A great response to a question posed in the Linkedin Public Sector Customer Services & Contact Centre Community in response to a request for examples of where Public Sector organisations had incentivised channel shift

An interesting topic – not wishing to be provocative for the sake of it, but your question raises in my mind another question – why would we want to incentivise channel shift?

In my experience, channel shift works when the addition of digital channels meets a palpable customer need that cannot be fully met by the existing traditional channels.

My suggestion is the ideal situation is that the customers “pull” value from the organisation through the channels THEY want to use. In today’s climate, it just so happens that a lot of customers want to use digital channels such as Facebook, Twitter etc.

What I’ve observed is that if you offer these channels, and the quality of service of the channels is sufficiently high, customers will automatically migrate to them WITHOUT the need for incentives.

Yes, you need to market and raise awareness of the availability of the new channels, but no incentives should be necessary.

If you try to incentivise a customer to move to a channel they don’t want to use, or through which you don’t provide a quality service by their standards, you will achieve three things:

  1. Hack them off!
  2. Send a strong message to them that the channel you want them to use doesn’t fit their needs and make them more likely to continue to use their preferred channel
  3. Drive your costs up as the customer trys to pull value from your organisation in a situation they’re not comfortable with, likely resulting from repeat contact and complaints.

Look at the trends in the world today and in the future (at the moment it’s Facebook and Twitter, but in the future it may be Google + and apps) and have a presence in those channels.

Tell customers what you’re doing and allow the migration to happen organically, according to what the customer needs. You will then have customers using digital channels who are:

  1. Happy with the quality of service they get
  2. Engaged and likely to generate positive word-of-mouth referrals to other customers, increasing take-up
  3. Advocates for your organisation

We should be concentrating on understanding our customer’s needs and reacting accordingly, not pushing them to behave in a way that suits our organisations.

This post was submitted by John Hacket, ex Local Authority Customer Services & Business Improvement Manager and now Managing Director of Franklin Hackett, an Organisational Change consultancy