There is a lot of focus today on omnichannel marketing and engagement, but brands would be well advised to focus first on omnichannel service. Getting omnichannel service right is not just a tech problem; far from it. In too many of today’s customer interactions, organizational silos are evident, channel adoption and maturity is variable, brands’ self-interest is apparent, and employee training and empowerment is weak. All of this contributes to a fractured customer experience that undermines trust, loyalty, satisfaction, and advocacy.
This was brought to mind as a result of a rough experience I had with a telecommunications provider. In the end, I am happy with the services and where we landed, but getting there–whew, what a frustrating and unpleasant ride.
I moved to a new home, and I used the telecom provider’s website to purchase a set of services, including a set-top box, a channel and movie package, and internet services. The installation process was tortured, and it didn’t need to be:
- Day One: The installer comes to my new condo. She can’t find a way to wire a set-top box adjacent to my TV, tells me I needed a rewiring specialist, and promises to arrange the appointment.
- Day Two: The technician who is about to arrive calls and asks if I’ve been rewired. I tell her that is what she’s supposed to do. She cannot–she’s only an installer. Someone entered the wrong data, so I need to reschedule, yet again.
- Day Three: I need to wait two days for a rewiring specialist, but in the interim, I reach out to the company on Twitter and ask if there is a streaming option that would avoid the time and hassles of rewiring. There is, but Twitter support cannot help. I need to call.
- Still Day Three: I call the company and learn there’s an easy streaming option using my provider’s app on Roku. So, I cancel the rewiring appointment and replace it with yet another installer visit.
- Day Four: While we’ve changed the appointment schedule, nothing has changed with the services I ordered, and I wonder if I have the right package. So, I reach out to Twitter support and ask. They cannot help and tell me I have to call.
- Still Day Four: I call and speak to a person who confirms the package I ordered will not work with streaming. After a lengthy discussion, I settle on the right streaming package. I assume I’m done, but nope, the person to whom I’m speaking cannot make the changes. I need to talk to a sales rep, and so I’m transferred.
- Still Day Four: Another long and torturous discussion ensues, and it seems to me the salesperson with whom I’m speaking did not review the lengthy and detailed notes captured by the first rep. After almost 55 minutes on the phone, I finally have the original order canceled and the new streaming services set.
- Day Five: I’m frustrated and angry, but this is the turning point. The installer arrives, and installation goes fast. Roku and the provider’s app work like a charm. Everything is right with the world.
All’s well that ends well, or is it? I may have ended with the right product and service for my needs, but I’m still frustrated by the experience. I cannot recommend this company to others, and I’m not the least bit confident that any future service needs I have will be handled expediently and professionally. That means I’m not inclined to purchase additional services offered by the company or refer others. This is, at best, a weak win for the provider. They got a customer–but not a happy one willing to advocate for the brand.
The question is what could’ve been done better, and there are so many apparent issues here, it’s easy to see that providing a true omnichannel experience has little to do with technology and a lot to do with company policies, strategies, organizational structure, and product complexity:
- Every employee and representative should be able to solve customer problems: Why didn’t the first installer, upon seeing the wiring issue, suggest streaming? If she’d been empowered to offer a solution and not merely to install cable modems, this entire five-day, eight-step process could have been reduced to a single day and step. In fact, if this telecom provider thought differently, I might’ve purchased the Roku device from them rather than making a trip to a nearby retailer. By not enabling their installers to solve problems on the first interaction, they left money on the table and added to my frustration.
- Every channel should be able to solve customer problems: Why do the company’s Twitter reps not have the ability to help customers with all their problems? While the social media team’s response time was admirable, rapid responses that tell customers they cannot get help in their preferred channel are not very positive interactions. I used to manage a social customer care team, so I recognize not every problem can be quickly and safely solved via Twitter DMs, but I’m pretty sure my questions could’ve been answered on Twitter if the social team was empowered and trained to help on a broader selection of topics and needs.
- Simplify products: One of the reasons for my multiple calls is that this provider’s products are complicated. Numerous similar products with different prices, not all available in every region served by the company, some that are incompatible with other services and products, and all seemingly designed to obfuscate and complicate pricing. My calls might’ve been shorter or the Twitter team empowered to help if the product structure was more intuitive and straightforward.
- Solve customer problems, not just answer their question: Finally, why did the rep who told me about streaming, advised me on the Roku solution, and canceled the rewiring appointment fail to notice that the package I ordered wouldn’t work with the solution he suggested? Had I not been proactive in exploring if my plan was right for streaming, yet another problem and interaction would’ve been added to that list. The issue is that the rep was more focused on solving his problem (that I was taking his time while he’s rewarded for keeping calls short and maximizing volume) and not on understanding and addressing my needs (that I want a complete package of product and services that fit together.) This is a step in the lower portion of Gartner’s Customer Experience Pyramid, and it’s a sign of an organization that hasn’t encouraged or empowered employees to provide proactive solutions.
Better technology might have improved this experience, but the real reasons my experience was so fractured between the real world, phone, Twitter, and digital channels had little to do with technology. Instead, this poor experience was a result of the company’s org structure, lack of customer centricity, product complexity, and job responsibilities.
While your brand may be obsessed with improving its omnichannel marketing to provide a unified path to purchase, never forget that the way to higher margin and profitability isn’t just to acquire customers but to turn them into loyal advocates. This means attacking the barriers that prevent your organization from working cohesively, empowering every employee and representative to solve customer problems, and engaging with customers in the channel of their choice.