Why Omnichannel Isn't Really Omnichannel


Why Omnichannel Isn't Really Omnichannel

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  March 30, 2016

We know the world has changed and has truly become mobile-first and app-focused. For the customer service industry, it’s created a need to allow customers to contact their vendors via the channel of their choosing (e.g., voice, text, social, etc). When you consider how mobility has eroded many of the traditional restrictions to customer-initiated interactions, and the injection of social theory into society, the need for vendors to have effective mechanisms for engaging across multiple channels becomes table stakes. As a result, we’ve been hit by an abundance of contact center vendors touting their omnichannel capabilities (iteration #2 of the multichannel trend).

Of course, much of this is taking place in the cloud, in order to give customer service organizations and teams the flexibility they need to accommodate the needs of this fickle new breed of customer. But that’s not really the big story – after all, everyone seems to be leveraging the cloud in some capacity by now.

The bigger story is that, despite the need for it, there remains a very limited amount of support for omnichannel interactions. If you consider how today’s customers communicate— the millennial generation, in particular, which is becoming a greater percentage of the spending community — most of us have had cause to switch modalities mid-interaction. Perhaps texting became too cumbersome in a complicated conversation; or you wanted to share a picture in the context of a conversation; or you wanted to move from voice-only to a video chat.

I recently had a conversation with Ivan Malyshkin, director of business development at Bright Pattern, about this.

“Very few businesses have switched to that mode of communication process for customer support,” he says. “Most companies are still confined by voice, and it’s hard for them to switch from one modality to another and to link them within their customer data sets.”

What it means is the thorn that has stuck in the side of the customer service industry for years remains — if a customer decides to switch modalities within an interaction, he is likely to have to begin the process over with a new agent repeating information you’ve already provided. If you’re lucky, the first agent may have verbally passed along some level of detail to escalation agent.

There are plenty of traditionally modeled cloud contact center vendors out there, but this deficiency is really what Bright Pattern sought to address.

“When we provide an ability for clients to contact businesses we send a lot of data next to the request,” Malyshkin adds. “You shouldn’t have to stay in a queue for a long time or deal with IVR constantly — all your data should be available.”

Bright Pattern extracts data from effectively any interaction channel and turns it into useful information that can be added to the customer record and be retrieved by any agent, regardless of channel. The company also takes a different approach to omnichannel routing: Rather than writing routing rules based on agent skillsets, Bright Patters had developed a capacity-based system. Effectively, different media types require a different amount of focus from an agent. Malyshkin says most agents are probably able to handle 4-5 basic (text-based) interactions at once but, once any one of them is escalated, the threshold is adjusted accordingly. In fact, once a customer escalates to voice, that interaction is, for all intents and purposes, going to consume 100 percent of the agent’s capacity.

This understanding of capacity and how much capacity is required to be able to handle different media formats is what’s limited the businesses’ ability to truly handle omnichannel customers. Some have told me they fear their agents can’t handle switching between modalities.

I don’t buy it. In fact, I suspect the ability to move between different communication types and being able to solve more customer needs as a result would actually have a positive impact on morale and, perhaps loyalty — something for which the contact center market has long been at a loss.

Rather, despite the technology being in place to connect agents to multiple channels, the missing piece has been an intelligent routing element that is able to factor in capacity per interaction.

“Frankly, most traditional contact center platforms can’t handle this because they have been built and/or acquired over the years and it’s just easier to separate the channels,” Malyshkin says. “We have built Bright Pattern for the new generation of contact centers that will be able to leverage data from the very powerful mobile devices that inherently know very much about us.”

It’s going to take some time to take hold, given how notoriously slow the customer service space is to implement new technology but, Bright Pattern seems to be onto something with a fresh approach to an old problem. If it means I no longer have to repeat information, not only on just a single call, but on most other calls to the same vendor, I’m all for it.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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