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In the recent past we’ve heard plenty about the importance of 'creating a consistent customer experience across multiple channels'.
While that phrase is horrendously buzz-wordy, it’s still undeniably important.
Multiscreen, multi-device customers check and compare prices in store, buy online and talk about their purchases via social media, so making sure each touchpoint effectively serves the user is essential.
But... what happens if a customer only wants to use one channel?
This may seem like an odd question.
We’ve all been spending a lot of time trying to unify everything for the multichannel audience, but as we attempt to bring everything together, we sometimes forget that occasionally one channel is enough.
Let me show you what I mean...
Recently, I’ve been having trouble with my phone. I‘ve currently got an old iPhone 4, so I’m well past due for an upgrade.
Over the past week or so my handset has been refusing to connect to the power cable properly, so i thought it was high time I sorted things out and got a new one.
First things first, I visited EE’s website. I wanted to double check my contract to see if I was due a new handset yet.
Here’s the landing page...
So far, so good.
Although it’s a little cluttered with options, there’s some nice plain English copy at work and it doesn’t take long to spot the Orange logo and click through.
Here’s where things start to go awry:
I’m asked to enter a user name and password.
- Do I have a username?
- What format might it take?
- Have I even signed up?
I'm generally forgetful about these things, so my assumption is that I've probably signed up at some point in the past, but not recalling, I decide to click the ‘Forgotten your username’ option.
This prompts me to highlight my user plan first:
Fair enough, but when I do...
It removes the option to recover my username.
So I’m stuck.
Now, I also don’t know my password, but no problem, I hit the ‘recover my password’ option and I’m told to... enter my username:
Here, finally, is a list telling me what format usernames take for various services.
I hit it and finally I’m told that my username is in fact... my phone number:
Why on Earth couldn’t these options be displayed on the original log-in page?
So, now I just need a new password. I enter my details and fill out the captcha.
And then I do it again.
After a monumental 14 attempts I’m finally moved along to the ‘Authentication’ screen. The site also suffers from some astoundingly slow load times, adding to the frustration.
Finally I’m in!
I can check to see if I’m due a new phone, pay my bills, and use all the other wonderful services on offer.
Except I can’t actually do most of those things, because I don’t have ‘full access’ to my account.
In order to actually do anything other than see how much money I owe EE, I have to enter my account number. Which is different from my username:
Apparently I can find this on my bill, or welcome letter.
Remember paper bills? They used to happen in the 20th century. Apparently they still do.
Am I a weirdo for not retaining my phone company welcome letter and carrying it with me at all times? “In the event of my death I would like my phone charger to be responsibly recycled”
Let the user choose their channel
When I went through all this, a couple of friends advised me to do this, but this is missing the point.
I don’t want to call.
I could of course, and, after choosing from 15 options, wait twenty minutes to speak to a human.
If I wanted to do this, I’d have phoned in the first place.
I chose very specifically to interact with the company through its website, and I was hampered at every single stage of the journey.
What happens if I was getting in touch because the phone wouldn’t work? I’d then be forced to head into town and find an EE store.
I’m singling EE out here because this occurred recently, but it’s hardly the first example I’ve seen. Trying to access Barclay’s without a Pin Sentry machine is all but impossible (without first setting up an online login procedure that’s helpfully hidden under fifteen dropdown options).
The point is that EE are supposed to be a communications company, so they should be at the top of the multichannel pile, offering well planned accessibility to all services across all platforms.
But most importantly, good multichannel service isn’t just about allowing a customer to hop between channels, it’s about allowing them to carry out their tasks in full, with as little friction as possible, on the channel of their choice.
A big part of my job is allowing users choice and relaying communications. If you have a service issue, you don’t have to call, you can tweet, or email or ask us on Facebook as well. Yes you can use all of the above, but companies should never force the user to use a channel they haven’t specifically chosen.
If you can’t run a channel effectively, then you shouldn’t be present there. In the rush to offer multichannel services, it’s more important than ever that we take time to do each one correctly first.