Omnichannel customer service: Customers have never heard of it but still seem to demand the benefits of it, and companies are all over the map on whether or how to offer it to them. When it comes to omnichannel — customer service on every channel with seamless cross-channel transfers — there’s no shortage of hype. So is it all hype?

Reality check: when it comes to omnichannel customer service, one size does not fit all. You absolutely do not have to be on every channel—just the channels that your customers use and expect – providing the same caliber of service regardless of the channel. When you get down to it, offering service and support on every channel simply may not be necessary.

The Omnichannel Challenge

Omnichannel lets you meet customers where they already are rather than requiring them to search for you. So it’s not all hype. Though it can bring some challenges, those that have made the commitment report that the benefits to customer relationships and organizational alignment outweigh any drawbacks.

First, you absolutely need the ability to pivot interactions from one channel to another. Beyond that, you also need the right team that can adequately handle the navigating between channels. You also need the resources and processes in place across all channels. Though it may go beyond the budget you’ve planned for the contact center, it’s all essential to serving customers successfully in our digital world. Plus you will quickly see the return on investment in the form of customer loyalty and reduced costs associated with customer service.

Transitioning to a customer-centric service model is designed to make you more deliberate, strategic, and proactive in serving your company and your customers. Here are few tips to get you started:

  1. Do Your Research. Analyze your customers. Ask how they would like to be contacted – either via email or phone discussion. You want to be where your customers are so ask what social communities and online tools they use. Monitor social channels to see where your brand is being discussed the most. You want to be there, too.
  1. Roll Out New Channels One at a Time. You’ve got the channel information, now the time to make sure your initial customer experiences are positive ones. Train your agents so they know how to take on the new channel or channels. Possibly consider adding a knowledge base as a channel. A robust knowledge base can facilitate self-service and save both the customer and agent time.
  1. Implement the Right Tools and Technologies to Make Customer Service and Support on Multiple Channels Both Simple and Manageable. This can be a tough one. You’ll need a scalable platform that supports every channel: phone, email, live chat, SMS, social and whatever comes next. Ideally, every channel will be viewable and accessible on one screen for seamless pivots. The platform must also be easy and fast enough for an agent to you. This is create far more successful interactions between the customers and your company.

Potential Omnichannel Pitfalls

The reality is that omnichannel service is difficult to do well. Don’t let the hype push you move to quickly or in a manner that sets you and your customers up for disappointment. Even multi-million dollar companies struggle to support multiple channels.

Make your teams aware that there are different expectations with different contact channels. Customer expectations are sky-high in today’s digital world and they won’t be afraid to express those expectations. Being “on hold” may work for a phone call, but not for an SMS. Waiting 24 hours for an email response is acceptable, but that won’t fly on Twitter. Tell customers when they can expect a response and make sure that timeframe fits the channel. Let them know they are heard and let agents know that their timeliness is crucial.

Trust the process. Listen to your customers, do your research and have quality team members and resources in place. Check out my article for ICMI for more information on how to avoid the omnichannel hype and turn it into your own holy grail.

Then go do what you do best: make the world just a little bit brighter, one experience at a time.