Channel Optimization

When is the right time for an organization to encourage its customers to utilize the Contact Center channel to receive support versus encouraging them to use the Social Media channel, the web channel, the bricks and mortar channel, etc.?  Should an organization segment its customers and pro-actively decide which support options to offer to which customers, e.g., high-touch support including a live person at the Contact Center to highly profitable segments and low-touch support e.g., web access only to less profitable segments?  In a broader sense, how does an organization go about optimizing it channel management strategy?

Here are the two rules that an organization needs to consider when optimizing its channel management strategy:

Rule #1: Find the Balance between Its Customers Channel Preferences and the Lowest Cost-To-Serve Channels

The organization needs to find the right balance between fulfilling each customer’s desired channel preference (e.g., on the customer support side some customers prefer calling an 800 support phone number, others prefer using Twitter, still others prefer to use the web) versus the need to encourage these customers to utilize the organization’s lowest cost-to-serve channel (e.g., Social Media communities).

Getting this balance right can have a tremendous impact on an organization’s profitability: customers are happy since they get to use their preferred channels while the organization achieves maximum profit as their customers use the organization’s lowest-cost-to-serve channels.

Rule #2: Drive Efficiency into Selected Channels using Best-In-Class Business Processes & Technology

The organization needs to optimize each selected channel by using integrated processes and supporting technology.  For example, on the customer service side, once optimized a Contact Center can be a very cost-effective customer support channel.  ‘Optimized’ means that the organization has put in place meaningful customer service processes (e.g., First Call Resolution, self-service) and that the organization has also put into place supportive Contact Center technology (e.g., unified desktop and other LiveOps technologies) to support these processes.

The challenge today is that many organizations have not taken the time to optimize their customer-facing business processes.  Nor have they put into place supportive technology that drives cost-efficiencies into these processes.  As a result, customers – from distributors to retailers to the end-customer – are obliged to use inefficient sales, marketing and/or customer-service processes and technology to conduct business with the organization.

Where Are We Headed? 

Channels do and will change.  Remember the music stores?  The Blockbuster video stores?  The local travel agencies?  Ask yourself this question: How will the channels that your organization currently uses change over the next 10 years?  Which of the existing channels will disappear?  Which new channels will appear?  In addition to well established channels like brick & mortar stores, Contact Centers, or web self-service, does your organization have a channel optimization strategy in place that describes how your organization will easily integrate the emerging Social Media channel, the wearables channel, the Internet of Things channel and/or the set-top box channel in accordance with Rules #1 & #2 above?  If the answer is ‘no’, the time is ripe to revisit your channel optimization strategy.

Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM, Inc., a strategic consulting firm that applies CRM/social CRM, big data analytics and insight, knowledge communities, customer experience management, and channel optimization to build successful customer-centric business initiatives. He is a frequent speaker and is author of four books including his latest – The Definitive Guide to Social CRM, click here to learn more:

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