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If you start with the right approach and the right technology, it’s easy to create an efficient and effective omnichannel service experience which boosts customer satisfaction and reduces costs.

Part of our Omnichannel ITSM series.

What is Omnichannel ITSM?

Omnichannel ITSM means providing IT customers with a range of ways to interact with the service desk—options which let them choose the channel of their choice to fit with their current working context.

Omnichannel is different from multichannel in that it provides IT customers with a seamless cross-channel experience and gives the service desk a 360-degree view of the customer (with no out-of-band blind spots).

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel ITSM?

Shifting to an Outside-In Mindset

These days, few service desks rely solely on phone and email channels to interact with customers. A number of industry surveys consistently suggest that over 80% of service desks have a web/mobile self-service portal. And service desk chatbot adoption is now over 25% and growing. New digital support channels are getting real traction.

However, it is often the case that digital channels are deployed primarily for the benefits that they can deliver for the service desk (reduced workload, reduced cost, reduced stress) over the benefits they create for IT customers (faster service, improved productivity, better customer experience).

This is the crux of where omnichannel differs from multichannel. Multichannel simply means many channels. Omnichannel means integrating all expected channels to provide a seamless experience for the IT customer. They can use web, mobile, phone, and chatbot channels across the lifecycle of an incident or service request. The customer journey is their journey. They decide how they interact—and this is a key point.

For a service desk to excel at omnichannel ITSM, it must look at the experience from the customer’s perspective—with an outside-in mindset. Doing so requires direct engagement with IT customers to understand their personal preferences, their work contexts (home, office, factory, mobile, blended), their consumer-life service expectations, and their habits.

When a service desk understands its customers, it can form an omnichannel strategy which targets the real needs of its customers (not the perceived needs).

RELATED: Omnichannel Service Desk Strategy: 3 Things You need to Know

Journey Mapping

To really understand what your support customer journeys look like (and should look like), it is wise to do some journey mapping. Journey mapping means examining service experiences at the macro level to identify each end-to-end step in the experience—no matter how small (or seemingly insignificant). By doing this, you can find out where improvements need to be made and where new channels (digital or analog) can be woven into the experience to make it better for the customer. Digital is scaleable, but digital channels aren’t always the solution. Sometimes, one-to-one support is absolutely necessary.

Part of the journey mapping process is deciding what IT customers should and shouldn’t see. They generally don’t want total visibility of everything that is happening ‘under the hood’, but they do want updates on progress (especially if the outcome they want can’t be delivered immediately). And they definitely want to know if they are not going to get what they need within the expected timescale. Visibility lets them plan around the roadblocks.

How to Make Omnichannel ITSM Work - customer journey mapping

ITIL 4 provides guidance on how to map customer journeys

The real value in journey mapping is putting the service desk in the customer’s shoes. To be fully effective, the service desk must develop a sort of split personality. A service desk must understand the duality of the situation: the customer perspective (what they want, what they see, what they get) and the service desk perspective (what happens behind the scenes and when they need to engage with the customer).

RELATED: How Omnichannel ITSM Improves Quality, Cost, and Speed

Toolset sprawl

To manage and track the end-to-end customer journey you must have visibility across all of it—all interactions, no matter which channel they happen across.

You cannot have a situation where a previous interaction with a customer in invisible to a service desk agent because it happened over a channel which isn’t integrated into the central service desk/ITSM system.

Seamless omnichannel ITSM requires either tight integration between multiple  channel solutions or use of a unified ITSM solution which consolidates all of these channels out-of-the-box and provides complete cross-channel visibility by default. Integration between individual point solutions can amplify implementation and maintenance overheads versus a consolidated omnichannel ITSM platform which gives you all of them out-of-the-box.

Communication is Important

You have to be clear about how customers can interact with the service desk. Simplicity is the key. One number. One portal. One mobile app. You can also offer direct integration into your organizations enterprise collaboration system (like MS Teams) so that customers don’t even need to leave the environment in which they work to raise issues and request services. Whichever channels you offer, customers need to know what they are and how they access them.

Pro-active communication is essential. The ITIL 4 Service Value Chain includes Engagement as a primary activity type, encouraging more (and better) communication between the service desk and the customer group.

What Does "Value" Really Mean? - service value stream

Communicate the options to them. Remind them, frequently. Promote the mobile support app. Tell them about the sort of things that your chatbot can do for them. Remind them that if they have a show-stopper problem they should always call the service desk and speak to an agent.

When many channels are available, demand is spread across channels, relieving the phone channel bottleneck—and ensuring a human being is always there when they really need one.

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