Omnichannel and personalization – and never the twain shall meet
Is the desire to deliver a true omnichannel contact center offering at odds with the idea of providing a truly personalized customer experience?
Although most companies today support a wide range of channels, including voice, email and chat, the majority of these still struggle to share context across these channels. Without being able to synchronize a single interaction that takes place across multiple channels or direct journeys or interactions in step-by-step sequences, it makes it almost impossible for these businesses to effectively manage the lifecycle of the customer journey and provide consumers with a personalized and context-appropriate customer experience.
For the customer seeking some form of service from the contact center, whether it is buying a product, asking a question, understand product instructions or even paying a bill, there is a strong likelihood that such a process will take them through multiple channels. They may begin with the company website, move on to sending an email, attempt a self-service option and ultimately end up calling to speak to an agent.
At the start of each of these channels, the customer more often than not finds they have to begin again, providing the same information and details that they already did at the beginning of the previous interaction. The fact that so few organizations are able to provide a seamless transition of both customer and the information they have already provided, from channel to channel, demonstrates how difficult it is to personalize the customer experience in the omnichannel world we live in. But the real question is: is it merely difficult to do this, or is it actually a case that omnichannel and personalization are mutually exclusive?
To start, it is important to understand that to be able to personalize the customer experience the contact center needs to have a complete view of the entire customer journey. Achieving this is something that requires far more than just the implementation of technology, or even the restructuring of business processes. It also requires a human element, one that cuts across organizational boundaries.
After all, a complete customer journey involves not only the contact center, but also quite possibly sales, marketing and potentially other departments within your enterprise. The trouble is, organizations have a tendency to work in soiled ways and the boundaries created by this approach, coupled with employees from the different departments who may not all utilize the same approach to customer service, makes it difficult to provide a consistent customer journey. Therefore, breaking down these silos and fostering better communication across the various departments is key.
Of course, even those organizations that have overcome the departmental silos and have also implemented multichannel customer service capabilities – by deploying point solutions for social, web or mobile customer service – may find their ability to seamlessly service the customer stunted by ‘interaction silos’, where each channel exists in its own little world, and the sharing of information and customer context across these channels is limited. This, again, makes it nearly impossible to meet the demands by customers for consistent experiences across all digital and voice channels.
However, there are ways to manage the quality of the customer experience better and improve first contact resolution. You need to understand the challenges associated with the various channels within the contact center, as the foundation of providing a personalized service lies in ensuring that each digital channel operates at its most effective. Once you have the unique challenges faced by each channel solved, it becomes easier to tie them together in such a way as to create a more seamless experience for the customer that uses multiple channels.
For example, email presents a notable challenge to the contact center experience, since most agents have not necessarily been properly trained in providing customer service via this medium. And yet, nearly one on four customers choose to use this as their channel of choice, so it is vital to have agents who can deliver the kind of service that will satisfy the customers that choose to use this channel.
Customers often turn to email if they have been unsuccessful in resolving an issue through voice or chat. The trouble here is that more often than not, the reply they receive from the contact center is cold and impersonal, and often lacks a detailed and specific solution to the customer’s issue. This compounds the customer’s frustration and ultimately forces them into yet another channel, in the hopes of solving their problem.
Another issue with email is that when writing these, agents quite often utilize templates as a way of improving response times. However if they do not have a proper understanding of how to appropriately use such templates, the responses they send can end up riddled with grammatical errors and look like what they essentially are – a ‘cut and paste’ response – which, of course, is the very antithesis of a personalized experience.
The number of consumers that turn to online chat as the channel of choice is not far behind that of email, and the Millennial market is most likely to use this as an alternative to the telephone. On the one hand, chat creates opportunities to provide exceptional customer service in real-time. However, in order to do so, chat interactions need to be accurate and helpful and anticipate customer problems so that these can be solved proactively.
The challenge here for agents lies in finding ways to manage delays and complete the interaction in a reasonable timeframe, while at the same time providing a helpful experience that deepens the customer’s relationship with the enterprise. It is also important, when using chat, for agents to use free form text, as this seems more genuine and personal to customers. Use the wrong language and the customer will feel much like the one that received the ‘cut and paste’ email.
A third channel that is growing in popularity with customers is that of digital self-service – an increasing number of clients prefer to do it themselves and want the tools that will enable them to do so. From a self-service point of view, there are a range of different options for organizations to choose from, but perhaps the best option here is that of Visual IVR. Operating in much the same manner as a normal IVR, but with visual prompts sent to the user’s screen, instead of voice prompts, this technology is easy to navigate and simple to use.
More crucially, from the personalization point of view, the visual IVR is able to record every action taken by the customer, meaning that if the customer is unable to solve their problem by themselves, it can transfer them to an agent and at the same time provide the agent with a complete record of the steps the customer has attempted already. If the agent already knows what has been done, they can rule those steps out during troubleshooting and thus deliver a faster resolution time. And the more you know about the customer right off the bat, the quicker you can solve their problem, the more personalized they will view the service as having been.
Naturally, there are other channels that also require work if you are to get them working as effectively as possible – social media is one that springs to mind, and which requires specially trained agents who can respond to queries in real time and do so using the correct level of slang and colloquialisms to deliver a meaningful and personal service.
Ultimately, what it boils down to is that in the modern world, the customer is king, and today’s customer demands personalized service across multiple channels, as well as service continuity from one channel to another – as the band Queen might have put it: they want it all, and they want it now!
Naturally, delivering this is no easy task for the contact center, but it can be achieved by focusing firstly on improving each individual channel, then optimizing processes and enhancing efficiencies and finally by breaking down silos within your organization and improving the internal conversations you have about the customer. If you do this, you will at least have made a strong start in overcoming the notion that the omnichannel center and service personalization are mutually exclusive concepts.
[About the author] Dylon Mills is the Director of Marketing Content Strategy & Development at Uniphore. As such, Dylon’s main responsibilities are to strategize, create and deliver content for Uniphore’s product portfolio that align with the global Go-To-Market strategy, corporate positioning, and marketing campaigns. Dylon’s prior work experience includes Product Management at one of the top Fortune 500 Technology companies, Symantec Corporation. Outside of work, Dylon enjoys problem-solving and any project that includes building/tinkering with tools. Dylon holds a BS Consumer Economics from the University of Georgia.