So a customer phones customer service because they’ve got an issue. Just before they’re put on hold and the endless music loop starts, they’re told their call may be recorded “for training purposes.” And, as time ticks by and their frustration mounts, they’d be forgiven for wondering – does the business ever learn anything from this “training” they speak about?

Of course, if you’re responsible for customer service, you’ll likely view the above with just a little frustration yourself. Don’t we realise just how difficult it is to deliver greater service? Have we any idea of the costs involved? Don’t we understand how complex and fragmented it’s all become?

Believe us – we hear you. We understand, we really do. The problem is: on the whole, your customers don’t. If they fail to get the service they want, they’ll vote with their feet, their mouse and their wallet. And the buck? Well, you know where that stops.

Most people managing CRM and customer service tools today know it can be done better. Despite increased customer expectations. Despite the explosion in contact channels. And despite legacy silos that make delivering joined-up service a challenge to say the least.

Best-in-class multi-channel customer service operations are helping retain business and grow profits. But how do you get from where you are right now to where you and your customers want you to be?

In our experience, there are five critical steps. You can read about them in more detail by downloading our free guide: Multi-channel Customer Service  – Into The Bright Future. But to give you an overview…

1. Decide what kind of service organisation you want to be

The first step is to determine what success looks like – both for your specific business and against your customers’ expectations. Without this critical first step, you’ll lack the foundations you’ll need to keep your evolving operation on track. Once you know the future you’re aiming for, it’s a lot easier to begin planning a route forward.

2. Choose a CRM platform to support it

Chances are, your current customer service tools will only take you so far. So it’s likely you’ll need to at least augment what you already have to make multi-channel customer service a reality. This is a big topic in its own right but, at its core, we’d say that any platform you choose should be able to perform a number of key tasks (from offering a single view of the customer and creating self-service communities through to delivering easy-to-understand analytics and full mobile access – check out the ebook for the full list).

3. Map the cultural and organisational change

Of course, getting the technology and processes right is one thing, but getting the cultural change nailed is arguably just as important. Moving to multi-channel customer service will impact multiple departments and a wide range of people. You may have to retrain some and hire others. And the entire working environment may need to evolve. It’s critical you are prepared for what this could mean and have a plan in place to tackle it.

4. Create the business case and get buy-in (from everyone)

Developing a successful multi-channel operation will take time and money (though not as much as some fear). You will need to ensure the right people are on board and you can clearly articulate what the change will mean for the business (as well as the costs of inactivity). For example, in our own research, customers tell us that, on average, they see a 28% increase in customer retention. It’s important that key stakeholders understand the very tangible benefits.

5. Make the switch to multi-channel CRM

Once the first four steps are completed, you’ll be ready to implement the plan and begin seeing the benefits. There will, of course, be a transitional period (Rome wasn’t built overnight). During this time, it’s important you focus on the big picture and keep the end-goal firmly in sight. You’ll need to be realistic about expectations and manage them carefully. And you’ll want to measure success so you can prove the effects of your new approach.

Today’s customers are changing rapidly. They’re simply not willing to put up with the levels of customer service that used to be the norm. They see examples of outstanding service all around them (their social networks are awash with examples). They’re also the first to tell those same networks when they get an experience that, in their opinion, just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Improving customer service is not eady and the challenge for today’s customer service operations is to be firmly in the former camp and rarely stray into the latter.

To learn more about detail about how you can deliver the customer service you’d like (and your customers demand), download our free, 12-page guide: Multi-channel Customer Service – Into The Bright Future.

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