‘Mind The Gap’

Andy-Litherland-Avaya

Andy Litherland, Vice President of European Channels at Avaya, provides his view on how to deliver customer service excellence and references two valuable industry reports that are worth a read as well as sound channel advice.

Ofcom recently announced the findings of its annual Media Use and Attitudes report. As usual it made very interesting reading and was a pretty accurate reflection of the tech interaction I see in my family, friends and colleagues. It showed that across digital and online platforms, digital take-up and use has increased since 2005. Two-thirds of adults now own a smartphone and the proportion of adults who go online both inside and outside of the home has also increased by 40% since 2005. The proliferation of internet access in multiple locations across multiple devices has meant that 9 in 10 adults now go online to communicate.

Consumers are becoming savvier in the application of these technologies. They are increasingly embracing cutting-edge technology as an integral part of their daily activities, including the way they want to interact with brands. This is causing businesses to continuously re-think their customer engagement strategies, especially if they want to remain market leading. And herein lies the golden opportunity for the channel.

We all know that there are now more ways than ever to capture a customer’s attention, because the number of consumers using different devices and different platforms – such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatsapp and even in-store kiosks – to interact with brands has grown exponentially. It’s great that consumers are communicating more, but this does bring greater pressure to keep the experience consistent, no matter how a customer is interacting on their range of channels.

Today, consumers expect brands to instantly know all their interactions regardless of channel, gather relevant data insights and consumer behaviours and to link up each channel to make their journey seamless. In fact, our research shows four in five consumers feel advisors should be instantly familiar with their details across all channels.

However, while the trend of fragvergence – whereby consumers use a fragmented range of channels but expect data to converge and accessed across these media – is on the rise, brands are still keeping channels siloed and failing to consider each as a part of the wider strategy. It isn’t surprising to learn that according to recent research conducted by Avaya and BT, 62% of customers say they find dealing with customer service issues exhausting, and only 13% say they regularly get first contact resolution. These figures highlight just how vital it is for businesses to simplify and also unify customer journeys to help them re-engage with their customers.

This is where the channel comes in: integrators and resellers who can offer a joined-up experience enabled by technology will help to bridge this gap. As well as understanding the technology itself, it is also important that channel partners understand how to sell in a consultative manner, matching solutions to customers’ business strategies and goals.

A true omni-channel strategy that incorporates social media, email, voice, text and web experiences meets a primary need of global consumers, and means they can contact organisations whether they are at work, sitting on the sofa, in meetings or on a train in just a matter of minutes. But it does rely on the successful integration of all these channels, usually through a business’ contact centre platform. Medium-sized businesses are continuing to experience amazing growth. They should be a key focus for resellers looking to take advantage of the omni-channel opportunity, which is why Avaya’s dedicated midmarket channel partner programme offers training in this area.

However, a last word of caution: the channel must be careful not to view a joined-up customer experience as an added extra – it’s increasingly becoming a must. If customer engagement is king, then the omni-channel is the palace and businesses, via their reseller and integrator partners, need to furnish it thoroughly in order to connect them with their consumers to build those loyal relationships.

Ed Says…

The Ofcom Adult Media report Avaya referred to here is freely available to download at the regulator’s web site. At nearly 200 pages it is a bit of a tome but these days Ofcom is much more media friendly themselves. It’s a well-organised paper so it is easy to find what you are interested in. The Avaya/BT research, entitled ‘Autonomous Customer 2015’ is also on their web site, is a somewhat more digestible report and further explains Fragvergence. It’s a good read and makes a sound case for an Omni-Channel approach to customer service.