In the newly digitized world a lot of focus is placed onto digital means of communication and contact, with many consumers going through their customer journey entirely online without any form of face-to-face interaction with any member of your organization. This is really quite convenient as it lets you spread your net wide without a care as to how many employees you have, but when your services require communication things can be a bit trickier. Having many different ways your customers can contact you is great, but it also leads to a few problems.
There are many different forms of digital communication you can use to contact your customers, from email and telephone to more modern means like social media and mobile apps. These all work well on their own, and utilizing them as separate channels is called the multi-channel contact approach. These work well as separate entities, but when you need to blur the lines and cross over it can be difficult to maintain information. No-one likes having to repeat information, so this can frustrate customers and cause them to have a negative experience with your business.
What is an Omnichannel Contact Center?
An omnichannel contact center takes the philosophy of integration to heart. Essentially, it allows you to organize your channels of communication via means such as a cloud-based software or database, in order to keep information maintained between channels. The idea is that a customer can pick up a conversation on one channel, continue it on another and not be impeded by having to explain what’s going on again and again to different people – your employees can simply look up the stored information on that person to get up to speed. It’s time-saving on both the consumer and the business end and also greatly improves the customer experience, letting them walk away satisfied that you did everything you could to make their journey easier.
Why Use an Omnichannel Contact Center?
Setting up an omnichannel contact center is going to take a lot of work, but in today’s market it’s almost compulsory depending on your business model. The more tech-savvy younger generations consider customer service to be a top priority, and since technology has evolved past merely using websites there are many ways in which consumers can contact you. Since your customer base in the future is only going to get a higher percentage of those who are technologically minded, you can be sure that it’s a good investment.
Millennials and younger are making up a huge portion of consumers in today’s market, and can use up to six different digital touchpoints to interact with a business. There’s also an increasing tendency to contact via email or message-chat apps – things which leave a trail that can be looked over by the customer for their convenience – rather than simply using a telephone. It’s often about time too, as leaving a message can be done in an instant rather than waiting for a phone call to connect and talking in person.
Modern Customer Expectations and Desires
Customers are at the centre of your philosophy here, thus you should always be thinking about their desires when implementing your strategy. For most older consumers the more conventional channels work fine, so you’d be thinking about your younger, more tech-focused base here. A few customer expectations include:
- Customization of services
- Cross-device support
- Automation (many millennials and younger hate having to talk to people to find the right channels)
- Data protection (highly important)
- First-contact resolution
The latter point is among the most important to younger consumers, as they’ve grown up in a world of instant communication and next-day deliveries. Time is precious to them, far more so than the older generations as they often have a lot more on their plates than their predecessors.
The omnichannel approach also lets you raise awareness about your other channels of communication, for instance someone who might not know about your app and emails in might be directed to the app to solve their issue – a great way of introducing more convenient tech to older generations who are more likely to default to the traditional means of communication like email and phone. Anything that gives your customers more options is great from a PR perspective, as it lets them choose a method of contact which is convenient to them.
Adapting to an Omnichannel Approach
Your next question is probably, “so how do we go about all this?”. Setting up an omnichannel contact center isn’t something that can just be done overnight, it needs careful planning and coordination. Using an existing framework is the easiest and quickest method to implement, but comes with its own set of challenges. Take a look at what your business needs and what you currently have in place. The existing means by which you might store your data – spreadsheets, word documents, databases – these can all be utilized with some simple templates that you can find online. Most small businesses don’t need anything elaborate, it’s all about the sheer amount of data you need to store as only when the cache becomes too large does access slow down to the point of needing something more complex.
The next important thing to keep in mind is making sure that everyone has access, and every employee knows to store the data they collect in a standardized form – it’s no use having all of this information if you can’t read it, after all. Using a template or guidelines will help massively with this, as any employee reading data they didn’t record can simply check for certain tags to identify what they need to retrieve.
Omnichannel approaches aren’t new by any sense of the word, however applying them to digital forms of contact to create an omnichannel contact center is a great new innovation that can improve both your business’ runnings and the customer experience you provide. It’s all about being consistent, and making sure your contact is as smooth as possible to facilitate the easiest and quickest solution to your customers’ problems.
Efrat Vulfsons is the Co-Founder of PR Soprano and a data-driven marketing enthusiast, parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.