Your company’s contact center is so much more than a communication channel with your customers. It’s a powerful tool you can use to provide the best customer experience around – and help your business grow through improved customer retention. Consider that 96 percent of people believe customer service is important in shaping their loyalty to a brand, and 8 in 10 consumers are willing to switch companies due to poor customer service.
So, how do you provide excellent customer experience through your contact center? These days, customers expect a seamless omnichannel experience, so you need an omnichannel contact center. Consider this interesting stat:
“Companies with well-defined omnichannel customer experience management achieve a 91% higher year-over-year increase in customer retention rate, compared to companies without omnichannel programs.” – Aberdeen Group
What is an omnichannel contact center?
The traditional contact center offered just one channel – phone calls. The omnichannel contact center lets customers communicate with your company via whichever channel they prefer. This includes phone calls, social media, email, text, video and live chat.
An omnichannel contact center is a way to offer a consistent customer experience to all customers regardless of the method or device they use to communicate with your company.
Omnichannel vs multichannel contact center
You may often hear about the “multichannel” center. This means that a company’s customers can reach out to the company via multiple channels. Pretty similar to omnichannel, right? But there’s a caveat here: with the multichannel approach, every communication channel is a silo. It works on its own, with its own team, system, and messaging.
Omnichannel, on the other hand, ensures all channels are integrated and unified. All service agents have access to the same information and customer interactions. The strategy is the same across channels. There’s usually a system that offers a unified customer view – a way to keep all important information about a customer, and their customer journey, in a single place.
Out of the two, customers and agents seem to prefer the omnichannel platform approach. Here are a few reasons why:
Benefits of an omnichannel contact center for CX
- Customer service agents are able to see issue context. Eighty-nine percent of customers don’t like having to repeat their issues to multiple representatives. With an omnichannel approach, all the data is on hand, no matter which representative wants to access it.
- Customers can easily jump between channels without hassle. For example, they can move from live chat to phone call when needed. This is critical, since 90 percent of customers want consistent service across channels.
- Agents can resolve queries faster and reduce customer frustration. For example, 72 percent of customers expect companies to know their purchase history regardless of the channel they purchased through. With less need to share personal information or explain their situation, customers get quicker service.
- Businesses provide seamless, personalized experiences. Understanding the customer’s journey across different channels helps build a picture of them as multidimensional humans, rather than just a customer. This creates engagement both practically and psychologically.
So, it’s a win-win: customers are more satisfied and your contact center is more efficient. Not to mention, you’ll have access to better analytics.
Luckily, the trend of customer opinions on omnichannel contact centers seems positive: 66 percent of consumers believe that customer service is getting better. However, it’s not improving on its own. It takes time and effort to build a great omnichannel experience. Here are 7 ways you can boost your omnichannel contact center’s performance.
7 steps to build an amazing omnichannel contact center
1. Understand the customer journey
The customer journey is the collection of interactions and touchpoints customers go through to buy your products or services – and beyond. Mapping this journey will help you understand customer behavior and needs.
For example, you’ll be able to identify which communication channels your customers prefer depending on the issue, when channels overlap, how customers feel about your website or support (e.g. via sentiment analysis), and which improvements to make when providing service across multiple channels.
This way you can better personalize your interactions with customers, as well as determine when to implement automated solutions, like chatbots, self-service support, etc.
2. Unify strategies
An omnichannel contact center needs to be supported by a full-blown omnichannel approach across the whole company, e.g. marketing and sales. So, sit down with all leaders in different departments and determine:
- The voice and messaging of your brand. You don’t want customer service agents to say one thing, while marketers say another. Make sure your message and voice are consistent across channels and teams.
- The best use of each channel. For example, your contact center and marketing teams will probably both respond to social media posts by customers. There should be a strategy to determine who answers what, how to minimize response time, as well as who does the “social listening” and where the feedback ends up.
- The goals of customer service. Namely, what you want to achieve and how you’ll measure it. For example, you may want to measure upsells, net retention, response times in separate channels, or other customer service KPIs. Be clear about what success looks like for your omnichannel contact center.
