Ominchannel changes the way people talk to companies. It gives them the option to choose the channel they like best, whenever it suits them. This promises to transform every business operation. But none more so than the contact centre. Tim Green explores the topic ahead of a special MEF webinar on May 28.
The Harvard Business Review caused a bit of a ruckus in 2010. It published an article with the following headline.
Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.
Marketers the world over spat out their lattes. They were fixated on customer ‘delight’ and here was their bible telling them they were wasting their time. But HBR’s point was this. If you want long term loyalty, don’t make things delightful. Make them easy.
The authors wrote:
“How often does someone patronize a company because of its over-the-top service? You can probably think of a few examples, but (not) many.
“Now ask yourself: How often do consumers cut companies loose because of terrible service? All the time.
“Loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be.”
HBR based its conclusions on a study it ran with the Customer Contact Council. This questioned 75,000 people about their experiences with contact centre agents and with self-service channels such as the web, voice, chat, and e-mail.
The raw take-away was this: great service will inspire some customers to stay loyal, but bad service will drive everyone away. And what’s worse, it’s easy for customers to share their war stories. In an age of Twitter and Facebook, your bad service will go viral.
An omnichannel set up also makes it easier for a business to understand how its contact centre is performing. Record keeping gets better. You can scrutinise the choices customers make, how long they spend on each channel, and so on. You can use these insights to keep improving.”
Obviously, the article is ten years old. But it’s arguably more cogent now than ever. Why? Because of ‘omnichannel’.
In 2010, the voice-dominated call centre was turning into the multi-channel contact centre. Customers were getting the option to text, email and live chat.
Now, contact centres are moving to the next stage. They’re linking all these many channels so that customers can hop between them without having to repeat themselves to agents.
This is omnichannel, and it’s a huge opportunity for the customer care arm of any business. Especially so in the present Covid era, in which companies and their consumers rely so heavily on virtual communications.
For many people, let’s be honest, customer care is a chore. They expect long wait times, painful IVR phone trees, and having to repeat the same information again and again when they finally do get through.
Omnichannel represents an escape route – for managers, agents and customers. Let’s take a hypothetical example.
A shopper orders a skirt online. It’s the wrong size. She starts a live chat conversation with a bot on the store web page. She quickly gets the answers she needs. However, she decides she wants to speak to an agent. She clicks a button and receives a call straight away.
The agent already has all the details of the customer’s query. The agent then sends her a rich message and asks her to take a picture of the item and receipt. The customer sends back the pic and her query is resolved.
So you can see how omnichannel makes it possible to deliver customer service that:
- Is consistent across every channel
- Asks minimal effort from customers and agents
- Offers the right channel at the right time
- Is personalised to the user’s circumstances
An omnichannel set up also makes it easier for a business to understand how its contact centre is performing. Record keeping gets better. You can scrutinise the choices customers make, how long they spend on each channel, and so on. You can use these insights to keep improving.
And omnichannel tech is developing all the time. Machine learning and AI are having an impact. They can do things like deduce from natural conversation the nature of a query (before the customer has even stated it). They can use ‘sentiment analysis’ to detect emotions, and route to an agent with the best skillset.
AI should make life easier for advisors too. It should reduce the volume of queries by making self-care easier (via bots), and speed up interactions by giving agents much more information about a query/customer.
So the challenge is: how to make omnichannel happen.
Well, what really helps is communications platform as a service (CPaaS). Today, there’s no need to install expensive ‘tin’ at the contact centre. You can keep all your comms channels in the cloud and pay a knowable monthly fee to access them rather than a large upfront equipment cost.
CPaaS is software, so it ties together voice, text, live chat, email and so on. Hardware cannot do this.
From a mobile industry perspective the shift to omnichannel is incredibly important. People want self-care via the smartphone. They like bots. They prefer asychronous text to voice. And, most important from a MEF POV, they are choosing rich messaging over apps.
The switch to RCS and OTT chat platforms gives contact centres a unique opportunity to centralise most sessions around messaging. Inside a rich chat session, an agent can resolve a query in real time using video, images, maps and more. This is quite an opportunity.
Please join us for a deep dive into the terrific omnichannel opportunity awaiting the contact centre – details below.
Exploring the omnichannel opportunity for call centres making the switch to RCS and OTT chat platforms, centralising sessions around messaging.
- Mathias Muehlfelder, Senior Director of Product Management, Syniverse
- Tom Barkan, Director of Product Management, Voice & Conversations, Vonage