The adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile communications devices has changed the way that providers of products and services engage with their customers. There’s little doubt that mobile engagement should now be at the top of the list for most organizations interested in maintaining a fruitful relationship with customers. However, it is also important to recognize the embedded value of existing channels and platforms when considering a digital strategy for omnichannel customer care.
To be successful in devising and implementing a winning digital strategy, it is prudent to take a two-stage view of the issue. The first would be to assess the current engagement modes. Questions like “what endpoints do our customers want to use?”, “what interaction modes do or don’t they like,” and “what tools do agents use and like,” should be asked internally. In addition, it’s important to take a long look at methods that address the immediacy needs of the customer base, as well as the ability of the organization to be responsive on each potential channel: chat, email, messaging, voice, video, social media, and others. Consideration of the particular customer base is also important; not every customer may be in love with new technology as most Millennials are, so maintaining existing contact channels may still be important to the embedded base.
The fundamental goal of an omnichannel environment is to make every customer’s journey as intuitive, simple, and personalized as possible, regardless of how users prefer to interact. This simplicity must also extend to the mobile environment.
In some mobile implementations, the race to release an app sometimes overshadows the need to offer convenience and efficiency within the app. For example, many apps rely on the mobile device to handle all voice functions. While easy to do, it means that the consumer leaves the app interface – incidentally abandoning all record and the context of his or her activities within the app – to speak with an agent. This process unfortunately forces the customer to repeat conversations – usually many times over – regardless of how much detail he or she may have already provided within the app.
In contrast, customers should be able to initiate live conversations directly within applications instead of toggling between windows or downloading plugins and extra software. And context about who the customer is, his/her online activity, and other details should be correlated with the call to ensure the right agent specialist is selected and briefed in advance. This ability to move with customers across multiple channels maintains continuity throughout the journey and facilitates more personalized, intelligent engagement.
At the end of this analysis, the business should have an idea of what it wants to do. This brings on the second stage of how do to get it done.
Very few companies are in the position to start with a clean slate and rip-and-replace the entire customer contact infrastructure to open new communications channels. Whether growing from a basic voice-only inbound call center, or a multi-channel combination of voice, chat, and email support, leveraging the value of the existing investment in technology, infrastructure, and business processes can not only de-risk and ease the transition, but also save time and money.
A major challenge in taking this investment-extension approach is that many platforms already in use don’t necessarily integrate well with each other. This incompatibility can result in multiple islands of technology and resources that can be inefficient and elevate operational costs. And, from the customer’s viewpoint, the journey to a satisfactory resolution can be disjointed and difficult.
One successful solution is to employ a backend context engine that interworks with each particular platform or endpoint, and enables the sharing of key customer engagement history and data among the different channels. This approach can empower agents to use multiple engagement channels as required to deliver a satisfying customer experience, and reach a suitable resolution.
However, most businesses do not have the time and technical resources to build full-function omnichannel solutions on their own. So they should look for partners that can help manage the entire implementation and transition processes.
The ability of an omnichannel platform to interwork with multiple technology islands on the back end, while presenting a unified and intuitive front end, should be a key pillar of a partner’s offering. While the specific programming interfaces and languages employed by differing platform elements are often complex, they can be abstracted to a level that is intuitive and relatively simple to understand and implement.
Because no two businesses are exactly alike, customization must also be a fundamental design option. In essence, the system should abstract away the deployment complexities, while preserving the flexibility of all contributing elements.
And finally, the question of on-premises versus cloud implementation needs to be addressed. This is a business decision that should be dictated by factors that include customer information management, regulatory issues, and business intelligence. As these elements may change over time, the flexibility to employ on-premises and/or in the cloud for customer contact functions must always be available.
Connecting the dots from the idea of adding digital engagement channels to the reality of delivering a true omnichannel experience can be complicated. But by closely examining customer needs, business impacts and priorities, the value of existing platforms, and an intuitive backend solution, a business can map out a simple path to a successful implementation.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi