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English articles, Top Tasks, Toptaken

There is no textbook for multi-channel customer tasks

Complex tasks may need more than a web visit to complete. They may require a telephone call to a help desk or a visit to an office, and more than one web visit.

Getting a building permission is typical. I’d probably find general information online on the website of my town or province. I may call then my town office to ask some specific questions, even make an appointment to see them. During these conversations, information may be put in the town computer server that I act upon later in an online session. I may indeed go back online to fill out more information later or to follow up on the status of my application. Then at some point, say with some complications on the land or with neighbours, I may have to go back to the town office. Etcetera.

Multi-channel, we call that. A gift list for a wedding or a birth may be set up in a shop and managed online. A person that wants to buy a present on that list may look at the list online, go to the shop to see and feel the product and alternativers, and then order online at home. The person who wants to give a present from the list may want to do everything online, but might want to see the thing in real in the shop and then confirm online, or vice-versa: confirm in the shop and add a personal note or something to it. The shop, by the way, doesn’t need to be one shop in one place, it can be a branch of a retail chain anywhere in the country.

For complex tasks, we do need to know how customers behave. What channel do they use for what part of the task? Is that the best channel? Can they perform the task there in the best efficient way?

There is no overall textbook for complex tasks. The first question the organisation should ask itself is whether it is prepared to shift complexity from the customer to the organisation. Making it easier for the customer adds complexity for the organisation. The complexity added probably cuts through departments and silos. Organisations usually don’t like that. But the reward can be high: happier returning customers and business goals better met.

About Toon Lowette

Customer is not king on the internet, he is dictator. Online services are successful if they allow the customer to do what he came for efficiently and without confusion. Toon Lowette is online publishing consultant in the Customer Carewords network of Gerry McGovern. Task management is the central issue. We teach websites to manage the task, not the content, not the technology. We teach websites to become relentlessly customer centric.

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