I was reading a post by @JRagsdale the other day – Interaction Volume by Channel: The 2011 Outlook.

Traditionally, businesses have tried to, in the words of John Ragsdale – ‘move incident volumes from more expensive assisted support channels to less expensive assisted and unassisted channels’. In short, deflecting phone calls.

Further on in the post John goes on to write: “We’ve got to stop thinking of phone as the most important customer channel. I continue to hear members say, “If it is important, they will pick up the phone and call.” This is simply not true for younger demographics…”

And here lies the crux of the matter: times are changing.

The last few years has seen communication channels diversify and fragment. We have mobile phones, but we use them for texting, tweeting and emailing, not necessarily for calling. This proliferation of channels is not only changing behaviour, but also seeing new behaviours emerge. To what degree behaviour is linked to demographics, I don’t know, but I do know that an understanding of your customers’ demographics is becoming increasingly important.

The other thing is that people don’t replace one channel with another, they don’t stop using a channel when a new one is added into the mix. If you offer your customers ten ways to communicate with you, they’ll probably use all ten at some point, and they’ll use some more than others depending on what they are familiar with.

Traditionally companies have controlled the communication channels their customer use. But this is changing. Companies aren’t in control of all communication channels anymore. And in line with this change, companies need to recognise that the same rules and assumptions can’t be applied anymore. The telephone, reincarnated as a smartphone, is used in different ways.

For me, call deflection can no longer be the endgame. It’s about understanding the situation and its underlying drivers. It’s about understanding what channels are available to you. And then it’s about matching the two together. But it’s also appreciating that every interaction or customer experience now has too many permutations to control, and a company can’t be in control of everything. But what they can be in control of is their attitude to their customers.

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