The Essential Guide to the Omnichannel Contact Center
Your contact center should be designed to connect with customers across multiple channels of their choosing—without the journey feeling fragmented.
Customer preference is integral to shaping strong customer experiences. Accenture reports that 51% of consumers are more likely to remain loyal to a brand or business that communicates with them via their preferred channel. But not all of your customers will have the same preferred channel—some like web chat, some like phone, some email.
An omnichannel contact center is one that offers multiple options for customer communication. Your customers can choose between different channels to contact you, and they have the ability to seamlessly move between channels once the conversation starts. They can reach out to you in whatever way is convenient for them—and they know you’ll be listening on the other end.
You should establish an omnichannel contact center to key in on customer preferences, provide your agents with helpful context to make conversations run smoothly, and improve your overall customer journey by creating better experiences.
Benefits of an omnichannel contact center
The defining characteristic of an omnichannel contact center is that your customers and agents can switch back and forth between channels without losing context or having to start the conversation over.
Whether customers reach out through email, phone, text, or chat, conversation details are logged in real time for agents to reference. And if they want to follow up through a different channel later on? No problem. Their conversation details from other channels are all captured in one central place.
Transitions are crucial to am omnichannel contact center.
Omnichannel provides your customers with more convenient communication options—a crucial step on the path to happier customers and higher levels of retention. But there’s another key advantage: Your agents have all the details they need in front of them to help customers, close sales, and deliver a great experience.
The number of agents who say that full customer context is most important to do their job well grew 29% in 2021, according to Zendesk. In an omnichannel environment, your support agents will have access to conversation details immediately, even if the customer has been routed to them from another agent. They can answer questions and resolve issues faster, creating more efficiency across your business.
Your customer support team isn’t the only one who has access to conversation history and customer details in an omnichannel contact center. Your sales agents will as well, and they can easily reference this data when they’re reaching out to renew with customers or looking for upsell opportunities. An omnichannel contact center creates a more personalized experience throughout the entire customer journey, including purchase points.
According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report, Second Edition, “Customers are 3.7x more likely to view seamless transitions between channels as important, versus unimportant.” Omnichannel is the key to unlocking that seamless transition and turning frustrating experiences into delightful interactions.
Customers choose their follow-up method.
Your customers will be able to connect with you conveniently and get a response quickly with omnichannel contact options. They can self-select how they want to reach out to you and then choose a different method for following up—without any important context getting lost.
For example, take a digital-first brand: A customer might start a chat with an agent about their account because chat is the only option. But when it’s clear that they need to talk about sensitive information, they may want to move to voice. Context from their digital experience (web session history and chat transcript) gets shared with the voice agent, so they can quickly validate the customer and address exactly where they left off.
Reduce long hold times and confusing menu options.
Confusing phone menu options and long hold times are two common causes of customer frustration (at minimum, make sure your IVR is optimized!). An omnichannel contact center can eliminate both.
Customers who prefer to pick up the phone for support can do so—otherwise, they have the option to text, email, or open a web chat. The difference is the acknowledgement that customers are starting online. So instead of forcing them to make the jump from a digital experience to manually dialing a brand’s 800 number, they can instead request a call online, scheduling it for a time that works for them. This bypassing conventional hold times, and routes them directly to the team that’s most likely to help.
Customers won’t have to repeat themselves.
Customers hate repeating themselves—71% of consumers expect that your team will collaborate internally so that they don’t have to.
An omnichannel contact center takes care of that collaboration on the back end by logging conversation details and carrying them over in real time if a new agent picks up with the customer. Your customers will also receive a more personalized experience overall, since your agents will have access to the customer history and details throughout the conversation.
Features to establish in your omnichannel contact center
A great omnichannel contact center is one that is customer-centric. It’s built to match customer preferences, so you can create a better support experience and more impactful conversations to drive revenue up.
These key features, at the core of an omnichannel contact center, help you deliver the level of service, quality, and convenience that customers expect.
Consistent quality and brand across channels
The brand, voice, tone, and quality of service should all be the same between channels. Your customers will have the same (great) experience no matter how they interact with your business, and your sales team will close more deals by sticking to core messaging.
Easy access to both self-service and live agents
Customers don’t just want multiple channels for live agent conversations—often, they’re looking for the ability to help themselves for a faster response or resolution. While voice is still a popular channel for solving support issues, 98% of customers try to skip the IVR. Taking both of these factors into account, it’s vital to provide a digital transition into voice that allows customers to skip complex menus and get called when it fits their schedule best.
