05/22/2012 10:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is Your Customer Service Multichannel?

The Challenge: Just as businesses must provide customers with a wide variety of marketing channels to choose from, they must allow a choice of multiple service channels.

As we've discussed previously, multichannel marketing enables delivery of messages per an individual's media preferences. Some customers want to engage businesses on social media, others want to receive email, and significant percentages still prefer direct mail.

If you focus on a single channel at the expense of others, you're neglecting a significant portion of your customer base. The same holds true for customer service.


American Express has recently demonstrated the amazing value of high-quality phone service. Outstanding service leads to increased revenue and shareholder value. But not every business can enable 24/7 phone support, and not all customers want to engage on the phone.

Service operations shouldn't try getting customers off the phone as quickly as possible, but customers should have the option to handle issues without much engagement on their part. In those cases, the most popular alternative to phone support is email.

Live Chat
SMS text and online chat are a part of nearly all your customers' lives. Implementing Live Chat integrates this convenient customer option. Be sure your customer service team learns from the valuable Voice of Customer (VoC) data in the form of session logs.

Social Media
Regardless whether your business is on major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, your customers are -- and they're talking about you. Don't lose control of that conversation. Lead it.

Product Guides and F.A.Q.'s
Sometimes customers simply want to help themselves. For their sake, make sure that your online documentation is current and comprehensive.


Let Customers Prioritize Their Channel Preferences
Many businesses enable multichannel service, only to bury their phone number while placing a link to their F.A.Q.'s on every page. This should be the customer's decision, not yours. Give customers their choice of service channel by prominently displaying every option on every page of your site.

Enable 24/7 Customer Service
For many businesses, the marginal value of 24/7 phone support may be too low to justify the additional cost. But, customers should be able to engage your service team any time of the day -- even by just sending a question. Enabling multichannel service allows them to do so.

Be Clear and Accurate About Response Times
Effective call center operations include wait time estimates, a form of transparency that significantly reduces customer frustration. The same should be true of all your service channels: immediately send customers an automatic response from all channels, and include a clear and accurate statement of when they'll get an answer to their question.

Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.

Ernan was recently inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

2010-12-08-ernan.jpgErnan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.

His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.

Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."