Channel shift – a process by which organisations seek to encourage customers to access information and services via alternative channels to those they would normally choose– is a broad objective. You’ll need to make a business case for the digital opportunities you choose to progress, so the prioritisation phase of planning needs to be tackled carefully and thoroughly.
Step 1: Understand your customers’ needs
Don’t make decisions on what to tackle based on internal assumptions or processes. If you haven’t already, start by doing some persona work to profile the broad demographic. Producing semi-fictitious representations of your broad customer groups will help to define their key characteristics, needs, preferences and propensity to channel shift. From there, you can decide which projects will deliver the most value to them.
Bear in mind that different personas will react to different inducements and stimuli, which will impact the tactics you use to gain their buy-in, as well as the channels. Ideally, you want to be ‘pulling’ your customers towards new channels, not ‘pushing them.’ Which projects are going to be the easier wins from that perspective? Looking at your customers’ personas will help you to make an informed assessment of likely uptake and, therefore, savings.
Step 2: Define your goals
Putting your organisation’s overall strategic objectives at the heart of your approach to channel shift will help you to identify which aspects of the shift can add the most value. The challenges your organisation is facing, any specific channel shift targets set by the leadership team and their relationship to overarching business goals will all play a part in defining your goals. For instance, you may be seeking to:
- Save money
- Allow customers to access appropriate services online
- Drive customers away from higher-cost channels
- Improve service delivery and customer satisfaction
- Limited budget – look for the low-hanging fruit that involves less outlay
Rank your goals in order of importance to your organisation. These goals will become the guiding principles for your project, and will help to simplify decision-making, removing personal opinions and agendas from the equation.
Step 3: Identify the most appropriate initiatives
There are easily some 40 or more projects that fall under the banner of channel shift (our Channel Shift Survey splits these out in more detail; you can download it [here]). Having identified your goals and your customers’ needs, it’s time to match these up against the options available to you, being realistic about the level of complexity and resource involved versus the longer-term savings.
For instance, if saving money is top of your list, a project to digitise your paper records could make a significant difference, saving the physical space taken up by paper archives and allowing for the quicker retrieval of records, thereby reducing costs.
Consider the impact that a channel shift programme will have on your business model and the organisation as an entity. Channel shift also involves a shift in culture and mindset, so you need to ensure that you achieve internal buy-in from the very start. Some initiatives may be easier to ‘sell’ to your senior team and staff than others. Think too about the values of your organisation – it will help to align proposed projects with these.
You may find it helpful to plot potential projects on a channel shift complexity matrix or scattergraph, grading each project on the amount of contact usually instigated, both from your side and the customer’s. A high/high level of contact indicates a high level of complexity, while low/low contact suggests a transactional interaction that would be suited to channel shift.
Step 4: Crunch the numbers
Having done some topline analysis, next look at how much budget your shortlisted projects are likely to involve, and how much they’ll save.
Reduced costs will come from a lower level of telephone calls and face-to-face enquiries, and the biggest saving will come by reducing face-to-face contact. The cost of online interactions is fixed – once your systems are in place, the volume of increased contact has little to no cost. So while a customer-facing self-service portal might appear to be an expensive initiative, the removal of agent time normally consumed by routine tasks can make it a highly cost-effective solution.
Often budget is not a blocker – here, you should be looking for the highest value from the lowest effort rather than the initial cost.
Step 5: Soft goals
While you’ll have considered the main advantages and disadvantages of the options open to you, based on hard goals, don’t overlook taking soft goals into consideration – those without strict criteria attached to them. These might include building and enhancing relationships with staff and more esoteric objectives like managing energy, encouraging participation and staying curious. How can your channel shift program support these? Again, refer back to your organisational values as a sense check.
All of this groundwork will put you in the strongest possible position to gain that all-important buy-in of the senior leadership team.
If you’d like to read more about how to prepare for channel shift, you can download our e-book How to prioritise, action and measure your digital transformation programme.