Seamless omnichannel routing
No matter where customer conversations initially start, whether it’s text, call, email, or chat, ensure you have a way of easily connecting them to the best person to handle their request. A good omnichannel software package is the best solution for redirecting customers in real time so that they can get the answers they need quickly.
Analytics and reporting
Your agents are having conversation after conversation with customers on what can feel like an unlimited number of digital channels. You should also be collecting data on all of those conversations, channels, and interactions. You’ll be able to better understand your customers, their preferences, and their challenges, as well as the workings of your contact center.
3 steps to implement an omnichannel contact center
Make the shift toward a customer-centric, omnichannel contact center by focusing on your audience’s communication preferences and creating a seamless conversation journey for both your agents and customers.
You’ll need a process for managing shared knowledge across channels, a workforce that’s trained and KPI’s on an omnichannel approach, and a way to easily move customers between channels.
1. Shared knowledge is more important than platform consolidation.
You should introduce multiple channels for communication between your agents and customers, but they should all be connected behind the scenes. Otherwise, what you’ll have is a multichannel contact center, not omnichannel.
According to a Salesforce report, 52% of customers would describe most of their customer service interactions as fragmented. A fragmented approach to managing your customer communications will lead to a fragmented customer journey. Instead of offering multiple channel options that are siloed from each other, you need to take a full omnichannel approach to contact center management.
For most enterprises, it’s not feasible to use one platform for email, chat, SMS, and voice. Tech has been added over time, niche needs are needed in some channels, and a rip-and-replace simply isn’t feasible. In today’s solutions landscape, focus less on a singular platform, and more on aggregating and connecting data, and making that accessible to the agent in any given moment.
In terms of an omnichannel software solution, use a CRM to keep a full record of customer conversations, resolutions, sales notes, and more. Your agents will have full visibility into customer history, regardless of which channel they personally pick up on.
2. Smoothly transition customers between channels.
Research from McKinsey shows that more than half of customers engage with at least three channels during each journey they take, whether it’s on the purchasing side or the customer support side. Customers are actively seeking out and using that flexibility between channels, and your omnichannel contact center should be equipped to remember customers as they move between channels and conversations.
It might be tempting to add every possible communication channel to your mix, but McKinsey’s research shows that it’s better to focus on building seamless pathways for the two or three that are most important to your customer base. “By prioritizing the most common paths and the channels that customers on those paths use first,” they found, “companies can quickly increase their chances of creating impactful experiences where they matter most and make the experience feel personalized to the customer.”
To really nail the transition between channels, put customers in control of how to facilitate it themselves. If they dial support and find themselves waiting on hold, give them the option to either schedule their call or get called back as soon as possible. Other times, customers might want to hop on the phone after browsing your site or app but don’t feel like waiting on hold. A call scheduling button can do the trick instead.
3. Match up agents with channels they excel in.
For your agents to deliver a great customer experience, they need to understand your customer journey and best practices for each channel. Your contact center’s workforce management policies should be geared toward creating great conversations with customers and account for factors like peak call volume.
You can empower your agents to hold great customer conversations by matching them up with the channels that are best suited to their particular skills. Instead of asking an agent to switch back and forth between text, phone, and chat, for instance, find out which channel they’re most comfortable with and give them room to hone their skills. Provide consistent training on specific channels—and how to route customers to the right place for the answers they need.
You also need to manage their workloads and conversation loads so that they can focus on the customers directly in front of them. For phone agents, they can only talk to one customer at a time, but for text, social, or chat agents, they can talk to any number of customers at once. Prioritize quality over volume, and consider limiting the number of conversations they have going simultaneously. This helps them give the necessary focus to each customer and prevent agents from getting overwhelmed.
Once your omnichannel contact center is up and running, don’t settle for the levels of customer satisfaction you’re currently seeing. You should continually leverage your omnichannel software solution to find sources of strain for both your agents and customers, so you can keep improving your customer experience. Use the data you have available to better organize your workforce, introduce or scale back channels, and enhance the experience in every channel
Ready to ramp up your omnichannel approach? Mindful provides you with reporting on key voice metrics like acceptance rates, hold time averages, and scheduled vs. ASAP requests, and important digital context like intent data so you can uncover important trends in your omnichannel contact center.
And we don’t just hand you the numbers—we work with you to understand what the data means for your business and your customer service activities.
Watch a demo of Mindful to see how it can transform your contact center’s customer journey.