From Multichannel to Omnichannel CX
Why talking about channels is outdated – and why you should care
It wasn’t that long ago that people had no choice but to seek out the toll-free number at the top of their statement/bill/policy if they wanted to talk to a brand rep, and then braced themselves for a wait in queue. Fast forward a bit to IVRs and speech self-service which gave the caller some options. A little while later we began to see email as a decent alternative. And then came chat. And texting. And social media. These contact types are no longer reserved for use in our personal lives – rather they are increasingly becoming a convenient, instant communications option for consumers to use when they need to contact a business.
Organizations vary in where they fall in this communications spectrum, in terms of the channels they offer. Sometimes it depends on the nature of the industry they operate in, sometimes it’s just the size of the company, and other times it’s a matter of customer demographics. But businesses offering phone-only communications, i.e. call centers, are becoming the exception. More common now are organizations that offer more than one channel, referred to as multichannel contact centers. So, a customer might choose to send an email to their utilities company with a question about their meter, but make a phone call for something urgent like reporting an outage. The implication here is that services are differentiated by channel. From the multichannel contact center perspective, different channels represent different lines of business and different service levels, and almost certainly different platforms for providing the service – an ACD from one vendor, and perhaps a monitored inbox for the emails.
In a multichannel contact center, reporting is a clumsy process at best. You’re tasked with exporting data from different systems and teams, and manually comparing what are essentially apples and oranges. Over time, this task becomes even more difficult with additional channels, introduced in an effort to keep up with customer expectations. With each new channel, it typically means adding yet another vendor and more processes. And all the while, the customer information is eroding because while some information is captured by call center agents, other information is managed by a different group responsible for answering web chats, and imagine now the marketing team is receiving Facebook Messenger queries. Each channel means an additional silo with added complexity and a more blurred picture of the customer’s history. A true irony, the fact is that in an effort to satisfy customers with convenient options, multichannel contact centers are failing those customers by giving them a disjointed and less informed experience.
Omnichannel Customer Care / Service
So what then, is omnichannel and how does it differ?
We live in a world now where instant gratification is expected, and indeed, demanded. Increasingly, customers expect to be able to communicate their inquiry using whatever means is most convenient to them. And it’s not simply a matter of “Customer A likes the phone”, “Customer B likes email”, “Customer C likes web chat”. Customer A may start out with a phone call but then email a document that the agent needs to reference, and require a screen sharing session to understand how to complete an online transaction. This is known as channel-hopping, and is becoming increasingly common. In a multichannel environment, it’s difficult to accommodate and makes it very challenging to offer consistent service. Different tools, varying levels of access to information, disparate reporting…it all adds up to frustration on both the part of the customer and that of the agent.
True Omnichannel and Channel-less CX
Omnichannel capabilities, however, support channel-hopping and make it possible for a “channel-less” experience. This doesn’t mean that customers and agents are communicating telepathically (we’re not quite there yet), rather it means that the level of consistency that true omnichannel provides takes the focus off the channel and puts it back on the experience itself. With omnichannel, the example with Customer A that we just explored is a non-issue. The conversation history, associated files, and full context, whether it’s by phone, email, chat, SMS, or Facebook Messenger, follow the customer as they move between channels, devices, agents, and departments. Offering a channel-less experience is really the only way to accurately measure Service Levels, First Contact Resolution, Agent Solve Rates, and CX. By normalizing contacts, i.e. giving them the same treatment regardless of the interaction type, you’re essentially taking away the need for the customer and the agent to think about the channel and providing the opportunity to focus on the experience itself. With a view to all the customer touchpoints, agents can offer a service that is responsive, accurate and personalized.
If you want to experience the difference yourself, contact us for a personalized demo of our omnichannel-ready agent desktop, Upstream Works for Finesse.