- The integration to other parts of your business. Consider, for example, retailer Orvis’s award-winning omnichannel strategy, where an employee has easy access to pricing, product, inventory, customer information, and more, via a tablet they can use to help customers instantly.
After you have all these down, sit with your customer support agents and communicate the plan. Listen to their feedback and discuss their own personal goals.
3. Train your agents
No matter how great your contact center solutions or contact center technology are, excellent customer service still hinges on the employee who picks up the customer request ticket. They are the face of your company, the ones who have direct communication with customers, and the ones who can turn a negative customer experience on its head.
Schedule regular training to help employees navigate through software and understand the nuances of omnichannel communication. Make sure you conduct a training needs analysis, use a variety of communication methods to keep your team engaged, and measure the effects of your training efforts. You could even stage role-playing scenarios and point out the differences between each interaction. If you want more tips on customer service training, read our guide.
4. Reach for the cloud
Cloud systems have been making their way into contact centers for several years now according to research by the Aberdeen Group. If your contact center still doesn’t use cloud technology, or only partially uses it, maybe it’s time to invest more.
The benefits include cost reduction, increased uptime, access to better technology, and more – for example, 70% of cloud contact center users cite security and compliance as a reason to invest in cloud technology.
So, talk to IT experts about what it takes to implement new technology in your omnichannel contact center. This way, all communication channels, such as social media, live chat, etc. will be unified in the cloud.
5. Get the right software
Following up on the cloud implementation, there are a number of software solutions that could help with this overhaul. But, which is best for your company? Even if you currently have cloud software, you might be missing out on others that better serve the needs of an omnichannel contact center. So, ask yourself:
- What issues do we want our software to resolve?
- Which functions are important to us to provide omnichannel support?
- What are some frequent requests from customers? (such as faster responses, self-service solutions, etc.)
- How can we connect all our data in one place?
Answer any other questions that are relevant to your contact center. At the very least, you’ll need software that provides a unified customer view, so you can maintain data integrity and consistency across channels. You’ll also need an omnichannel platform that supports various methods of communication, from call to web chat. Live chat is becoming more and more popular, so you certainly need tools to streamline the process of fielding chat requests and keeping track of multiple conversations.
6. Manage the transition
This is relevant if you’re building up your call center to become omnichannel. You may have a great omnichannel strategy or the best software, but you still need to employ a bit of change management. Employees won’t be used to fielding multiple chats, audio calls, video calls, and social media customer service requests all at once.
So, here are few ideas:
- Organize your team’s time and duties. For example, one team could be responsible for social media, while another for live chat. Or, their responsibilities could rotate according to availability.
- Let less experienced employees shadow others. It’s also a useful training technique that can get your staff up-to-speed with new technology more quickly.
- Communicate and check in on milestones. It’s important to explain to employees the benefits of the transition, as well as check in with them frequently to make sure they don’t face any major blockers.
7. Enable self-service
If customers can solve basic issues on their own, it’s a win-win: customers are satisfied with continuing to use your products or services, and your team will be freed up to handle more complex requests.
An easy way to build self-service solutions is AI chatbots. These bots will be connected to your knowledge base and will provide answers to predictable customer queries. Be careful though: According to a 2019 research, companies made the mistake of implementing AI-driven technology too quickly without thinking of their customer needs or connecting the bots to other channels. That left customer satisfaction out. And of course, it didn’t offer an omnichannel experience.
So, choose a platform that offers chatbots, but make sure you listen to your customers and consider the best use cases. Use CSAT surveys (your customer success team should be on it) and check on how customers benefit from your implemented technology.
Customer opinions matter
And that’s a point we need to emphasize some more. An omnichannel strategy works only if your customers think it works. Implement ways to collect customer feedback, and keep it in a centralized location where every department can benefit. NPS or other types of surveys will do the trick – just make sure you optimize your surveys by planning and analyzing properly, checking validity and reliability, and applying best practices.
Once you have a high-quality omnichannel contact center in place, you can expect that customer satisfaction line to start trending upwards.