Consumers today want to connect with brands on the devices and channels that work best for them. When it comes to communicating, consumers have many options, from traditional channels like email and phone to modern channels like SMS and virtual assistants. Brands need to engage with customers on all channels in a way that is consistent and seamless. To do this, companies must move their contact centers and CX strategies from multichannel to omnichannel.
What is a multichannel contact center?
A multichannel contact center allows companies to communicate with customers on multiple channels (hence the name). Customers can choose how and where they engage with a business. Some people like to make a traditional phone call to customer service while others want to send an email or just instant chat. Each channel of a multichannel contact center works independently, however, which creates silos of data. Since data from one channel is not always shared with another, agents are unable to see a holistic view of the customer journey. Not all customer interactions are displayed on every channel. This can lead to a disjointed experience for both customers and agents; it’s the reason customers find themselves having to repeat basic information such as their name or password to multiple agents.
What is an omnichannel contact center?
While the term “omni” is defined as “all; of all things,” omnichannel doesn’t necessarily mean that the contact center platform includes every communication tool currently available. It does mean that all the communication channels featured in that platform are integrated, natively built to work together, and well-connected. There certainly are new communications platforms on the market with every channel and tool available. At its core, however, omnichannel functionality ensures that customer data is shared amongst all the included channels, and agents can see all previous interactions on each channel. With omnichannel, customers no longer will be repeating basic information. Share it once and all agents have access!
Maintaining context across channels is crucial.
When it comes to providing a great customer experience (CX), context is crucial. Data from each channel provides a piece of the context puzzle. Omnichannel means that all the communication channels work together so that the context of each interaction is not lost. And with access to data from all channels, agents can see all the points of a customer’s journey, which is essential to providing top-notch service. Agents can see nearly everything, like if a customer:
- Accessed the company website
- Chatted with an automated virtual assistant
- Chatted with an agent using live chat
- Sent an email or left a voicemail
- Previously spoke with an agent on the phone
- Shared a photo or a video related to the issue
These are just a few of the touch-points that a customer might take on their journey. An omnichannel solution ensures that experiences are seamless, regardless of the touch-points that were taken and when. It also ensures that context is maintained across all channels so that agents can get up to speed quickly and customers don’t have to repeat themselves.
Let’s look at an example of omnichannel customer experience.
An existing customer buys a laptop through the website of an online electronics retailer. A few months later, the customer accidentally drops the laptop and the screen cracks. The customer goes to the company website to find out what to do. A chatbot window pops up and gives the customer the retailer’s customer service number to inquire about repair options with a live agent. After dialing in, the customer is automatically routed to the correct department after a brief and painless interaction with a smart bot. The agent needs a photo of the broken screen to verify and record the issue, so the customer sends a photo using SMS to the agent, all while staying on the line.
The customer ships the laptop to the retailer for repairs using a prepaid label that was emailed by the agent before the call was concluded. After a week has elapsed, the customer emails the repair department to check the status of the laptop. Upsettingly, they reply that there is no record of the laptop arriving at the repair service yet, even though the mail tracking says it was delivered. Because the retailer uses an omnichannel contact center, the agent quickly sees the entire story regarding the laptop and opens an investigation immediately.
A day later, the customer calls phone support to check in again and speaks to a different agent. The new agent sees all the interactions with this customer -- from laptop purchase, the initial repair inquiry by phone, a prepaid return label sent via email, to the now lost laptop. The laptop is found, repaired, and this new agent communicates an expected delivery-by date. S/he even gives the customer a discount towards a future purchase for all the trouble.
Catch up with what customers demand.
Customer experiences don’t have to be terrible. It’s just what the majority of available technology allows for. With an omnichannel contact center, the retailer in this example was able to provide seamless, consistent, and improved customer support--even when an unexpected situation, like a lost laptop, arose.
It’s time for brands to catch up with what their customers need, want, and deserve -- they are in the driver’s seat now. The days of telling customers what their choices are are over. Now the opposite is true...they will tell you how you will do business with them. And if you can’t do it their way, then you won’t do it at all.