The Importance of Omni-Channel Solutions in a Contact Center
First off, let's understand why omni-channel is such a big deal.
Not only are there dozens of channels being used today between phone, physical stores, email, web chat, web portal, social media, forums, communities, etc.; but most of these channels operate separately, reinforcing the word "channel" which is defined as:
- (a) "a bed where a natural stream of water runs", since "channel" derives from the word "canal", and
- (b) "a usually tubular enclosed passage"
Futher complicating the situation, in many cases companies partner or outsource some of these channels or integrate 3rd party solutions into their homegrown ones. On top of this, many of these channels feature different answers or content for the same questions or issues, a key challenge that "Knowledge Management" has tried to attack over the years.
Compounding these separate or "silo'd" channels is that customers don't understand or care that these channels don't, or can't, operate together. After all, to them it's the same company, and in most cases they didn't want to make the contact in the first place. You can often hear their frustration in classic cases like:
- "I just answered those questions on your IVR...why do I have to repeat them to you?"
- "I already was online and wasn't able to find out when my package shipped..."
- "I was chatting with someone already who told me...why don't you know this already?"
Once you embrace how complicated we've made it for our customers to get answers or help, thanks to too many disconnected channels, the frustration becomes quite clear - We force our customers to repeat themselves over and over when they seek help, depending on the channel they opt-in to.
Multi-Channel is an operational view of each channel individually, while Omni-Channel combines all those channels into one single experience.
This is where omni-channel makes the difference. The multiple, disconnected, silo'd channels listed above are a form of multi-channel communications. Think of multi-channel as an operational view - how you allow the customer to complete a transaction in each channel. Omni-channel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated and consistent. Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution.
And for those of us who are analytically minded, you may need additional support for how important it is to operate on a "seamless, integrated, consistent" basis that omni-channel capabilities provide. Let's look at the returns as reported from Aberdeen Group Paper "Omni-Channel Customer Care" from October 2013:
No matter how you look at it, omni-channel is the trend of the future - connecting all the ways we talk to our customers into one seamless journey. If you outsource your call center, this is a technology that should be a priority for your partner to have. Check out our best practices article on omni-channel in the call center and if you're interested in learning more about The Connection's omni-channel equipped contact center engagement facilities, give us a call at (800) 883-5777 or drop us a line.