Defining the Omnichannel Service Desk User Experience

The omnichannel movement is everywhere around us. In retail, it is leading to positive outcomes, according to IDC Real insights. As many as 35 percent of retail organizations taking an omnichannel approach saw an increase in average transaction size. Of these organizations, 10 percent experienced an increase in loyal customers' profitability. Thirty percent said they experienced higher lifetime value than those who shop using just one channel.

Retailers can experience these benefits because they understand customer behaviors, Forbes reports. The outcome is to drive customers to make purchases; reducing obstacles in the path to purchase, eliminating the time committed to buying, and even reducing the distance to the purchase location. Then these retailers target customers through promotions. In these events, retailers use omnichannel paths—software—to centrally manage product information, listings, inventory, and orders from vendors. Likewise, omnichannel allows these organizations to tighten supplier controls and optimize product inventory across numerous sales channels, ensuring appropriate stock and that channels are up to date with stock.

This approach reminds me of the Kanban board approach to tracking inventory. The Japanese word "kanban" translates to "sign" or "billboard." The kanban system was initially designed in manufacturing by the automaker Toyota to quickly start the process for replenishment of needed supplies. The kanban ordering system includes concepts of lean manufacturing. Kanban increased in popularity as Toyota employees embraced the technique to reduce costs and keep up with customer demand. Since, thousands of organizations have implemented kanban for continuous improvement, originally developed during the waning days of the Second World War.

Kanban is agile methodology emphasizing work processes, not teams, but encourages focusing on a singular item before moving onto the next issue. Working together helps teams visualize the task they're currently working on so they can finish quicker.

In the contact center, kanban columns represent various phases of a user's call. Calls assigned to a group appear in the "unprioritized" column. Service requests can be dragged and dropped through different columns until it reaches "closed." When the call moves through the multiple phases and columns, and the development team can then visualize the progress they are making.

Calls can be ranked vertically. If a request is more important than the others, the service management team drags it to the top of the column to "in progress." Because of these features, kanban is the ideal way to manage a team's workday. Kanban is used to identify where the bottlenecks are and which task is next.

In to a 2016 study, Deloitte found that digital experiences influence 56 cents of every dollar spent in physical stores. Imagine, then, how this might relate to your internal users on the helpdesk. Seamless omnichannel provides delivery of services across mobile apps, websites, social media, and the service desk. Doing so means service desks must break down silos between online and the physical service desk that meets users face-to-face. Chatbots, too, are becoming a significant channel to interface with the service desk, a strategy used effectively in the retail space, which is a proven model of success for omnichannel.

Omnichannel allows users to experience consistency over traditional channels and new, information-rich digital channels. Users can then move from channel of engagement to channel of engagement while always progressing along the user journey. Omnichannel approaches mean a seamless journey of continuity, from the first touch to support and to the resolution of service and beyond.

In service management, service desk employees interact with internal customers (users) and can immediately reference the user's previous interactions with the service desk. The more channels organizations provide for users to connect with the service desk, the more likely they can address users' needs. Omnichannel approaches can include phone, email, web, walk up, live chat, and social media. Creating and maintaining omnichannel communication means defining actual user experiences that provide insight for what users encounter.

Omnichannel communication design

During the creation of omnichannel programs for service desk environments, consider these factors: Identify the users you must target with the services provided. Open communication channels for areas of the business for these users to determine how to serve them best; discover what matters most to them, and consider their most preferable communication channels.

When creating a foundation for user experiences, it's essential to place yourself in the user's shoes. Voice of the user surveys, call recordings, and feedback from users from previous calls can more precisely validate the current customer experience. When implementing an omnichannel environment, don't try to be all things to all people. There is no way you can meet everyone's expectations, and people are likely to suffer at some point in the journey.

Users don't think in terms of channels. They want answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. They want to reach the service desk through the channels provided for them. As people become more mobile, user expectations for support through multiple channels become even higher. A conversation might begin on Twitter and move to a text message or phone call, with relevant context preserved across all channels. When service desks leverage and integrate multiple channels, users can experience seamless interactions where they are most comfortable.

Before omnichannel approaches, service desk employees owned a specific communication channel. Some might have been trained to answer the phone while others to manage the chat and email functions. It was not likely for them to move across channels to support user needs. Think of a factory assembly line where each person on the assembly line does one specific task throughout his shift. In these cases, they focus on a singular goal in their particular channel of communication.

But channels are now blending. Service desk agents are broadening their base of responsibility. In omnichannel environments, service desk employees are no longer channel specialists trained to respond to specific tasks. Now they own the entire customer relationship because all of a user's information is immediately available for review. They can deliver a personal, customized, and rewarding experience. Now, service desk agents can follow users regardless of how many or which channels they use to interact with the service desk.

Omnichannel organizations provide more of an experience for their users, and service desk team members receive the full context of the user relationship in a single view. It's important to remember that it's difficult for your service desk to become omnichannel if you only focus on tickets and numbers. You must focus on understanding users and having real conversations with them. Instead, focus on the user and not the channel.

Hannah Price is a service management consultant at TOPdesk. She's also a public speaker, a contributor to a number of industry publications, and a service management expert.