Monday, March 16, 2015

Serious About Channel Shift?

The whole topic of Channel Shift is something that is being discussed in most businesses. Yet very few organisations I speak with actually have a documented strategy of how this shift will be realised.

Firstly, what do I mean by the term?
In my opinion... Channel Shift is the managed process of migrating customers to self-service channels (typically digital ones) to reduce cost and increase availability of service.

Reduced cost:
Back a few decades, it was humans that were cheap and computers that were expensive. Now, computers (or more specifically: computing power) is cheap compared to the cost of a person. Using self-service functionality via websites and mobile applications has a much lower cost-to-serve than a trained person, even a lower paid one in an off-shore outsourced contact center.

Increased availability:
The web never sleeps and your customers expect that they can now access your site at a time that suits them, not your company. Whereas a decade or so ago you may have had a telephone line staffed to deal with purchases, amends and refunds... not most of this functionality has now moved to a 24/7 online presence. In fact, as far as seasonal eCommerce goes, some of the most high volume times are public holidays (e.g. Black Friday and Christmas & Boxing Day) - days when most staff are either on holiday or otherwise unavailable.

So if your organisation is serious about Channel Shift, what should it do?

The first thing, as I mentioned in my opening paragraph is to have a written strategy. This needs to clearly document:
  1. Who are your user & customers?
    Think you know who your customers are? Think you know what motivates them to engage with your organisation and purchase from it? Think all your customers are the same and have the same needs? Think again! 
  2. What are the user tasks your want to move to lower cost channels?
    It may be easy to say "all of them", but in reality this may be either too much to do at once, or there may be business rules & restrictions that stop you from doing this. It may therefore by better to prioritise and understand the dependencies between these tasks first.
  3. What channels do your customers use?
    This may not be as simple as you think. Different customers may use a specific mix of channels to: build awareness, inform & educate themselves, transact and then carry out subsequent self-service tasks. 
  4. What are your actual current cost-to-serve figures?
    For example, what does it actually cost to serve your customers via each of your channels
This is the easy part... once you have this, the hard part is then working out what you want these customers to do in the future and what channels you actually can manage them to.

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