Multichannel v. Multimodal

It was just a few years ago that “multi-channel” became the buzzword of customer service executives around the world.  They proudly boasted of introducing a range of new channel options to customers, from social media service and web chat to two-way SMS, video and mobile self-service.  Customers could now pick and choose their “preferred channel”.

But the game has changed again, and the new term on everyone’s lips is “multimodal”.  This refers to a growing trend for customers to use multiple channels simultaneously – for example, live chatting while web browsing, or dealing with a flight cancellation on the phone while writing a grumpy post on social media….  It’s no longer about which individual channel is best for a particular customer, but which combination of channels are the most appropriate to deliver the most satisfying service experience – in a given context. 

Multimodal in Motion

Context is indeed key.  Let’s take the case of a businessman in a taxi who receives an SMS that his flight has been cancelled, inviting him to tap to call to reschedule.  He calls the airline and the contact centre agent emails him a link to alternate flight options which he views on the browser on his tablet, while advising the agent of his selection.  The flight agent is incredibly helpful, offering him free access to the Platinum lounge for the inconvenience, and while she sets up his reservation, he posts on Twitter, “love the service from Skye at Sky Airlines!”  What is noteworthy is that not one or even two of the channels used here could have achieved the same positive customer experience as the collective use of all five channels. Each channel has unique attributes, which were leveraged at different points in the customer journey – consecutively and simultaneously – to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The result: a customer irate that his flight was cancelled was turned into an advocate on social media.

This example of concurrent channel use will become more common, as companies embrace multimodal technology and train and empower their agents to take advantage of the possibilities which this technology offers.  

Multimodal Metrics

Many contact centres have already moved away from quantitative metrics, such as average handle time (AHT), to experiential metrics, such as Customer Effort and Net Promoter Score, or NPS (click for information on NPS tips and traps).

These metrics are better suited to multimodal customer service, which value the outcome of the entire transaction from the customer’s perspective.  However as approaches to customer service evolve, so too do new metrics. It would not be surprising to see innovation in this area in the near future.

In conclusion, multimodal gives both those delivering and receiving service an opportunity to collaborate and personalise the customer journey with just the right channel mix.  As multimodal is in its infancy, companies who understand and exploit its potential quickly will acquire a competitive advantage.

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