Providing Omnichannel Customer Support is No Longer Optional

Apr 13, 2021 9:54:57 AM

Omnichannel is a buzzword we’ve been hearing a lot about for years. What does it really mean? And why is it imperative that omnichannel becomes the norm when it comes to our customer service experiences?

Omnichannel is a must for customer service because customers are demanding it. Customers will use the most convenient communication method available to them at any given moment. They expect a high level of fluidity and flexibility and want their communications with businesses to feel as effortless as their personal ones.

How to get from here to there is the big question, however. Many companies are still struggling to deliver clear, consistent service across all channels that feels seamless to the customer (and the agents taking these interactions!). While some brands are great about connecting with customers via phone, some excel at email, and others at social media, it’s rare for a customer service team to provide excellent experiences across the board. That’s the goal though, so let’s start by looking at what we know and which steps to take in order to create a true omnichannel support experience.

Here’s what we already know.

For most customers, omnichannel is no longer optional. Let’s just acknowledge that. Our personal lives have set the standard for customer experience (CX). If you head to the store to purchase a new phone, you don’t walk in and ask for a phone that can send text messages while you’re simultaneously talking on the phone. First of all, this is a standard capability that we all expect. Second, we would never ask an associate, “Can you point me to the aisle with omnichannel smartphones?” We just expect every phone to allow us to communicate via SMS, email, video chat, and phone.

We all multitask and change channels, sending texts while we’re talking on another line or checking social media in between video calls. Our phones are inherently omnichannel -- letting us switch and combine channels instantly. It’s not a function we ask for. It’s what we simply expect. Omnichannel connectivity is our norm.

Since using all types of communication mediums is an everyday occurrence, we want this type of low-effort, high-impact capability when dealing with customer service too. Wouldn’t it be easier to just send a photo to an agent, so they can see exactly what you’re talking about? Or switch from a web chat to a phone call when you need to step away from the computer? Of course it would be! This puts the onus on us as vendors and brands to make this possible.

We have to deliver an intuitive experience for our end-users in order to meet customers where they want to be met. If customers have a bad experience, they will simply deflect to a competitor. Don’t risk losing customers when implementing omnichannel service is so easy and affordable.

Here are 3 things we can and must do now.

1. Start by dropping the qualifiers. 

What we mean by that is to stop caveating what you offer and just do what’s required. All of these critical communication features should be harmoniously baked into your customer experience. This exists from a technological perspective, so if the platform you’re using doesn’t offer this functionality, then it’s time to find one that does. If you continue only offering great service via one channel, then your customers and your bottom line are undoubtedly losing out.

2. Make business communications as easy as personal ones. 

My mom will call me every so often and say that her WiFi doesn’t seem to be working. It would be really strange for me to say, “Hi mom. I understand your problem, and I’ll create a ticket to follow-up with you later.” My mom would not appreciate that. Her expectation is that, as her son, I can fix the issue right away. She knows I can stay on the phone with her and simultaneously research the problem to find an answer. We can work collaboratively together to get her WiFi back up and running fast. Shouldn’t agents be able to do the same for your customers?

When you have every channel available to customers, with a single interface presented to agents, the support experience is both simplified and enhanced. It’s more efficient and will surely ease some of the frustration felt by customers when showing you a photo of something is way more effective than simply describing an issue.

3. Find a technology partner that actually delivers an omnichannel solution.

As a cloud communications provider, our job is to make and deliver better tools for companies across all industries. Software shouldn’t be overly complicated, take months to migrate to, or be enormously expensive and inflexible. And it certainly shouldn’t be challenging for front-line teams to learn and use. Providing better service to customers starts with providing a better experience to agents (and, frankly, to everyone within a company). Technologists should make it easy for companies to implement better tools. And, in the end, we all win -- because we’re customers, too. 

Here are 3 ways to make omnichannel support a reality.

1. Utilize one system for all functions, channels, and people. 

We should no longer develop, sell, or use anything less than true omnichannel solutions. Because when the marketing team is using one platform, the R&D another, and the customer service yet another, then no one is able to communicate and collaborate in an effective manner. Agents can’t easily sync with the right product experts to get questions answered in an instant, and any delay an agent is faced with impacts the service they deliver. Customers aren’t okay with this type of experience in 2021. Sadly, the reality is that too many brands are stuck with inflexible solutions that aren’t built correctly and are no longer serving today’s customers. Every employee should be empowered to be an innovator, which is possible when we move the power closer to our biggest asset -- our workforce -- by allowing everyone to operate on one system.

2. One window is better than all the windows. 

As mentioned, our personal communications have set the standard. I certainly can’t imagine getting a second monitor to try and juggle everything I do on my phone. No wonder agents are frustrated! We really need to focus on the agent and employee experience first in order to improve the CX. The employees using the tools matter just as much as the executives paying the bill if we expect adoption, compliance, and happy customers. Let’s prioritize creating an environment with less clicks, less hunting, less time spent switching screens, and faster resolutions.Loop of Luxury

3. Live in the loop of luxury. 

Everyone is part of this infinite cycle, so we are all responsible for pushing the industry and the customer experience forward. Brands can readily get voice-of-customer (VoC) input, by which their technology should help them innovate, iterate, and release changes that are easy for agents and employees to adopt and execute. The right technology makes it possible.

The benefits of true omnichannel functionality will extend beyond your CX and into your entire organization. Having a single view of customer journeys across all channels will help your agents shift from simply having standalone interactions to building real relationships, too. 

In a presentation I just gave on this topic, I said that if brands can only do one thing to jump-start this process, they should start by getting input from their most important internal customers -- their agents. What are they seeing? What are they hearing from customers? Is there a need to move seamlessly between channels? What would help them do their jobs more efficiently and enjoy their work? After all, they are the “face”, or rather the voice, of your business.

Omnichannel is here to stay.

Regardless of where you are in your omnichannel journey, the time is now to find the right partner that will make the experiences you’re delivering better. That will make it easier for your frontline agents to have access to the right information and the right experts at their fingertips. And your customers will be able to get the information they need whether they choose to text, chat, call or email. Implementing a new tech solution into your business might feel overwhelming, but in reality the right platform will make every single interaction, communication, and collaboration so much easier. What are you waiting for?

Andrew Larty

Written by Andrew Larty

Andrew Larty is the Senior Client Operations Manager at Edify. As an experienced contact center consultant, and a customer himself, Andrew leverages his industry knowledge and empathy to help companies create effortless customer experiences.