Traditionally, the term contact centre was synonymous with large offices filled with agents picking up calls and resolving customer queries. And from the customer's viewpoint, resolving an issue or getting your questions answered in relation to products or services could only mean calling a number and speaking with a representative over the phone. But thanks to technology and the ease at which it can be applied in the contact centre environment – both from an IT and cost perspective – we've moved on from this rather one-dimensional approach to the contact centre experience in favour of the omnichannel contact centre.
What do omnichannel contact centres offer?
Today, the customer service function in many companies has transitioned to the concept of the omnichannel contact centre. An omnichannel contact centre offers customers more choice when it comes to how they interact with a business or brand by allowing them to communicate via multiple channels, driven by choice or convenience. And when it comes to the question of convenience, the omnichannel contact centre can also allow customers to switch between channels within a single interaction.
The omnichannel contact centre might include social media, SMS, chat, async messaging, email, and of course, phone support. So, what might these experiences look like in a single customer interaction?
A customer might call a customer service number and choose to switch to live chat to avoid waiting in call queues. In another scenario, customers who have been speaking with an agent may choose to receive information via SMS, such as store locations, product descriptions, or business opening hours, because this is so much more convenient than taking notes from verbal speech. And with sophisticated cloud-based omnichannel contact centre solutions like Oration by Convai, the software can even be configured to automatically recognise the caller's intent and offer information via SMS entirely without agent involvement. Adding email to your omnichannel contact centre can also be a huge benefit to customers who don't have time to wait in call queues and also don't require urgent ‘on the spot’ resolutions.
Ensuring a seamless and cohesive omnichannel contact centre experience
While moving to an omnichannel contact centre experience is increasingly becoming a necessity in the modern consumer environment, it's important to ensure your customer service operation doesn't become fragmented across different channels. With some customers potentially moving between their email, phone, or a mobile app during a single transaction, or even choosing to take a different pathway each time they interact with customer services, continuity and a consistent experience is an imperative.
When switching between channels, such as moving from live chat to speaking with an agent over the phone or vice versa, a fundamental feature of the omnichannel contact centre experience is that a transcription of the chat history will be available to agents at every touchpoint. Similarly, agents will always have access to a customer’s previous interaction history, irrespective of the channels they have previously used, so they are better informed to offer a personalised service and resolve issues in the fastest time. Better still, it also means customers aren’t repeating their story every time they reach out, which is a real bonus when it comes to creating a positive customer experience.
Omnichannel contact centre solutions like Convai’s Oration use a sophisticated automatic call distributor (ACD) to intelligently route calls between multiple channels. Advanced speech recognition and language interpreter technology also enhances the omnichannel contact centre experience by recognising caller intent and offering customers the most appropriate channel to resolve the query.
Oration’s intuitive and easy to use platform offers analytics and reporting capabilities to help contact centre managers accurately forecast call volumes and query types to ensure they always have the appropriate agent resources and skills in place. Transparency over caller intent data is also essential to fine-tuning and adjusting call flows, so queries are always directed to the most appropriate channel the first time.
The customer experience: Why an omnichannel contact centre matters
With an understanding of what an omnichannel contact centre is, the next question is why are they important?
We live in a mobile-first digital world
Most people don't go anywhere without their phones. With our phones in hand, we have the security of knowing that we can reach out to whoever we want to and however we want to, whether that be through voice, text, or other digital platforms such as social media. It also means that we have access to limitless resources and ways of doing things, like finding out information, making purchases, banking, or even getting directions to help us get from A to B. Unsurprisingly, now is the time for customer services to be added to the long list of things that people can do via their digital devices, without relying on making calls and waiting in a queue.
With customers able to do so much more on their own terms, it makes sense that the customer service experience needs to become more dynamic and convenient than ever before. Or in other words, much more digital and ‘mobile ready’. To compare and contrast the old world versus new for contact centres embracing the omnichannel contact centre experience, imagine the potential improvement to customer satisfaction in a scenario where customers can instantly receive product or service information digitally. This capability eliminates the traditional customer service process of waiting on hold, engaging verbally with an agent, and still being left without anything tangible to refer to.
