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For some time now, companies of all shapes and sizes have been expanding their online presence and setting up profiles across various digital media channels so they can be where their customers are. But a new Zendesk survey that examined the omnichannel customer experience shows they have a long way to go.

A whopping 73 percent of consumers think companies are paying more attention to generating sales across multiple channels than in delivering a consistent and seamless customer service experience. How has the omnichannel customer experience gone awry?

The Omnichannel Experience

Marketers have been poked and prodded by several reports in the past few months proclaiming the omnichannel experience — that is, a consistent purchase or customer service experience across channels such as email, phone, chat and retail stores — is the promised land of customer experience and marketing opportunities. So it's not surprising that many marketers have set up numerous social media profiles, created mobile apps and implemented live chat features.

The goal, of course, was to make it easier for the customer to reach out and engage with a brand. And yet it seems companies have become so preoccupied with marketing their products across these channels that it has actually undermined the customer experience. 

In the survey, "The Omnichannel Customer Service Gap," consumers indicated they increasingly expect a seamless experience regardless of the channel they use (37 percent).  Another 47 percent expect to be able to return goods or purchases through a different channel than the one from which they made their purchase. But those expectations are apparently not being met. Only 7 percent are extremely satisfied with the omnichannel experience for customer service. 

Because social channels have made it easier for consumers to engage with a brand in real-time, their expectations for customer service have increased as well. Have customers become unreasonable or have companies failed to deliver a consistent customer experience?

A little bit of both. Customers have questions and they want answers — in real time, the same way they communicate with others across social and digital media.

Learning Opportunities

Perhaps the bar for extraordinary customer service is set a little high. Still, it doesn't help matters much that brands and marketers have yet to learn that the customer journey doesn't end once a purchase has been made. In fact, customers are more likely to have just as many questions after purchase than during the buying process. Considering that consumer behaviors are not likely to wane, companies are the ones that will have to step up to the plate. 

A Resolution to Resolve Customer Issues

It's important to remember that customers don't want to rely on customer service for answers. They survey showed more than half (53 percent) think it is important for them to resolve their own product and service problems rather than rely on customer service representatives. That means companies need to make sure that website and support documents are up-to-date and well organized.

When they call customer support, consumers expect swift resolution. Just how swift? Expectations vary by channel, of course. Fifty-nine percent expect resolution within 30 minutes when contacting customer service by phone, while 52 percent expect to get resolution within a day by social media and 75 percent expect resolution within a day by email. 

The omnichannel experience is an opportunity for companies to invest heavily across all channels to deliver relevant, real time customer service and engagement. Failure to meet expectations means your most optimized channel could become overwhelmed should others falter. And when customer service channels fail, companies put their reputations at risk — 78 percent claim a company’s reputation for customer service is important to them when they make purchasing decisions. 

Title image by Cartoon Resource (Shutterstock).