A Service Management Approach to Omnichannel


In an omnichannel service environment, service desk leaders must be aware of the importance of discovering the preferred channels for users to receive service within the organization. And only then should they offer these service channels to the staff as employees in different departments – finance, sales, medical, development, etc. – will have varying expectations.

When we examine the different ways service desks offer support, we can group these strategies into three types: search, reach out, or user network. Currently, IT service desks offer channels of which the most familiar are phone, email, web request, walk up, auto logging, and live chat. Some organizations now offer social media and chatbot support, and some still offer support by fax.

However, many users prefer asking a co-worker while others seek a solution to their problem on the internet. What one should be aware of is that it is essential to find out what the preferred channels for receiving service within your organization then offer these service channels to the staff. People in finance, sales, medical, development, etc. all will have different expectations.

All of this for a simple reason. Employees within our organizations expect to be met, at least partially, where they “live and reside.” In so doing, service desks must be able to offer your employee teams a quality working experience by providing them with a great cultural and technological environment. When we decide to do so, our “customers” have these expectations that we will do so from any channel available, perhaps including voice, email, text, web portals or even social media channels.

Organizations are providing service on many of these channels, but these channels usually exist in silos, and managing these expectations and even the engagements herein can be quite cumbersome and even confusing. Ultimately, when taking on this approach, it’s really just taking a stance with an omnichannel process. So, what is omnichannel service management?

What is Omnichannel Service Management?

The answer might be in the question. Omnichannel service management, or multi-channel service management, is really just service management services that are provided across the many channels in which you’ve opened up for customers to communicate with your team. If your service desk currently allows for such communication and ticketing, you likely already have an omnichannel service desk.

This allows your colleagues to get the answers to their question or a solution to their problem. Communication lines are changing and opening up. No more do you only accept all requests via the phone. After the phone-alone model, we moved into answering questions via email. Then the communication model moved to incorporate chat and a secure portal.

As always, there are the walks ups. And now service desks allow for communications through social media platforms. Further innovations will probably change the way service desks communicate with their users even more.

History of Omnichannel

The history of omnichannel is fascinating. According to Forbes, the “real” omnichannel emerged from a term given it by business to consumer retailers, describing “the ability for customers to have a consistent experience over traditional channels and new, information-rich digital channels”.

It means that customers can move from channel to channel while always progressing along the customer journey. That means seamless journey continuity, from the first touch to checkout, support, returns and whatever else.

Now, for organizations, service channels have increased, and being reachable on more than one channel is a bare minimum. Much like a customer communicating with business, internal users expect their IT department to quickly answer email, pick up the phone, and respond to a conversation on Twitter or through Facebook.

When responding to or carrying these conversations across multiple platforms, this is known as a cross-channel conversation. In a traditional sense, this might mean a conversation for service begins with a walk in by a user who switches to email for a follow-up question. A call may follow.

Seamless Transition with Omnichannel Self-Service Solutions

While customer expectations for communicating through channels grow as they become more comfortable, they are likely going to wear down your support services if the approach remains siloed along with the information.

Omnichannel self-service solutions mean empowered users, who can receive support in one channel, and seamlessly transition to another. So, for perspective, a conversation that begins on Twitter or another social media channel can be moved to direct message or text and continued. Or it can be moved to a phone call with all of the relevant context preserved across channels. It’s worth noting that omnichannel approaches do not need to be implemented or supported by every possible channel. However, whatever support channels are selected and offered must be monitored and be responsive to queries or questions.

An omnichannel approach is particularly relevant in the mobile world as users carry on dialogs via text, voice, social and instant-messaging while having constant access to information. When organizations leverage and integrate these service management channels, each user can have a seamless experience from the device of their choosing.

Importance of Omnichannel for UX

Communication is only one part of the picture. Communicating on a single channel does not reflect the way users interact with the organization and how they expect you to assist them when they need assistance. An omnichannel environment means a user can move from one channel to another without completely losing the thread of the journey or the conversation.

If a user hangs up the phone, he should be able to reach out about the same issue over chat on a company’s homepage. All the information needs to be maintained for further interaction without having to start over in the communication process. However, while this might be great in a contextual approach, this still is not a true omnichannel.

Real omnichannel requires focusing on the user no matter what the channel. No matter where they contact you, the user journey must progress – no repeating and no steps backward. Each interaction must push the customer journey forward. A user can chat with an agent through a desktop machine then switch to text, or they can even pick up the phone and speak to the agent if need be.

Delivering a great experience raises users’ value and let’s answer support tickets as quickly as possible. The service desk agents usually own the user relationship, and through omnichannel mediums have the needed information to deliver a personal, high-touch and even a rewarding experience. Regardless of how many channels are available for users to interact with the service desk, the service desk must be able to respond to the business’ needs. Also, within true omnichannel organizations, the service desk teams are really evolving and becoming more and more user representatives and “experience associates.”

Highly Personalized, Direct Approaches Always Provide Value

Through a highly personalized, one-on-one approach using every available channel, organizations actually are able to streamline responses to needs and focus on reducing service times. Ultimately, this means providing more value for the user. Having a number of communication channels available for users to connect with the service desk can also lead to better “conversations” with users.

What all of this means is that omnichannel doesn’t just mean being present on more than one channel and allowing users to interact with the service desk however they want. That’s part of a full communication and engagement strategy.

However, one of the most obvious results is creating the ability for your service desk team to move between each channel seamlessly, during the same conversation and journey. Service desk representatives must then own the customer relationship to build value.

Omnichannel is more than responding to tickets. Instead, the focus should be on understanding and serving users and, therefore, engaging in real conversation with them to provide them with what they need. So, while an omnichannel approach offers a number of useful communication channels, this approach is the user and not the channel itself.

Enabling users to conduct business with the organization however they want and where they need is where the value of an omnichannel approach lies.