Lifts the burden from agents and helps them deliver a consistent quality experience
Without an omnichannel contact centre infrastructure, your agents are placed under incredible pressure to resolve all kinds of queries, from the most basic requests for information to handling complex complaints and issues. At the same time, while it is not realistically possible to instantly scale up and down agent headcount, unforeseen issues and busy periods can cause agents to become stressed and overworked, which ultimately affects their mental health and the quality of customer experience they can provide.
Another side effect of your team of agents experiencing elevated stress levels and pressure is that they become unhappy in their role, and this can lead to high staff turnover. Consequently, high staff turnover will increase the costs of recruitment and training and cause disruption to your contact centre operation. All these factors combined can contribute to lower customer satisfaction levels which will ultimately impact your business’ bottom line.
Implementing an omnichannel contact centre will alleviate pressure from your team of agents because many customer queries can be directed to alternative channels where issues are resolved faster or even without agent involvement. Meanwhile, your agents will be able to focus on delivering a high quality of customer service to customers with the most complex issues.
Supports diverse customer segments
Your customer base is likely to be made up of all kinds of people coming from different demographics and all having varied personalities and perspectives. While the youngest and most tech-savvy of your customers might prefer to interact with your customer service team via digital methods using their mobile device, such as social media platforms and live chat, others may always choose to engage with your agents via more traditional methods like phone or email.
An omnichannel contact centre allows you to personalise the customer service experience for all your customers, regardless of their preferences or background. Most importantly, by delivering customer service in a way that appeals to a wide variety of people, your business has more flexibility and scope to expand its target customer segments when it comes to developing new or existing products and services.
Top tips and features of an omnichannel contact centre
Embrace the cloud
If you're not already operating an omnichannel contact centre, moving into the modern era could seem like an incredibly daunting task – especially if your contact centre is established on traditional in-house technology infrastructure. Fortunately, however, you don't need to invest huge amounts of money and rebuild your entire infrastructure from scratch to offer an up-to-date customer service experience.
Moving to a cloud-based solution that overlays your existing contact centre infrastructure is a cost-effective way to get your new omnichannel contact centre up and running quickly and with minimal disruption. With a cloud-based omnichannel contact centre solution, you’ll always have peace of mind that your services are up to date with the latest technology, while contact centre managers can make changes to the customer experience without the help of IT or initiating costly development projects.
Integrate tools and applications
Integrating your omnichannel contact centre solution with other business tools and applications will be key to enhancing the overall customer service experience. For example, while customers could be enabled to make payments or changes to their accounts by being directed to self-service options, integration with inventory management applications might enable customers to receive other information digitally such as the availability of products in stock.
Integrating your omnichannel contact centre solution with your CRM is also an opportunity not to be missed. With your customers choosing to interact with your business in a variety of ways, CRM integration will ensure that information provided by your customers during different interactions, as well as the details of each issue and resolution, will be recorded for future reference by your customer service team.
An omnichannel contact centre solution that is well integrated with other business applications can also allow agents to track customer interactions that have taken place before the customer has sought help. For example, if an agent can view what a customer has been searching for on the company website, or even the point at which the customer terminated their transaction, this could enable an agent to offer more personalised and targeted support, or even result in a faster resolution or maximise the chances of a sale.
Maintain quality and performance
Achieving consistency across all your channels is imperative. In other words, there will be limited value in offering your customers an omnichannel contact centre experience if it takes several days to respond to social media interactions, or your live chat responses are slow and uninformative. While you should consider setting some KPIs to ensure your customer service team meet the demands and expectations of your customers, training around how to handle different types of queries in the omnichannel environment will be key to a successful omnichannel contact centre.
Maximise the use of reporting and data analytics features
You should take advantage of sophisticated reporting and analytics capabilities offered by omnichannel cloud contact centre solutions to ensure your customer service experience is always on the right track and your contact centre is appropriately resourced. With the help of data analytics and reporting tools, you can ensure your agents are appropriately distributed to handle the volume of interactions for each channel at any given time. Transparency over handling times and customer intent for each interaction will also help contact centre managers adjust training requirements according to the types of issues and preferences of customers.
With consumers more digitally connected than ever before, offering an omnichannel contact centre experience has become essential to delivering a competitive customer service experience. With an understanding of what the omnichannel contact centre means exactly and all the key features that enable them to run most effectively, you’ve got everything you need to bring your contact centre into the modern era.