Multiplication made difficult

MyCustomer.com
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The research this week from Jupiter that discloses that companies that operate email customer support policies are lax in ensuring that these systems work effectively is not likely to have any of us collapsing in stunned surprise, is it?

Multi channel CRM is one of those wonderfully convenient expressions of technological political correctness that take up the attention of the sale and marketing people everywhere. Companies need to have a multi-channel approach to CRM according to the evangelists because the number of touchpoints between customers and companies has multiplied.

If you want to contact the customer service arm of a company or an organisation you can use the telephone - landline or mobile - , email, access via the corporate web site, use your Bluetooth enabled mobile PDA, fax or even pick up a pen and write a letter. Well that’s the theory. In practice of course what we all do is pick up the phone.

Why? Maybe because we feel the need to shout at someone? Maybe there’s that inherent suspicion that if we send an email it can be more conveniently ignored by the company or plausibly denied by being lost in the system. I’ve been trying to get NTL to call me back for three weeks now having sent five emails to their customer service number.

Rather than risk that we hang on in interminable queueing systems as our mental well-being is assaulted by muzak of mass destruction. It’s soul destroying and we’ll probably get cut off anyway or have to attempt a conversation with the first ranks of call centre Orcs, but we carry on regardless.

There was a study recently that polled users of UK public sector organisations which made for grim reading. While local authorities up and down the country are struggling to meet the 2005 deadline to have all services online, the majority of successful activity to date has involved setting up contact centres - all of which are of course multichannel.

But the assumption that local citizens are going to sit at home and access public services using their digital TVs or their PCs is based on a totally false set of assumptions. For a start, for this to work we need a considerably more significant broadband penetration than we have or are likely to have any time soon. Secondly, there is an argument that the types of services most likely to elicit inquiries are those targetted at a demographic least likely to have access to the type of multi-channel access devices that are at the heart of the online strategy being pursued.

Of course, it can be argued that investing in multi-channel CRM is an investment in the future and it’s hard to refute that. But can we all stop pretending that for most organisations multi channel customer contact is still a vague dream rather than a practical reality. We use the phone to contact companies. Maybe the money spent on ambitious multi channel roll outs would be better directed for now on improving the quality of service on offer from traditional call centres?

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21st Feb 2003 19:34

I would agree with your comments for B2C businesses; as a consumer the few times I have sent emails, I have been ignored or at best had to wait days. However, in a B2B context, multiple channels of communication have become the norm. Written forms like email and fax are preferred as they provide an audit trail of the conversation. They also save unproductive "idle chat" time, that many busy business people like to avoid. In this context, it is essential that an account manager, for example, can see all of the communications with a client in one place - the multichannel view in the CRM system.

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21st Feb 2003 19:34

I would agree with your comments for B2C businesses; as a consumer the few times I have sent emails, I have been ignored or at best had to wait days. However, in a B2B context, multiple channels of communication have become the norm. Written forms like email and fax are preferred as they provide an audit trail of the conversation. They also save unproductive "idle chat" time, that many busy business people like to avoid. In this context, it is essential that an account manager, for example, can see all of the communications with a client in one place - the multichannel view in the CRM system.

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