Today’s consumer is used to technology that makes communication easy.
For most, their phone is always to hand, meaning they can call, message, email, connect on social platforms, browse the web and video chat at the press of a button. The knock-on effect of this easy communication is that they expect to be able to get in touch with organisations in the same way.
Our latest research with Cisco shows that
of consumers want organisations
to offer different channels to meet
The result? Organisations are facing a more acute demand delta than ever before.
Now, the customer experience is very much a journey that starts from checking out options on a smartphone and interacting with a bot, through to collecting the prepared purchase from a store. It’s more complex, it’s made up of more steps and it makes much greater use of technology. Organisations have picked up on what customers are looking for and are doing their best to respond. They’re offering accurate self-service powered by AI as well as a wide choice of channels to address multiple end user objectives and cultural habits, including voice, SMS, email, webchat and all the variants of social media, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WeChat, AppleTalk and more.
The problem is that this is happening in a fragmented way and adding in multiple contact options is only solving one part of the customer journey.
Multi-channel doesn’t automatically equal omnichannel
In many organisations, different departments are still interacting with customers in different ways and for different reasons, and no one department is bringing it all together. So, for example, marketing may be launching social campaigns offering social interaction at the same time as the sales team is launching an email-based promotion, but the contact centre is run separately, mostly by the customer service department. They have no way of knowing if someone is calling after receiving an email from sales or after interacting with the marketing campaign bot. When organisations aren’t bringing all their customer-facing applications and data together under one omnichannel customer engagement solution, they can’t see the whole customer journey. They’re working blind, unable to get a 360-degree view of their customer. Multi-channel engagement has just made the customer experience even more fragmented.
Consumers are noticing, and they’re not happy. Eight in ten consumers reported having a problem with service in the last six months and three quarters said they find dealing with customer service issues ‘tiring and exhausting’.
Contact centre agents agree:
say their digital channels
offer only limited support.
IT and financial departments are also very aware of the extra costs involved with the ownership, integration and management of multiple, disjointed customer engagement systems.
Redefining what omnichannel means
Omnichannel is about bringing together all the customer data from every possible touchpoint into a single interface for the agent, giving them a complete insight into the history and behaviour of the consumer so they can proactively resolve increasingly complex demands.
In an omnichannel world, consumers will be able to escalate from self-service bots or from one human-attended channel to another, seamlessly and easily, with the context and their personal data following them across the whole journey. The escalation to voice is a critical moment when self-service or text channels can’t deal with complexity or emotion. Funnily enough, the enhancement of self-service with AI has meant that, when people need a human to help, they directly choose voice, as the most emotional, interactive and efficient channel when they’ve exhausted the possibilities of digital.
Our research confirms that a voice call is still the number one contact choice for consumers when they can’t get an answer online, with 50% saying phoning is the best way to get a result. And with the increased security challenges of people working from anywhere, the voice channel is also becoming the most secure option thanks to the rise of voice biometrics.
Can we assume the other 50% are happy resolving issues using other channels? Actually, the choice of channel doesn’t depend on demographics, but on users’ goals and moments. Brands need to be prepared for whatever way the consumer chooses to engage, and this will change according to what they’re trying to do or resolve and the situation they find themselves in. For example, self-service and social media are useful for routine transactions when it’s better to type because you are on a train or in a waiting room, and voice tends to be chosen if you’re upset with a service or using hands-free in your car.
In a fluid, omnichannel set up, organisations need to analyse customer sentiments in real time – perhaps before customers even realise what they’re feeling – and proactively influence how the consumer moves between channels, shifting them at the right time before they get frustrated. In the contact centre, now renamed the customer experience centre, it’s now crucial to use intelligence to assist agents, making it easier for them to anticipate customer needs and emotions, whatever channels they must handle.
Delivering a truly omnichannel experience synchronised with a central CRM system is still a crucial differentiator for contact centres in 2021, as well as the best way to optimise costs and security. There’s still some work to do for many brands.
To find out more about how an omnichannel approach could help improve your customer experience, get in touch with your account manager. And, to get the full picture of what consumers expect from contact centres today, download our Autonomous Customer 2021 whitepaper.