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Will YouTube replace the call centre?

The multi-channel customer journey is a topic close to my heart, so I was interested to see new research claiming that 77% of UK consumers would prefer to visit YouTube to find out how to resolve an issue, rather than contact the company concerned.

The popularity of video channels doesn't surprise me. But, while it makes a good headline, I think it is a big leap of logic to assume that YouTube could replace the contact centre. On the contrary I think there is a real danger that YouTube and other self-service channels could generate higher email, phone and chat volumes for the contact centre. And potentially higher levels of customer frustration.

Don’t get me wrong; I am convinced there is a place for video in most multi-channel strategies. But the video content and the medium must be appropriate for the customer’s specific need.

In a former life I worked at a call centre that handled a major smart phone launch. We decided that a YouTube video would help deflect the huge call volumes we anticipated from consumers looking for help to set-up their shiny new phone. In fact, just over 500 customers watched the video, even though it was heavily promoted.

A one size fits all’ approach won’t work.

The fact is that – like many other customer service scenarios - setting up a new phone is very personal and most customers want the dedicated attention of a trained and helpful customer service agent to help them. Our YouTube strategy failed because we didn’t realise just how individual the needs of each customer were. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to video just didn’t work.

The customers’ need, whilst easy to generalise at a high level, can actually be very specific on a case-by-case basis; each customer’s starting point differs, their confidence and competence varies, as does the means by which their need is fulfilled.

The underlying issue with video self-service can be compared to entering a library to find the answer, without knowing which section the given subject is classified under. It can be almost impossible to find the precise answer you need and when you do find what looks like the right content, how can you tell if it contains the information you need. Is it fact or fiction?

This doesn’t mean I’m against video as a self-service channel. I’m just advocating that organisations put proper thought into how they use it within their overall customer service strategy. By all means consider setting up a YouTube channel, but I don’t see it replacing your contact centre agents yet.

In fact, it’s much more likely that video will be a useful tool to help your customer service agents resolve customer enquiries in a timely and satisfying fashion. And I would add the proviso that it’s important to consider how your video content can meet the needs of well-defined customer groups, and the instances of when its use would be applicable, or you’ll end up with even longer queues of frustrated consumers lining up to speak to your agents, not to mention some rather lovely but under-utilised videos.

To find out more about the findings of our multichannel research, read the full Multichannel Maze Report.