The Multichannel Multiplier

While they may not have witches sending flying monkeys after them, your customers’ paths to interact with you are far more complex than the simple directions Dorothy received in the Wizard of Oz. The only direction Dorothy needed was to, “Follow the yellow brick road.” By traversing between channels, your customer may take any one of hundreds of different paths to do business with you. Customers now routinely use three or more channels to complete a transaction.

If I want to buy something I may do some research on the web, lob in a phone call to the contact center with some questions, and eventually drop into a store to make my purchase. My son might look online, maybe tweet a question to some friends, and ultimately buy based on a chat with an agent on your website.  It’s not the number of channels that makes life complex for those of us interested in providing a good customer experience, it’s the fact that different customers can take different paths; it becomes very hard to predict when someone will use which channel.

Calculating Multiple Paths
We have a lot of really smart people at Genesys. One of them, Don Huovinen, got to thinking about how adding channels to your customer interactions increases the number of potential paths that a customer interaction can take. He actually put some math to it to show just how quickly the complexity increases when you add channels. It all starts out pretty harmlessly, if I have one channel I have one path-if my only point of access is the telephone I can only make a phone call.  If you add a second channel, say email, I now have four paths I can take:

  • Phone only
  • Email only
  • Phone to email
  • Email to phone

Got it? Pretty straightforward but watch how quickly things accelerate:

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# of interaction channels Possible ways that a task can be completed 1 1 2 4 3 15 4 64 5 325 6 1956

Here is the math that underlies Don’s table:

  • Interaction options (paths)  – The number of possibilities is P(n,r) = n! / (n – r)! where n = number of total channels and r is the number of channels used in completing a task. Since some folks will only use one channel while others will use many, you need to sum them all up so it is sum of r = 1 to n. I didn’t consider tasks which used the same channel more than once.

OK, so the numbers get big fast and this all looks pretty scary. What can we do to understand the many paths our customers are taking? How can we influence them to take paths that are the most efficient for them? And how can we see these interactions as “conversations” that we can understand and manage. If we do this right, each of our customers can feel like they are walking on their own personal yellow brick road, without the lions, tigers, bears and witches and the like.

For information on how to treat interactions that span different channels we encourage checking out this white paper, Connecting the Dots: Proven Methodologies for Managing Customer Conversations across Channels.

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