When we look to a company for answers, what do we want?

We want a seamless experience and answers tailored to our needs, no matter how we reach out. Whether we visit a store, check a website, send an email, call customer service or all of the above, we want the source or person on the other end to understand our relevant history and quickly provide answers. We want omnichannel service, and so do our customers.

The Omnichannel Enterprise

Omnichannel service -- seamless interactions across the customer journey -- involves the whole enterprise. An emerging standard that goes beyond multichannel, omnichannel is an advanced concept gaining ground in sectors like retail and banking where customer experience is the key differentiator.

Providing omnichannel service requires a cross-functional team with players from marketing, sales, customer service, operations and IT. Working together, they need to understand and architect the customer journey that identifies the service touch points and how the customer may switch between channels continuously and seamlessly. The vision of omnichannel is that the customer -- at any point in the journey and on any channel -- will have a consistent and optimized experience, even when they switch channels.

The Contact Center: Caulk in the Gap, Agent of Change

Customer behavior puts the contact center in a leading role in providing omnichannel service. With the rise of the web and self-service options, many predicted that there would be fewer voice calls. Yes, customers are using the web and self-service, but they are also still calling, and when they do, the stakes are much higher. They’ve likely exhausted other channels and their problem still isn’t solved or their question remains unanswered. The contact center becomes the fixer, or what I call the caulk in the gap left in other areas.

Maybe the customer went to the company website and the FAQ was inaccurate or out of date. Then they sent an email that was routed to inside sales, with no reply. Finally, they called the service line for answers. This is where the contact center not only fills the gap, but reveals the gaps in service. And because contact centers are handling new types of customer communications like online chat and text, more and more gaps are coming to light each day.

Providing omnichannel service, and the advanced customer interactions that come with it, requires cross-functional dedication to creating a consistent customer experience. The contact center can be a leader in this effort because it is actively discovering gaps in the customer journey.

The Omnichannel Contact Center

From the customer’s point of view, omnichannel means that regardless of how they contact customer service, or where they are on their journey, they will have the same experience and consistent results, even when they switch channels.

There’s a lot riding on the contact center agents who play a key role in providing answers and converting a potentially negative customer experience into a positive experience. These agents need sophisticated yet easy-to-use tools as well as real time feedback, excellent training and coaching. They will need advanced technology that supports omnichannel interactions.

Introducing the omnichannel contact center:

  1. Communicates with customers across multiple channels and can do so simultaneously (such as sending a text to a customer on a voice call)
  2. Knows and understands the customer’s context and past interactions within their journey
  3. Remembers and is able to thread or carry this contextual understanding from one channel to another
  4. Provides consistent and personalized service in every channel the customer uses

Agents can provide these types of advanced interactions when systems and software are integrated into a unified platform. This unification makes a customer’s identity, context and relevant history accessible, thereby enabling the contact center to deliver seamless experiences.

Omnichannel: Made Possible in the Cloud

If your contact center is using disconnected on premises systems, omnichannel is difficult if not impossible to achieve. Cloud technology offers a flexible and agile environment that enables rapid response as well as a test-and-refine approach.

As channels proliferate and as customers become more demanding, you need the ability to understand your customers and to evaluate your operations from end to end. You will need to experiment and to add services. Cloud contact center systems have the advanced technology and built-in flexibility needed to adapt to the emerging requirements of omnichannel customers.