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Four steps to integrating the phone into your omnichannel strategy

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6th Jan 2015
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The age of digital retailing still presents a number of challenges for businesses, and especially for customer service teams. Greater insight into online behaviour means we can understand our customers’ needs in depth – plus, we can track and engage with them in real time – but what about the human touch? It would be a mistake to assume all customer interactions only happen online.

Despite ever growing trends in digital, the best customer service teams still recognise the value of the human voice. According to research from ResponseTap, 54% of people want the reassurance of some human interaction before completing a purchase and 64% get frustrated when they are only able to interact with a company online.

Consumers want choice when it comes to purchasing options and we need to ensure we offer all the right channels, across devices, in order to satisfy demand. We also need to make sure that these channels are connected in order to present a seamless brand experience, from initial interaction to final purchase.

But how do we ensure that the offline human experience meets the expectations of a consumer used to a slick online purchasing path? How can we ensure the elusive offline world is integrated effectively into your omnichannel strategy?

Think like a customer rather than a marketer

Whereas multichannel took an operational view towards marketing (i.e. you offer the channels and allow the customer to complete the transactions themselves), omnichannel is rather about viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer: whether it be mobile, desktop, or the phone, marketers need to give the customer the impression of a single, integrated purchasing path.

Omnichannel anticipates that customers may start on one channel and move to another as they progress towards a resolution. According to MIT's "Beyond the Checkout Cart" report, up to 80% of consumers will do most pre-purchase research on their own initiative, before making a purchase in store, over the phone or via a shopping cart. In order to support and spur this process, marketers need to be begin thinking in a customer-centric way (i.e. “How does the customer wants to interact with me?”) rather than projecting their own marketing objectives (i.e. “How do I want you to interact with me?”).

By doing this we are orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it appears personalised and consistent.

Make use of online data

The reason we are able to apply omnichannel marketing so effectively is due to the unprecedented access we now have to customer data. The beauty of the online world is that it allows us to track things like search queries, page impressions, clicks and engagement – i.e. the user’s 'digital footprint' – in real-time, and to therefore build a complete profile of each customer.

This digital footprint is all the data we need to track a customer as they move offline and to integrate the contact centre into your omnichannel strategy.

Seeing and being able to interpret a customer’s digital footprint is the most valuable asset a call centre can have – it means the agent is already clued in about an online shopper’s needs before they’ve even gone to pick up the phone. Just like the most successful brick and mortar sales assistants, the call centre agent is prepared to anticipate questions and can build a rapport with the customer much quicker than the traditional call operator could.

As retail continues its progression into a hybrid “bricks and clicks” industry, competitive advantage is likely to come from these engaging customer experiences, with the best and most profitable contact centres being able to replicate the experience of the in-store sales assistant over the phone.

Integrate analytics and call tracking software

The age of marketing automation is upon us, but as it stands it sees marketers using data for targeting personalised offers, rather than improving the overall customer experience. We have enough data at the customer level to see how they interact online, so why shouldn’t we apply it to the offline world?

Here are just a few techniques which can help you leverage all the data gained from the online world and apply it offline:

  • Click-To-Call Tracking: this works by placing a snippet of code on a page of your website which generates a unique number each time it is clicked. What this does is allow you to track individual callers: you can see which page triggered the call – whether on your website or in the display network – and, if integrated with Google Analytics, you can also see what keywords the customer used before clicking on your webpage.
  • IP and ISP (subscriber Trunk Dialling) tracking: this software pinpoints the exact geographical location of a customer, giving you information about language preference, local needs, and perhaps even a demographic profile.
  • Dynamic Call Routing: this allows companies to route a call according to how visitors have found their website, and to direct that call to the best team, department or person within the business.
  • Voice Recognition: this technology identifies whether customers are 'hot' or 'cool' prospects, augmenting operators’ emotional intelligence with real-time feedback on what to say (and how to say it) to build or regain engagement on the line.

Being able to see exactly where calls are coming in from, the path that has led to this point, and the likely reason for call puts your call centre in an advantaged position over those businesses that have not integrated sophisticated tracking software and instead must rely on the dreaded “press 1 for…”, “press 2 for…” routine.

Bring the marketing department and call centre together

By enhancing the traditional call-centre with new technologies, like call-to-call tracking and voice recognition, call centre agents are able to offer levels of service that are all but equal to their counterparts in the physical store.

Inbound phone calls are also much more likely to convert than inbound web leads which means that, once the phone call has been fully integrated into your omnichannel retailing, you can expect leads and conversion rates to greatly improve.

Luke Rees is a digital marketing executive from London who write extensively about technology, ecommerce and trends in the search marketing industry.

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By Julian Sammells
08th Jan 2015 08:18

There are some good points here Luke – as you say, anyone that predicts the imminent end of the phone channel is going to be proved wrong. I’d add that you need to ensure that agents are armed with the right information to deliver the same, consistent service that they have come to expect online. This essentially means centralising knowledge and making it available across every channel – there’s more in this Eptica blog https://eptica.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/getting-started-with-knowledge-management-in-customer-service/ .

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