The design of the iPhone, and now the iPad, has taken converging communication channels to a new level. With fantastic usability, simplicity and capability to do e-mails, make calls, update social networking sites, display the newspapers or show TV on the iPlayer consumers have the opportunity to do what pundits said they never would; leaning back to watch TV and leaning forward to work on the PC.
Dealing with channel multiplicity is never straightforward. If it was, consumers wouldn’t still be complaining about the lack of integration, years after offline and online services have been in place. It’s becoming clear that organisations are mostly struggling or stuck on the challenge of fragmented channels to deliver sales and service, rather than having all their problems solved by converging devices.
In addition to the store, the phone, letters and internet self-service, organisations are having to come to grips with social networking sites and webchat. Whatever the channel, there are complexities. With webchat, there are many webchat formats. With the internet self-service there are searches, FAQs, forms and videos. With phone calls there are touch-tone IVR, voice recognition, voice self-service and offshoring.
The attraction with internet and voice self-service has always been the need for customers to provide information in a standardised format to enable the query to be automated. But many of the new channel applications such as Twitter and webchat are unstructured: people provide information however they want. For organisations this means automation is not possible and costly human intervention required.
We should be talking more about fragmenting channel applications, rather than just channels. There will be more variations of the phone, internet, mobile and high street channels. In retail, augmented reality and location based services are now being oferred for mobiles. In TV, 3D will offer opportunities for different and new communication for brands. With technology moving on a pace, more channel applications will be coming along soon. An key question for all organisations is where to target channel resources?