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A shift in thinking

Demand from consumers for instant information is fast increasing. Customers have no time for queues or being left endlessly (and on occasion, fruitlessly) on hold. Customers want immediate access to the information they are seeking. 

Brands must keep up with ever-evolving customer demands and provide real time interaction to meet changing consumer expectations. Brands failing to offer sufficient channels which provide real time interaction will lose out to savvy rivals quick to embrace innovative communication technologies. Channel shift is a buzzword fast becoming a viable business strategy for many organisations wanting to improve communications. 

At its purest, channel shift is when an organisation moves away from traditional resource reliant options such as telephone, face to face contact and letters and implements self-service automated options such as IVR systems and the use of mobile communications. By moving away from services that require staff to be involved to those which do not, you can free up much needed resource to focus on other business critical tasks and save costs in the process.

The single biggest shift happening in the world today is a move towards a more mobile centric approach to communicating with customers. Consumers are continuing to embrace the mobile web and by 2014, mobile internet access will reportedly overtake PC access. Online services designed for PC-only cannot take full advantage of mobile access, so this transition will require a strategic shift in approach to be able to leverage this key communications channel.

According to mobiThinking, globally there are six billion mobile subscribers, which is 87% of the world’s population. With more people using mobile telephones than landlines, coupled with a massive upturn in smartphone sales, evidence would suggest that there is a clear demand for information to be available on the move – anywhere, at anytime.

Integrating mobile into engagement strategies opens up a number of different communication avenues for businesses and customers alike. With 97% of text messages being opened immediately, SMS offers an immediate, personal and measurable communication channel. SMS also provides you with the opportunity to build a coherent data list, ensuring that your messages will always be delivered to a receptive audience.

An often forgotten attraction of creating new channels of communication with customers is the opportunity to save money. Moving elements of customer contact to efficient non-mediated channels has the potential to deliver significant cost savings for companies. For many services it also provides the benefit of removing the human being from one end of the process, which in turn reduces the cost of the service and also removes one source of possible error.

However, without a comprehensive channel strategy in place, many organisations may focus on switching their customer contact to the cheapest option without much thought to the relevance of this channel to their entire customer base. Channel strategy plays a key role in integrating new channels into the mix and repositioning existing channels to accommodate it. Lowering budgets requires emphasis to be placed on removing unnecessary cost without compromising service levels, and this empowers you to adopt a ‘more for less’ approach to strategy.

To achieve this approach, it is imperative that the method you implement is best suited to the customer to ensure that you are able to maintain customer service levels at the most cost effective price. You also need to ensure that you maintain a high level understanding of consumer technology behaviours and embrace these channels to leverage the growing preference to access services via the mobile channel and a growing demand to access services anytime, anywhere.

Introducing new channels of communication can only work if you support and promote it effectively from launch. Integration with existing channels to maximise the service provision is required to ensure maximum buy-in from customers.

Paramount to the success of any channel shift strategy is the internal buy-in from colleagues. Internal promotion of the new changes, such as training days or launch events will be effective in demonstrating the clear benefits it offers your customer. Communication should also ensure that internal teams thoroughly understand any new procedures or systems linked to the channel shift.

Examples of successful channel shift strategies

A well-known international bank was having serious resource issues with managing their fraud prevention activities. Their call centre agents were spending an average of 1.5 hours to resolve a single fraudulent issue, due to the amount of time an agent spent trying to get hold of a customer on the phone. By shifting their approach to a mobile communication based solution, the bank is now able to resolve issues in less than two minutes.

The solution works by combining SMS messaging with the bank’s customer database system and their call centre IVR system. The bank sends a text message to any registered customer who the banks database system believes has had fraudulent activity on their account. The customer is asked to confirm via return SMS whether a specific transaction is legitimate. If they reply positively, the bank simply authorises the transaction and informs the customer.

If the customer responds saying the transaction is fraudulent, the integrated mobile and voice solution sets up a ‘conference’ call between the mobile number of the customer and an agent at the bank’s call centre. The agent is provided with all of the relevant information regarding the transaction during the dial up stage of the call, allowing them to immediately start discussing with the customer how to resolve the problem.

Shane Leahy

Shane Leahy

Shane, 2012 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award finalist, has 16 years experience within the telecommunications industry with Stentor, Nevada, Energis and the Oxygen8 Group. Prior to this he was a professional rugby player with Munster. 

Joining the Oxygen8 Group in 2001 as CEO of Oxygen8 Ireland, Shane oversaw the rapid development of the business. In October 2006, Shane became CEO of the Group where he has diversified the business into three distinct divisions; Corporate solutions, Payment solutions, and O8Money (international mobile remittances).

Oxygen8 now has offices in London, Birmingham, Dublin, Johannasburg, Sydney, Manila, Nairobi, Barbados and California. Revenues for the financial year ended 31st of May 2012 are circa £90 million (UK Pounds).

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