Customer service is a key differentiator for many companies. But as the number of communication channels and devices increases, so do the challenges of delivering personalized service across those channels.

A unified view of the customer is needed for omnichannel customer service -- something that can't be achieved with siloed systems and disconnected information. Channels can't merely coexist, but must inform one another to provide the needed context that makes each customer experience better and more personal. To succeed at customer engagement you must meet three fundamental requirements: being consistent, complete and contextual.

Consistent means that you get the same quality of experience and outcome on all channels. Complete means that there is a seamless transition across any and all channels, no matter where or how a customer engages. Contextual means that information is automatically presented to the customer and/or the agent precisely when it is needed, based on information about the customer, his interactions and his needs. The end goal of engaging with customers is to create personalized experiences that benefit the customer and, over the customer lifecycle, your business. But how do organizations attain this?

Technology alone can't break down the silos between channels and deliver consistent, complete and contextual interactions. Increasingly organizations are turning to vendor partners for strategic consulting around customer journey mapping, process excellence and change management to ensure organizational readiness to support customer experience initiatives.

Specific areas that outside consultants can assist with include:

  • Journey mapping identifies customer expectations, pain points, reactive vs. proactive interactions and customer effort to determine improvements.
  • Analytics provides the tools to analyze massive amounts of structured and unstructured data. With analytics, companies gain deeper and more timely insights into the journey, why customers switch channels, and the impact to cross-channel KPIs.
  • Process excellence is used to evaluate people, processes and technology enablers and tailor the customer service approach based on the desired customer experience.
  • Change management helps organizations adjust to the often groundbreaking data insights and adapt to ensure continuous improvement in customer experience management programs.

Location-Based Services Improve Customer Experience

Customers don’t think in terms of channels. They expect all channels to be open for business top to bottom, anytime, anywhere. Humans think and interact in context. And while customers know the context already -- they're living it -- they expect companies to know it as well. Customers want personalized service. They expect you to have an accurate profile to know their preferences, history and recent activity. And that is the power of context -- it helps provide personalized service over the Web or through an agent.

The next level of insight vital to understanding context is a customer’s physical location and the device she is using. Marketers have recognized location-based services for their ability to place highly relevant offers in the hands of consumers at the exact right time to drive purchases. But with customer service becoming the new marketing, organizations should strategize on how to incorporate location-based services into customer service efforts to differentiate themselves.

Depending on a customer's location -- in a physical store, at home, traveling -- her service needs can be very different. By understanding the context, you will be better able to provide the right type of service and support needed.

Learning Opportunities

Here and Now Examples

The retail store is a prime opportunity for customer service. One of the biggest pet peeves customers have is a lack of associates in the store available to assist them. This is where self-service options come in, to help customers access information they need (such as inventory look up for out of stocks) on their smart phone/device which is relevant to their specific location. Give consumers the ability to escalate -- i.e. “ping” an associate -- to assist when they want to take action or if they can’t find the needed support online.

Airports are another example where location-based service can help. If a customer gets stranded, it is an opportunity for the airlines to serve and support them in a great time of need. Imagine sending a customer an e-Voucher for food and beverages during a layover, or a discount for a neck and back massage in the airport, or an offer for a free coffee. If a traveler has a tight connection due to a late flight, providing an automatic notification of the connecting flight’s gate and boarding status upon landing could help ease and perhaps even prevent frantic sprinting through the airport.

Get Context from Location Data

To understand a customer’s locale requires GPS location-based services to locate smartphones. To do this, an organization gathers consent from customers, whereby a customer agrees to share her or his mobile device number for location information. This is done in many cases through access to a mobile app.

The provided location information can be used to promote targeted content and validate location (and even -- in some instances -- for user authentication). Location APIs integrate location information into the CRM system or Customer Experience platform. Tagging knowledge content and other assets with GIS mapping coordinates, and associating those coordinates with the user’s physical location leveraging the devices native capabilities, builds rich location-based context into the interaction.

Your customers are more capable, more social and more vocal than ever. And they have daily exposure to innovative businesses that have embraced emerging channels and new technology. So they know what’s possible and they know they have choices. Organizations must move now to provide consistent, complete and contextual customer service to win in the age of the customer.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image cropped from original by  Mr Wabu