The rise of digital communication channels came with predictable results. Consumers now have options when it comes to contacting brands and using multiple channels to get the response they expect. However, these alternatives also prompted a resurgence of telephone-to-telephone interaction as customers on the edge of digital transitions opted for human connection over social media, email, or text.
As noted by No Jitter, this evolving expectation landscape prompted a fundamental shift: The call center is now being replaced with an omnichannel contact center capable of connecting customers and brands across the platforms and services they prefer.
The Omnichannel Contact Center
Despite the emerging need for omnichannel services, companies are struggling to find solutions that both meet customer needs and generate reliable ROI. For example, as noted by Loyalty360, 50 percent of consumers feel that companies make it difficult to get in contact, while 57 percent say they "frequently" have trouble finding answers on corporate websites. What's more worrisome is that 70 percent of users contacting brands by telephone still experience long wait times and struggle to navigate call systems.
Even the "right now" platform of social media doesn't fare well, with 25 percent of consumers reporting they never received responses when contacting brands through social media. And things aren't getting better — the number of dissatisfied social media consumers is up four percent from last year.
Part of the problem stems from a frequent misunderstanding of the term "omnichannel." Because many companies already embrace multiple contact methods, it's easy to consider any central service an omnichannel center. However, there's a key difference between multichannel and omnichannel services: a seamless customer experience. While businesses might collect data across multiple contact methods or communicate across multiple platforms, this is only half of the omni offering. Embracing omnichannel demands "a stream of communication that is open to and from the customers and the business," according to CustomerThink.
This ties into the next challenge faced by many companies trying to streamline the customer experience: data. Seamless contact channels are just the beginning. Companies must be able to collect high-quality data about consumer experiences, then leverage this data to improve overall outcomes.
The call center is now being replaced with an omnichannel contact center.
Companies that want make this leap from mediocre multichannel to outstanding omnichannel platforms should follow the three following steps:
- Start Small: While it's tempting to spend big on complete omnichannel solutions up front, this technology is much like the cloud. Without an effective strategy in place, companies will at best underutilize omni services and at worst spend far more than they should on services that don't offer long-term value. Start with a cloud-based call center that provides easy setup with no hardware, includes intelligent call routing and monitoring, and builds in the ability to collect, analyze, and leverage incoming data.
- Think Big: Once basic call centers are up and running, companies need to think big and get input from C-suite members, IT experts, and front-line staff about what they want to see in omnichannel solutions. Then, they should develop metric-based goals to help determine whether omni deployments are a success or need more attention. Ask for customer feedback. If problems exist in your contact and response network, customers will happily — if not gleefully — provide the unvarnished truth.
- Invest Wisely: Not all omnichannel solutions are the same. Look for a full-featured inbound and outbound contact center that seamlessly blends existing voice services with VoIP, email, chat, and social media. Key services here include the ability to match customer inquiries to the most appropriate agent, start interactions on one channel and move them seamlessly to another, and enable agents to work anytime, anywhere with remote access portals.
Are you considering omnichannel to deliver interaction at the speed of expectation? This market is picking up speed as both niche companies and well-known providers design solutions to both meet customer needs and deliver long-term ROI. To maximize the benefit of your new omnichannel outlook, start small, design a customer-focused, data-driven plan, and adopt omnichannel contact center solutions that combine key front-end features with critical back-end support.
Are you ready to learn more? Connect with a Vonage Business expert.