Omnichannel – Necessary, but Complex

Omnichannel – Necessary, but Complex

Kumaran ShanmuhanBy Kumaran Shanmuhan
6 min read

As customers adopt multiple contact channels, challenges like digital pivoting come to the fore.

The present ubiquity of smartphones, the rapid growth of Social Media and the interconnections of modern consumers means that companies today face something of a quandary. They are finding that there is an increasing need to communicate and respond to customers using a multiple channels beyond the standard voice call.

Omnichannel Customer Service

Although voice remains the most popular method of communication, the growing demand for digital channels has led to the expectation that modern contact centers will support multimedia communication. This encompasses e-mail, Web chat, SMS and social media, to name a few. Of course, this poses a number of challenges to contact centers, as agents require new skills and strategies, in order to be effective in a multi-channel operation.

There are, of course, a multitude of complexities associated with the provision of an omnichannel service. Among these is the challenge associated with integrating the new channels with the contact center’s legacy ones. Most often, the difficulty that arises here is the problem of sharing customer details across channels.

For example, a customer that initially provides their personal information via SMS may find that if they switch to a voice call, they have to begin again. This is due to the simple fact that systems are not always able to provide the single view of the customer that is required to keep the voice agent fully informed of what has gone before.

Perhaps the biggest concern with the lack of a single view is the fact that customers are not concerned about the complications created by multi-channel touch-points; all they want is to receive consistent customer experiences, regardless of the channel used. However, the soiled nature of the different channels used in contact centers make it complicated for these entities to ensure a seamless end-to-end customer journey. And failure to do so leaves one with the very real possibility of customer churn.

Implement an Omnichannel Solution

For this reason, organizations seeking to implement omnichannel approaches need to ensure that their suite of digital channels is built using a common channel infrastructure. Integration and flexibility are critical, as this will offer the opportunity to extend and customize the channels as required.

What must also be understood is that while the move to an omnichannel environment may require a major shift in technology, it also involves a definite mindset change. Corporate customer strategy will likely need to be comprehensively rethought, and agents will need to receive additional training, in order to deal with the multiple new channels being introduced.

Finding the right blend of live, assisted and self-service solutions is vital, particularly as an increasing number of customers today are not satisfied with using a single channel. However, it is important to bear in mind that even as multiple channels become the norm, a high percentage of customers still seek some form of human interaction. Accenture Strategy’s latest Global Consumer Pulse Research¹ indicates that in the US, over 80% of customers still prefer dealing with human beings, even via digital channels.

Furthermore, the report suggests that the most profitable customers are those navigate multiple paths to obtaining the outcomes they want. It is these customers, utilizing unpredictable combinations of digital and traditional channels, that are currently creating the biggest challenge for the omnichannel contact center. Although they are the most profitable customers, it is their constant crossing back and forth between multiple channels, even within a single interaction – referred to as ‘digital pivoting’ – that makes it difficult to meet their expectations.

The digital pivot

Since digital pivoting is today a reality and is something that is likely to become increasingly difficult to avoid entirely, it imperative that contact centers ensure that there is seamless connectivity between the digital and voice channels. Customers should not have to repeat themselves, not should agents have any difficulty in obtaining full context to the customer’s interaction.

To enable successful pivots in a multi-channel environment, the contact center requires several components. The first of these is a sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) system, which is able to track customer interactions across the multiple channels. It is this system that will ultimately ensure that following a pivot of any kind, continuity is maintained across the transaction, so that the customer doesn’t have to start from scratch every time they move to a new channel.

Following directly on from this is a strong focus on the various customer interactions across the channels. By ensuring that you can support the various forms of customer communication, including text messages and social media, you will be well positioned to deliver first contact resolution, regardless of the various channels ultimately used.

Ultimately, though, the single most vital component remains your agents, who will be dealing with the customer. In an omnichannel environment, they will need to be properly trained to understand the different modes of communication and the rules associated with them. Key characteristics of such agents include experience, empathy and also digital proficiency and cross-functional acumen.

If you have not equipped your agents properly, giving them the skills and the tools needed to effectively manage multiple channels, your investment in omnichannel solutions will be severely diminished since the pivoting experience will break down once the customer contacts the agent.

Of course, digital pivoting can work both ways. Voice is far and away the most expensive form of assisted service, so it is obvious that organizations would seek to limit, as much as possible, the voice traffic to their contact centers.

One way of achieving this is to pivot voice calls back into a digital self-service session. While this is clearly not feasible in every instance, for simpler queries, this offers the company the opportunity to resolve a customer’s inquiry via a less expensive digital channel.

One way of achieving this is by delivering a visual menu to the customer’s computer screen, which makes it possible to provide a visual IVR. This enables the user to touch or click commands on their computer or mobile device. In this way, inbound callers can be guided to web-based support experiences instead, allowing the organization to pivot customers coming through the voice channel to a digital support experience that is effectively self-service.

Looking forward, there is no doubt that channel pivoting is something that is going to become impossible to avoid. After all, with a multitude of channels to choose from and a focus solely on rapid resolution, rather than which channel they are using, customers are increasingly likely to pivot across various channels in their attempts to solve their challenge as quickly as possible.

Since it is becoming more difficult to avoid the inevitability of pivoting, all you can do is ensure you are as prepared as possible for it and are able to manage it as well as you can.

Omni-channel was named the number one trend in last year’s Global Contact Centre report, so logic dictates that organizations increase their efforts towards complete channel integration. The Sooner true omnichannel is achieved, the easier it will become to manage challenges like digital pivoting.

Dylon headshot

[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.

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