”, there are plenty of classics.

Of course, these terms have merit. After all, cliches are often cliches for a reason.   

Yet, the widely-utilized phrase: “Serve your customers in the channel of their choice,” has perhaps passed its sell-by-date.

Many would argue that this is still sound customer experience thinking. But, there seems to be an opportunity to evolve.

The Problem with “Serve Your Customers In Their Channel of Choice”

Traditionally, the contact center had two core channels: phone and email.

Then, with the advent of live chat, customer experience evangelists started to use the phrase “serve your customers in the channel of their choice.”

The goal? To deliver convenience and minimize customer effort.

Yet, ten years later, customer service experiences are at an all-time low. Indeed, that was the conclusion of a 2024 Forrester study.

Commenting on that research, Rick Parrish, VP and Research Director at Forrester, stated: “US consumers are having, on average, the worst experiences in a decade.

Brands want to create better experiences, and they realize that putting the customer at the center of their business is the way to do it. However, organizations struggle with the scale of change that this requires.

The effort to serve every customer on their channel of choice has made that scale of change an incredibly tricky task to manage.  

After all, it’s not just voice, email, and live chat anymore. There are multiple messaging apps and social media channels. Some contact centers even leverage video and the metaverse.

By covering that immense spread of channels, contact centers have many more service touchpoints to manage. Moreover, customers are reaching out more, as they have lots of new communication channels to engage with.

With all this going on, contact centers are more prone than ever to day-to-day firefighting. That makes finding the time to strategize around these new touchpoints difficult.

As a result, service experiences haven’t kept pace with the innovation cycle, and customers still default to the phone. According to evaluagent research, that won’t change anytime soon.

As Chandler Galt, Senior Product Marketing Manager of the Zoom Contact Center, summarized:

Though consumers want to interact on channels besides voice, brands have not been able to replicate the QUALITY of CX on those new channels. So, they still revert to the phone in situations where they aren’t able to sacrifice quality of service.

The Alternative: Meet Your Customers Where They Are, But Don’t Always Keep Them There

As suggested, meeting a customer on X, Facebook, or WhatsApp won’t benefit them if they must resort to the phone to find a resolution.

Contact centers often make the matter worse by pushing the burden back to the customer.

Now, this doesn’t mean that contact centers should shrink their channel mix. Meeting customers on their channel of choice has almost become an expectation.

However, just because an agent – live or virtual – meets the customer there, it doesn’t mean that they should keep them there.

Instead, the key is determining the best place for a customer to have their intent resolved and taking them there.

That requires cross-functional teams to collaborate and define the single best way to resolve a specific customer intent. QA and conversational intelligence initiatives may help here.

Andrew Moorhouse, Founder of Alitical, writes insightfully on this topic. He notes: “It’s not the technology. It’s the application of the technology that matters.

Meet the customer in their channel of choice and triage /route to the single best place for resolution.

A ubiquitous front-end bot can take customers to that single, defined place.

Now, a vulnerable customer policy for people without a smartphone is a must here. Yet, contact centers can significantly reduce complexity by recognizing that each intent requires a specific solution and investing in intent-level customer journey orchestration.

Take a More Considered Omnichannel Approach

As psychologist Barry Schwartz once determined, offering a person too many options typically leads to two unintended consequences:

  1.   They experience “paralysis” rather than action.
  2.   They are less satisfied than they would have been with fewer options to choose from.

So, while meeting customers where they are might deliver convenience, offering one clear-cut route to resolve their issue appears to be an excellent tactic to prevent these difficult emotions.

Thankfully, the technology is there to achieve this. The front-end bots that can intuitively understand customer intent have become much more accessible since the rise of generative AI.

Moreover, advancements in quality management systems mean that CX teams can track and score each interaction across channels and intents.

As such, CX teams can identify the best place to solve a query and define how to do so.

Lastly, with an all-in-one, cloud-native, omnichannel CCaaS platform – like the Zoom Contact Center –  businesses can blend modalities and forms of AI to bring that definition to life.


Artificial IntelligenceCCaaSConversational AIOmni-channelVirtual Agent

Brands mentioned in this article.


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