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Gartner: Rethink Channel Strategy to Boost CX

October 4, 2021

Despite heavy investments in digital channels and capabilities, customer service and support leaders are still clinging to five main myths about what customers want and how they behave today, according to Gartner. To make better investments for a digitally dominant future, service leaders must understand these myths, their root cause and the corresponding realities in order to effectively provide customers with great experiences and build long-term loyalty.

“In recent years, service leaders have accelerated investment in digital channels and capabilities to offer customers a better service experience at a lower cost to the organization,” said Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president advisor in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “However, as channel offerings evolve, so too do customers' use of those channels. As a result, service organizations must keep up with customer behavior trends to better inform their future channel strategy.”

Myth 1: Customers will readily adopt digital channels if provided and promoted

Self-service frequently offers the quickest path to resolution for many customer issues, so leaders often assume that if self-service is available and promoted, customers will consistently choose to use it. However, customers often revert to assisted channels used in the past, leading to avoidance and abandonment of self-service.

Gartner research shows that many customers begin their service journey online, presenting an opportunity to redirect customers into digital channels like self-service. To reduce assisted service contact volume, service organizations should use SEO to redirect customers to organization-owned service pages featuring self-service capabilities.

Myth 2: Channel switching leads to poor customer experience and customer disloyalty

The belief is that with every channel switch, customers must invest more time and effort, which will ultimately result in frustration, lower retention, and negative word of mouth. However, customers don’t mind switching channels as long as their issue is resolved in one, continuous interaction.

Leading service organizations deliberately orchestrate customer journeys by guiding customers to the best-fit channel for their issues. When a channel switch or transfer is necessary, these organizations ensure that customers’ journey context is also transferred, accelerating resolution time and reducing the likelihood of a customer abandoning or requiring a separate interaction.

Myth 3: Great service experiences make customers want to do more business with the organization in the future

Most service organizations assume that if a customer is highly satisfied by the service they receive and their journey was easy, they will want to remain a customer and choose to do more business with the organization in the future. But this is not always the case.

While a good service interaction may prevent customers from leaving, it is not enough to retain them. Gartner research indicates customers ultimately display loyalty to the company’s product or service offering, not the service experience itself. As a result, organizations should focus more on how to help customers derive more value from the product or service offering.

Myth 4: Proactive service eliminates the need to contact customer service, reducing call volume

Many service organizations deploy proactive service to help anticipate and resolve a customer issue before the customer even knows they have a problem. Service organizations believe they can head off unnecessary contacts, eliminating hassle for customers. In theory, this strategy is sound, but in practice, proactive outreach has the exact opposite effect on customer behavior.

“While proactive service does not consistently reduce contact volume and cost, it does improve customer experience outcomes,” said Adamson. “Proactive service is an effective strategy for improving customer loyalty, but service organizations will need to better integrate proactive service in their broader service channel strategy to manage costs.

Myth 5: Customers seek out and trust customer service channels and information above all else

When problems arise, service leaders assume customers will instinctively reach out to customer service. However, a majority of customers view contacting customer service as the last resort. This is especially the case with millennials and Gen Z customers who increasingly turn to third-party sites to resolve their issues. Service leaders should account for the use of search and third-party channels when developing channel strategies.

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