There are so many channels. From the traditional phone channel to the growing mobile app and social media channels, consumers have many ways to interact with companies along an “omnichannel journey”. But when they make purchases, have questions, or have tasks to complete, most consumers start their journeys at one channel: the website. That’s part of the findings announced in the new [24]7 Customer Engagement Index, in which 3500 respondents were surveyed to better understand the omnichannel customer journey, from entry to completion. This insight is critically important for companies because channels at the beginning of the journey require different tools and capabilities than those channels at the end. Below are some highlights from the US segment of the survey.

Omnichannel Basics: Start at the Website

Despite the temptation for companies to focus elsewhere, the website represents the most pivotal touchpoint to engage, as that is where consumers start. Given this insight, “omnichannel basics” are to equip the website to handle self-service transactions, cover a broad range of questions and provide seamless escalation to assisted service should the customer require it.

For example, I’m going to London next week and want to check the price of an international data plan for my smartphone. I go to the question box (also known as a virtual agent) on my wireless provider’s site and ask about international data plans. Yes, they do have plans but I need to be connected with a chat agent who will tell me which plan will best suit my needs. Right on the site, the chat box appears and the agent already knows my question. That’s a seamless omnichannel journey from the website to the chat channel.

Omnichannel Basics: The Consumer Starts on the PC

Despite the presence of more than 330 million connected mobile devices in the United States, the personal computer (PC) is the device of choice to begin an omnichannel journey. This means that the ”website accessed by a PC” is the number one channel and device where companies can enable self-service and empower consumers to complete tasks themselves. Consumers are using smartphones and tablet devices but the survey results show that smartphone usage increases later in the omnichannel journey.

Painful But True: Three Channels is the New Normal

95% of consumers will use a third channel even after starting on a website. Why should it take three channels for a consumer to get something done? Companies need to provide robust self-service in the first channel and make it easy to get assistance and task completion in a second channel.

The Death of E-mail and the Rise of Chat in the Omnichannel Journey

Finally, it appears e-mail is on its way out as a viable channel in the omnichannel journey and chat is on the rise. For companies this means that escalation from self-service channels (website or mobile app) to assisted-service channel (chat or phone), requires new capabilities in a world of effortless customer engagement. Chat and voice agents must be equipped with knowledge and context to understand what the customer did in prior channels. They need tools to help consumers quickly complete tasks and provide a richer experience. Companies need to be prepared to use chat as a strategic channel for assisted service in the customer journey.

Learn more by downloading the infographic based on the new Customer Engagement Index.

This blog was originally posted on the [24]7 website.