Omnichannel service unlikely to be realised in 2014 - report

17th Jan 2014

The evolving demands of the consumer, including a desire for speed and convenience, are driving the need for organisations to unify multiple channels of contact. This explains why, going into 2014, the term ‘omnichannel’ is being thrown around left, right and centre. However, the findings of a new report by Cisco questions how realistic it is to expect the omnichannel vision to be realised this year, as it reveals just how many contact centres are lagging behind.

The study - Customer Experience: Measuring the Value Of An Effective Strategy - found that of those contact centre agents questioned, only a mere 15% are able to use multiple channels to create one single path on the customer service journey.

This figure stands in stark contrast to the consumer’s increasing desire for consistency - the report reveals that 41% of callers say that having one agent being able to deal with the whole call is their main requirement. Also highly valued by callers is having an agent that is equipped with knowledge about relevant past dealings and transaction history (quoted by 22% as a priority).

When looking in detail at the processes of many contact centres, it’s easy to see why this merger of channels is proving a struggle. For instance, nearly half of contact centre staff have somewhere between six and 15 different platforms to navigate between, including telephone, email, social media, SMS and webchat. What’s more, rigid, complex and outdated computer systems provide further setbacks, with 72% considering legacy systems a primary obstruction on the road to a single view of the customer.  

In addition, it seems that contact centres are simply not on the raider of senior managers and decision makers – which may well be because one third are never graced by such a presence. If the head honchos don’t engage with their front-line staff or gain first-hand experience as to how their centres run, there is bound to be a disconnection and, as a result, the department runs the risk of getting left behind. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes.

Poor performance, however, isn’t the only negative consequences of this suggested neglect. Less than half of organisations surveyed have any positive feelings towards their contact centre, with 18% reporting that it was viewed in an actively negative manor. It seems that contact centres really aren’t feeling the love – not even from fellow staff members.

Contact centre agents themselves are all too aware of the issues they face and the importance of achieving a streamlined service. As many as 90% understand the need for change, and 98% believe that there are systems out there, already in use by others, that can made their omnichannel dreams come true. Brian Atkinson, head of customer collaboration sales at Cisco UK&I, shared this view, and champions the importance of omnichannel solutions: “Maintaining a single view of the customer across multiple channels is vital if contact centres are to make customers feel valued. Without this unified view, customers are forced to provide the same information to different agents that have no record of their previous interactions. Not only does this harm the customer experience, it’s hugely inefficient from the perspective of the contact centre.”

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