a guest article by Sertan Kabadayi
With the advancement of technology and the proliferation of mobile devices, consumers interact with service providers through numerous channels every time they research a product or make a purchase. They can access any channel, at any time, from any place, using any device. As a result, with so many touch points to manage, unifying the customer experience in a multi-channel world has become essential to engaging, acquiring and retaining customers for service companies.
While it is critical to execute at every service touch point the challenge is to make sure that customers are not only able to use multiple channels, but also able to easily traverse them without any loss of data or quality of service. Unfortunately, data research and anecdotal evidence show that some companies may have missed opportunities to deliver a continuous, seamless experience because each channel operates independently with no or limited integration, resulting in poor design and major customer experience issues. Increasingly, customers complain about lack of integration and misunderstandings across service channels. Many cited inconsistent pricing and product information and the need to repeat the same information and problem across channels as among the top reasons for unsatisfactory multi-channel experiences. Moreover, this leads to overwhelmed employees and service agents, lost productivity, and frustrating and laborious experiences for customers, adding perceived insult to injury. In short, although various channels in a multi-channel system may be managed separately, optimizing each channel’s capabilities in a vacuum without coordination and connection with other channels is shortsighted. To successfully execute on the multi-channel platform, there must be integration and coordination across channels.
Recently multi-channel Integration quality has been identified as one of the major pillars of multi-channel service quality. This integration quality is achieved when customers receive a seamless service experience across multiple channels. In a well-integrated multi-channel strategy, consumers should be able to view the firm as a single entity with complementary distribution alternatives. Although there have been some studies on multi-channel integration, we need deeper understanding of how to maximize integration across channels to provide that seamless experience. For example, what are the drivers of such integration or disintegration? How can we measure them? Anecdotal evidence suggests that integration is critical for overall customer satisfaction. Is that the case? We need more empirical work to test that hypothesis. Given the importance for customer acquisition and retention for multi-channel service companies, more effort should be put into understanding multi-channel integration quality and its impact on the bottom line.