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The omnichannel dream vs the multichannel reality

20th Nov 2018
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Businesses are under more pressure than ever to deliver better customer experiences. Customers are full of expectations—they expect to be able to interact with a company at anytime, anywhere, and in any which way they would like—and if these growing standards aren’t met, they will not think twice about abandoning a service in favour of a competitor.

This makes delivering omnichannel experiences of huge importance to businesses—but delivering a truly omnichannel experience remains a challenge. In the UKCCF’s opinion, within five years, new media channels such as web chat, video and social media will all be regarded as “just another” channel option—which means businesses will need to adapt to channel hopping whether they like it or not.

The right time and place

Ultimately, there is a time and a place for different channels of communications, and if businesses are to succeed in the delivery of omnichannel experiences, they need to understand which channel is appropriate, and when, and must be able to manage all channels seamlessly.

Typically, email is best placed for queries that are less time sensitive; web chat for those who are multitasking (like browsing the web); phone for complex interactions that require a personal touch; and online forums and social media for less personal issues and where a community answer would be helpful.

But as the use of different channels increases; the support of new channels becomes the norm, and the number of apps that have built-in service options rises, managing customer interactions will inherently become more complex.

Let’s take social media as an example. Many businesses feel obliged to support Facebook and Twitter, but if a customer reports an issue on one of these platforms, they can quickly spiral out of control—all done in a public forum. Knowing how to manage social channels, and when to interact one-on-one versus in the public eye, is key.

Mobile is another increasingly popular customer contact channel that will inherently become more complex. As apps become increasingly popular, organisations need to consider in-app customer services. And in-app services have the potential to be game changing to the customer experience—they remove the need for customers to log in to websites and raise support tickets; they take away the need to go through complex FAQs; and eradicate the need to enter complicated details about a product or service. Ultimately, in-app services allow queries to be handled quickly, more accurately, and will ultimately lead to a higher proportion of queries being resolved via self-service.

The revolution will be personalised  

The shift to omnichannel isn’t simply a technological change—it has a huge impact on contact centre advisors too. According to our own research, 53% of contact centre advisors handle a mix of both single and multiple contact channels—yet of contact centres surveyed, 35% stated they don’t have the technology to support multiple channels, while 20% stated that contact centre advisors aren’t trained to support multiple communications channels.

But whether or not advisors are trained across multiple channels is just one barrier. Simply adding new channels and getting advisors to operate across these is just delivering multichannel capabilities—it doesn’t mean contact centre advisors are providing an omnichannel, unified experience.

What makes an omnichannel experience, however, is an integrated experience that automatically identifies customers regardless of the channel they use; routing inbound customers to the right resource based on their channel preferences; providing advisors with details of previous customer interactions, and allowing them to manage an entire omnichannel conversation involving multiple interactions, channels and participants.

So, while 60% of contact centres support multiple channels, their technologies aren’t integrated to deliver a unified experience. If businesses want to deliver truly omnichannel experiences, technology and operations cannot operate in silos—integrating contact handling systems with CRM, social media, customer and product databases, and a raft of other systems, to build a complete 360-degree view of the customer’s experience, is the key to the delivery of a high quality, personalised service.

Achieving the omnichannel reality

In the age of the digital consumer, and with businesses looking to rapidly adopt a customer-centric approach to managing relations, omnichannel must become a reality.

The demand for 24/7 services is only going to rise—and failing to deliver on this will impact customer experience. According to The Aberdeen Group, companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies.

Stats like this provide much food for thought. There is no doubt that the benefits of omnichannel are clear—and businesses that fail to adopt an omnichannel experience will simply be left behind.

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