Seven Tips for Multichannel Service Success

Providing successful online multichannel service and support is like hosting the world's biggest party. You have to be prepared—like Martha Stewart–prepared, only way more tech-savvy and always "on." For most brands, your online customer service offering will start out like an impromptu neighborhood potluck. But you'll quickly learn from guests what they value in terms of service and venue, and you'll use this feedback to improve. Here are seven tips from game publisher iWin and customer service software developer Parature on hosting a successful online customer service offering.

1. Position organizers at the door to keep things moving. When iWin first started out with its service offering, it was using what amounted to a glorified email system to answer all customer support requests—but that was before the rapid rise of social and mobile. The company quickly had to adapt, given the large number of players it hosted on its franchise titles and social platform games.

IWin had to find a way to ease the backup of customers who were asking for support or simply asking questions—and organize and route all these requests to keep things moving. An online customer service and support portal anchored by a rules-based ticketing system gave the company the means to efficiently organize and deliver service to a large number of guests while utilizing a small support staff. Providing a self-serve knowledge base at the entry point for service and support also helped with crowd control. The company effectively doubled its subscriber numbers while making only minor staffing adjustments.

2. Welcome everyone and make them feel comfortable. With social, iPhone, Android, downloadable, retail, Nintendo DS, and online multiplayer games, multichannel service and support is a huge deal for iWin. For iWin's customers, quickly getting their support questions answered and getting back to the game is the main goal. No matter what the industry, you have to empower customers with the ability to easily reach you through whichever channel is most convenient for them—that could be an online support site, Facebook, Twitter, or just about anything else.

One of the most important pieces of advice for providers is to make sure that if you offer a service channel, you maintain responsive service there. Not answering customers on email, online, or others channels that you offer is a huge turn-off—and will drive people to complain on social media and other public venues because they're having trouble contacting you. What others say on social media or review sites can have a huge effect on a brand's reputation.

3. Initiate a conversation. If you've developed a great product or service, customers and brand advocates will quickly become invested in it. Initiate communication and conversation, whether it's about a new product or service or a support alert. Proactively communicating with customers on the channels they use most will head off a lot of service and support questions, as well as comments and tweets from those constant complainers that can bring everyone down.

4. Invite others to join. Inviting and promoting customer conversations can be a fantastic tool if managed correctly. Customer questions and comments posted on social media and in forums can lead to new ideas and improvements. IWin's longtime customers, for example, often answer product and support questions, helping out the support department. Those referential authorities define iWin's various communities, and sometimes these gracious guests help to pick the proverbial napkins up off the floor.

In addition, customer comments or tweets can serve as the canary in the coal mine, alerting support staff and developers to problems as they arise and before they become an issue on a large scale. Even complaints, while sometimes difficult to hear, can be beneficial in helping to improve service.

As a good host, it's incredibly important for your company to remain interested listeners and positively participate and respond. It's all part of maintaining loyalty and overall satisfaction, which ultimately builds and shapes your reputation among your customers and industry peers.

5. Provide terrific service. The goals iWin has set for its support is that it be accessible and timely and provide information that is clearly stated, relevant, and thorough—and most importantly, empathetic and relatable. There should be no roped-off areas at the party in terms of providing service and support information that can benefit everyone.

When guests request individual attention, there are some general practices to follow. Acknowledging the request early and often is crucial to prevent multiple and increasingly hostile contacts. The server who makes eye contact and acknowledges customers' requests is far more effective at keeping a happy atmosphere at the fete than one who averts his eyes from guests until his shift is over. If we can't provide an immediate and thorough answer that solves a question or concern, maintaining personal contact throughout the support process at least lets our customers know that they aren't being given the cold shoulder.

Once direct contact is initiated, iWin implements a routing process that evaluates the user identity, the specific nature of the user's concern and its related dependencies, and conditionals for assignment, either to queue or agent. And while auto-responders are a great time saver for some issues, it is better to have a well-trained set of eyes validating any response sent. After all, a good host doesn't just shout out to the crowd that dinner is served. A good host employs a responsive catering staff with watchful eyes and a lot of tools tucked inside their jackets to handle unique situations.

Through constant monitoring of the brand's Facebook sites, iWin is able to keep them clear of any spam, offensive language, and combative users, while at the same time keeping users engaged and informed. A support tab on its Facebook page lets iWin automatically generate customer support tickets from social media posts based on keywords, and thereby quickly react to any issues that may arise.

6. Make sure everyone leaves happy. While not all guests are terribly polite, most are and just want to come and go quietly without telling you about their customer experience unless directly asked. IWin uses surveys to gauge individual and overall service and support on a dashboard level, polling on areas such as availability and quality of self-service information, ease of making contact with support, quality of support by issue type, user perception of response time, and the company's thoroughness in addressing concerns in a single pass.

7. Always be thinking about how you can make the next party even better. Customer service is a forward-leaning posture, with an emphasis on actively listening and responding to those guests who have chosen to attend our party. Positive word-of-mouth will keep guests coming back for more, inspiring you to continue to scale your business and give them exactly what they want.

Markus Taylor is the director of customer support at iWin. Ryan James is a community engagement expert at iWin. Duke Chung is chairman and cofounder of Parature.

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