Contact Centers aren’t Ready for Omnichannel
The potential of “omnichannel” when it comes to contact centers is undeniable.
Your customers prefer different modes of communication—phone, email, chat, social media… Let them choose how they connect with and receive support from your contact center agents, and you score high for ease of doing business, right?
But omnichannel can have a dark side. Most companies’ eagerness exceeds their readiness when it comes to properly planning and supporting multiple channels of customer support. Here’s why.
A More Impersonal Connection and Incomplete Planning
Before the Internet, buying and customer service primarily happened face-to-face. There was a natural, personal connection. Once the Internet came about, that human connection fragmented, and companies found adding a single online communication channel to their legacy call center operations to be a challenge.
Now, many organizations recklessly pursue the promise of omnichannel by throwing new communication channels into the mix without proper planning—they don’t take the time to set up each new channel for success. As a result, companies aren’t prepared to mitigate and service the customer across multiple communication channels. Consumers are left underwhelmed, or even frustrated. And frontline agents forced to pick up the pieces of rushed decisions begin to distrust their management knows what it’s doing. That’s not a recipe for success.
One-Sided Business Processes
At the same time, a company’s business process approach doesn’t always take into account both sides of the support experience—the customer AND the agent. Most companies review processes from the customer perspective, but many don’t do the same from the agent’s perspective. Agents are the subject matter experts; they understand what it takes to progress a customer inquiry through to a positive resolution as quickly as possible. Yet few frontline agents are included in business process planning, even though they’re most qualified to design those workflows. So agent workflows often are illogical or cumbersome.
Implementing omnichannel successfully requires extensive review and augmentation of existing business processes. Unfortunately, companies often skip or speed through this phase, jeopardizing the success of the omnichannel project altogether.
This skipping or speeding through phases plagues the testing stage as well when it comes to omnichannel.
It’s imperative any new applications are thoroughly tested across all supporting departments prior to customer rollout since these new tools have the potential to substantially improve—or tarnish—the customer experience. If a customer or agent can “break” a proposed process, it’s not ready. All inter-dependencies and possible scenarios need to be examined and accounted for. Project managers have to get very granular and ask tough questions of all stakeholders. It’s not easy. And all of this becomes more critical when considering omnichannel deployments.
If—rather than merely benefiting from flexible communication choices—your customers resort to multiple communication channels to receive a single, satisfactory response from your frontline agents, you can bet they aren’t happy. And they may not be your long-term customers. You have a channel churn issue, and it’s decreasing your customer loyalty and customer lifetime value (CLTV).
Channel churn happens because of the issues discussed above:
- Without proper planning—Comprehensive, up-to-date data isn’t available to all agents manning all communication channels. Customers receive differing levels of service and information based on which channel they use. In an ideal omnichannel environment, all channels are equal. A single-touch interaction on the channel of their choosing can resolve any question/issue the customer has.
- Without 360-degree business process planning—Workflows aren’t optimized for both customers and agents, resulting in cumbersome and illogical processes that frustrate both groups. In an ideal omnichannel environment, business process planning takes into account the totality of the support interaction. It builds optimal workflows for both customers and agents. It incubates a culture of continuous improvement, constantly monitoring and adjusting existing workflows as needed.
- Without comprehensive testing prior to launch—Both customers and agents suffer through error messages, incomplete information and broken workflows. It frustrates agents, decreasing their job satisfaction and fostering low morale. And to your prized customers, your company appears sloppy, unprofessional and chaotic. In an ideal omnichannel environment, the majority of—if not all—broken workflows and bugs are identified and fixed prior to launch. Customers and agents are wowed by your new tools, readily recognizing the benefits they receive because of them.
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