As call centers expand their multi-channel offerings, the pressure is on to deliver seamless cross-channel experiences. Today, customers expect to escalate from channel-to-channel with little to no effort. However, only 12% of contact centers describe themselves as omnichannel, which is no surprise given the complexity of the customer journey. To be considered truly omnichannel, all applications must be able to effortlessly identify, route, and switch interactions between agents and channels, without losing any relevant data. A daunting task for even the most experienced call center manager. But before you go throwing in the towel, there are some tips that can help jumpstart this transition.

Here are five key steps to launching a successful omnichannel contact center (and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint):

Step #1 – Map the Customer Journey

Contact centers reportedly offer customers an average of 9 channels for support.
That’s a lot of choice with very little direction, and can lead to exhausted customer effort.

Contact centers must dive deep into the customer journey in order to create an effective omnichannel experience. This means understanding where a customer has started the conversation and each individual touch-point made before completing a transaction. The ability to pinpoint hotspots where abandonment occurs and creating a path for escalation is essential to reducing customer effort, increasing satisfaction, and driving sales.

For instance, if a customer uses online self-service, and encounters a problem, have you provided a clear path – within the channel – to resolve this? By mapping the customer journey, you can clearly identify where those paths should exist. Step #2 expands…

Step #2 – Prioritize the Channel Experience

Customers want businesses to take the guesswork out of support. When they use a channel to communicate, they anticipate it will deliver the fastest response, and if not, they will move to a different channel, or abandon contact altogether. But with greater channel diversity, it’s nearly impossible to tell which is the most effective. Plus, too many options can cause “decision fatigue”, where customers are overwhelmed by channel choices.

To successfully streamline the experience, you must provide clear guidance to fewer channels and funnel conversations through agent-enabled escalation, all while maintaining the context of an interaction.

Let’s go back to that self-service customer in Step #1 who is about to abandon a transaction. As they consider whether or not to proceed, a live chat icon catches their eye. This is their life preserver and your way of saying “help is here”. Rather than confusing customers with access to multiple channels, take a strategic omnichannel approach, and deliver the next most logical channel for escalation. If live chat fails, a “click-to-call” option becomes the most obvious progression from this channel. Step #3 can make this process much more instinctive…

Step #3 – Choose the Right Technology

After determining each point of escalation, the next step is to deploy helpful solutions that set your omnichannel wheels in motion.

Omnichannel contact centers must be scalable, and the only way to truly deliver on this promise is with a cloud foundation. Cloud is the key to delivering agile channel experiences that adjust to customer needs as they happen. Consequently, cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning applications have made it possible to create a more intuitive and personalized customer experience.

As a customer transitions from channel-to-channel, these smart applications are able to predict what should come next, and present customers with the most logical paths to escalation. Cloud-based automation empowers customers to navigate their own journey, one that fits their desired experience.

Note: Pick a solutions vendor with whom you have built a strong relationship, this is vital to Step #4.

Step #4 – Implement and Train

Naturally, this new “omni” approach will take time and patience to implement. Therefore, it’s important to have total internal awareness of and compliance with this change. From IT to sales and marketing, each department should have a clear understanding of how to fully achieve the omnichannel dream.

Agents will also play a key role in the quality and delivery of the omnichannel experience. Dimension Data predicts that in the next year, agents will be focused on resolving user issues “in-channel” and providing assisted support for integrated digital channels.

Although automation will help drive the experience, humans must be ready to step in when necessary. Therefore, agents must be well-trained to help customers at any point in the customer journey. For successful implementation, it’s best to engage staff in regular training sessions and provide tools on the back-end to track ongoing progress.

Step #5 – Evolve with Changing Expectations

Over time, communication channels will change and grow, and so will the omnichannel experience. The beauty of a cloud-based omnichannel strategy is that it allows for flexibility. As your customers begin to fully understand the experience you offer, they can also provide valuable feedback to improve upon it. Rather than taking a “set it and forget it approach”, ask your customers what they want out of the customer journey, and adjust to meet those needs.

By asking your customers for feedback, you are proactively building a stronger relationship with them, which allows for greater personalization, and makes your organization as a whole more effective and intuitive in the future.

Want to know more about implementing an omnichannel contact center strategy? Join EPIC Connections at ICUC 2017 on May 8-10th in Las Vegas for a special breakout session, “Omnichannel Considerations for the Real World”. The presentation will include omnichannel experts Charles Aeh, VP Customer Experience & Innovation, SmartAction and Justin Borah, VP Global Member Services Support Ops, TechStyle. For more details or to register Click Here.

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