While there is a movement to self-service and digital support through chat, companies need the third leg of the stool — phone support to provide excellent customer service.

Customers don't differentiate between different support channels when they seek help — they are only concerned with the brand. If their initial digital experience is poor, even if a subsequent conversation with a contact center representative is great, it still impacts their overall satisfaction with the brand. It's important to have a seamless integration of customer support channels to provide the best experience for the customer.

Below are some ideas for the best ways to combine and strengthen support channels.

Map Customer Journeys to Understand Your Customers

Providing excellent customer service is essential in the travel industry where a large portion of the booking process is digital, and customers expect fast and efficient responses, said Jared Bachman, Fox World Travel director of travel technology. “We’ve found success by meeting our customers where they are.”

Start by mapping the customer journey to understand when and how they interact with your product, Bachman recommended. Being available when customers need you and communicating using their preferred channels provides a best-in-class user experience.

Fox World Travel utilizes an online booking tool that enables travelers to maintain a travel profile and book travel themselves, Bachman added. “Our platform integrates a live chat option with prompts at critical checkpoints to connect customers with our support team throughout their entire experience — beginning from their profile, through their flight search, rental car search, hotel search and booking.”

If customers prefer assistance with booking, our live chat platform connects them directly to one of our expert travel advisers, Bachman said. “While we offer phone support, we find that our customers interact with us much more through chat, and customers who opted to book for themselves, instead of calling us, prefer to keep the interaction entirely online.”

Related Article: Using Customer Journey Maps and Jobs to Be Done for a Better Customer Experience

Offer Push Notifications to Help Customers

Fox World Travel also offers a mobile application for our business travelers to provide day-of-travel guidance; the company pushes important information like flight delays, without travelers having to request it, Bachman said. “Knowing that travel disruptions are possible at this stage of the traveler journey, we offer click-to-call or chat options to connect directly with one of our agents, who are equipped to help the traveler navigate these circumstances. Travelers in a busy airport want the option to call or chat immediately.”

Resolve the Customer Identity for Better Customer Support

An important step in offering comprehensive, unified customer support via the different channels is to resolve the customer identity. 

Organizations are now faced with the challenge of making important business choices based on the behavior of large cohorts within a single channel. Integrating self-service with a contact center allows for a more complete understanding of a customer's journey, as it creates a resolved identity. 

Learning Opportunities

This helps to create an optimal journey for the customer, by identifying similarities with other customers. This results in a smoother customer experience and the ability to forecast outcomes, estimate customer lifetime value and predict customer churn.

Related Article: How to Improve the Call Center Customer Experience

Include Self-Service ‘Extras’ for Engaged Customers

While a large percentage of companies today offer basic self-service, for the best customer service, companies need to offer a robust self-service option, according to Deven Lindemann, Datasite chief customer success officer.

“Many customers are accustomed to searching for information — and service — digitally,” Lindemann said. “Most prefer resolving queries and problems themselves through self-service via a digital assistant, QR code or other resource. That’s why we’ve recently expanded our customer portal to include resources to help our customers solve problems, such as scheduling custom training sessions, accessing virtual data room best practices or reviewing billing information.”

If the goal is to keep customers engaged in a digital support channel, make sure to closely monitor and measure your first-contact resolution and repeat-contact rates, which directly impacts NPS, CSAT and CX scores, added John E. Thompson, Ibex head of sales. “It’s also critical to build a library of tutorials, “how-to” articles, interactive knowledge bases and other helpful tools to enable your agents to provide one-time resolution. These tools can also be shared with customers during interactions to help them become more self-sufficient over time.”

Final Thoughts on Combining Customer Support Offerings

The current trend is toward digital self-service, with companies such as Frontier Airlines eliminating phone support entirely, and others not offering it, or making it very difficult to use, with complex or confusing IVR trees, excessively long hold times (some, but not all, offer to call you back when an agent is available) or a combination of the two.

Offering tutorials and good chat systems can help with digital self-service, but telephone support is still needed for those issues that self-service or chat can’t resolve for a company to truly offer world-class customer service.