How to avoid the pitfalls of ‘Channel Shift’

Channel shift – the process of getting customers to use a different ‘channel’ with which they contact your organisation or business – is a major consideration when delivering great value for money.

Whether public or private sector, making sure your customers and citizens are engaging with you in the most efficient way is often a key driver – moving from face to face, to telephone or web-based interaction, for example.

For councils in particular, achieving channel shift is what their website is for; shifting customer contacts and transactions from the more expensive options (telephone, face to face contact, letters), to the less expensive options (self-service on the web, self-service through automatic voice recognition systems, and through the use of SMS on mobile phones).

There are a number of pitfalls to this process. We advocate using a SO Change approach to ensure you consider how to get social change (i.e. even if you have the best website in the world, people won’t just flock to it unless you do something to change customers’ behaviour), as well as organisation change – making sure you don’t shift any systematic inefficiencies at the same time, and placing the customers’ experience at the heart of it.

Here are our top tips on avoiding these pitfalls:

  1. Understand the demands you want to shift, and those you want to turn off completely. Gather data to ensure changes are based on knowledge and the impact of changes can be measured.
  2. From a customer insight perspective, understand why people choose the contact channel they do. Look at demand, customer base and how they feel about their experience, the service they receive, responses to demand and measure of performance in customer terms.
  3. Understand the importance of end-to-end cost, not just the transactional cost of the contact. Don’t assume that a cheap ‘front door’ is the best option, when the whole transaction might require considerable additional time and expense to process internally.
  4. Test the user experience of new and existing channels – what works and what doesn’t. If you know communities are not using a channel but can prove getting them to do so is the best option for all, understand the competitive factors that stop them, and explore what can persuade them to change – what is in it for them?
  5. Measure the effect of changes on the things that matter to customers, as well as changes made on demand and cost. Be brave, experiment to test and prove concepts. Start a cycle to continuously improve.


Download a pdf version here


 If you need help with Channel Shift programmes, contact us to find out about using a So Change approach on 0845 5193 423 or

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