In today’s mobile, hyper-connected world, people increasingly multitask. Using multiple devices and several channels to complete a task – initiating a conversation on one, following it up later on another. Mobile consumers wandering seamlessly between multiple communication channels is a phenomenon affecting every business, as it has the retail industry. Digital consumers demand seamless positive experiences across their entire customer journey, irrespective of the channels they choose. And that is where omni-channel fits the bill, with all its channels interconnected in real-time, delivering a truly holistic experience.
Challenges with Multi-Channel Touchpoints
According to Forrester, 95% customers use multiple channels to communicate with companies, while Accenture reports that 65% customers are frustrated by inconsistent experiences. Multi-channel touchpoints only complicate the end-to-end customer journey, creating sub-optimal customer experiences with contact centers due to the following pain points:
Inconsistent information — As customers engage across various channels, they are often left confused with inconsistent information, owing to various channels operating from disparate technology silos. Unless systems are synchronized, it would be virtually impossible to offer consistent, updated content on a customer journey spanning multiple channels.
Lack of personalisation — Consumers expect their digital experiences to be tailored to their preferences and requirements. This can only happen by recording when and where a customer performs a particular action, and then merging it with customer data and usage history in creative ways to come up with innovative solutions.
Frustrating experiences — Anyone dealing with a contact center would recall at least one such experience where they have had to painstakingly repeat the same information during multiple handoffs. Multi-channel touchpoints further amplify the frustration, eventually leading to customer attrition. In contrast, good customer experiences increase loyalty, reduce costs, and ultimately translate to increased revenues.
Considerations for Successful Omni-Channel Implementation
Most companies already offer a variety of service channels. But poor customer tracking across channels translates into businesses losing valuable information on customer wants, needs and behavior. Omni-channel is interpreting the journey through the eyes of the consumer, so that they take away an experience that is consistent, integrated and seamless. However, for its successful implementation, businesses need to consider the following points.
At the outset, businesses must conduct research and survey customers to figure out their preferred options. Then find a communication platform that not only offers multiple channels and switching between them, but also automation and cross- channel integration, including APIs.
Usually, in most companies, customer data collected in different departments stays in different departments, creating a fractured customer experience. When planning an omni-channel implementation, companies must aim at storing data in a consolidated repository where everyone can access the same information, ensuring a smooth handoff irrespective of the channel the customer uses.
Technological Options for Omni-channel
By 2020 automated self-service would take over contact centers, with 85% customer interactions happening without any human intervention, as per Gartner. Business spends can be expected to reduce drastically as a call handled by a live agent typically costs between US$6-20, whereas a call or text managed by IVR only costs 25 cents. Through immediate responsiveness, automation would not only attend to the patience issue but also ensure faster problem resolution.
An effective and engaging omni-channel requires more than just ensuring a uniform user interface across the company website and mobile apps. It rests on efficiently combining big data and predictive analytics with real-time engagement. Keeping in mind the vast data storage required, cloud platforms are an attractive option as most are scalable and cost-effective.
WebRTC is another technology that is set to play a significant role in the transformation of contact centers. Since it supports audio, video and collaboration through a browser, it can be made easily available to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection. Companies can engage interested prospects through technology embedded within their landing page, thus increasing the potential for immediate responsiveness. Even though issues – data security concerns and cross-browser supportability – currently persist with WebRTC, yet contact centers can receive many potential benefits from WebRTC including:
- Smoother channel transitions as callers can use WebRTC directly from a website landing page
- Enhanced mobility as it can be accessed directly through a browser
- Reduced telephony costs as agents can use the technology to receive incoming calls
- Superior customer service as vendors can target specific consumers through analytics
- Availability of self-service apps giving customers greater freedom of choice
Integrated omni-channel data and analysis will bring companies more opportunities to enhance customer experience by offering relevant content, effective self-service tools, cross-selling recommendations, accurate and timely alerts, and better loyalty programs. With omni-channel becoming a “competitive imperative” it is clearly the time to perform or perish.