Omnichannel Customer Service: Beyond the Buzzwords

59% of U.S. consumers say companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience, found PwC’s Customer Experience Is Everything report. And 82% of U.S. consumers want more of it in the future.

An omnichannel customer service experience can help today’s businesses reach a more human level of interaction with their customers. But what does that really look like?

  • Customer service teams that have the context they need to give customers personalized experiences.
  • A fully integrated contact center that integrates with your existing business tools to create a single source of truth
  • Customers that can communicate with you via their preferred channels — whatever they may be.

Defining omnichannel customer service

The word “omnichannel” gets batted around a lot, so let’s look closely at what it really means. Think about the term “omnipresent” — being everywhere at the same time. From your customers’ perspectives, it should appear that you’re everywhere, all at once.

Whatever channels you offer customer service in, you must deliver a consistent experience across all of them. In the context of customer service, customers can find answers to their questions and have issues resolved easily, no matter which channel they choose to use.

A customer may start a service interaction on in-app chat and end it on the phone via a call, or vice versa. And no matter the channel, customer service agents have access to customer details and a history of previous interactions.

Omnichannel vs. multi-channel: What’s the difference?

The difference between omnichannel and multichannel is in the consistency in the entire experience for the customer. Omnichannel customer service channels act as touch points along a single, cohesive customer journey, so customers have an integrated experience across channels and devices. Your team needs to be able to present itself as a cohesive unit whether the same agents are resolving a customer issue via in-app chat or voice call or these get handled by different agents with respective skill sets.

But tacking on new communications channels that don’t talk to one another delivers a fractured, often frustrating customer experience. That’s because unless conversation history and customer details are shared across channels, agents won’t have access to the context necessary to deliver seamless, personalized service.

79% of service professionals say it’s impossible to provide great service without full customer context, per Salesforce’s State of Service.

Common customer service channels

Your business may not need all the service channels we’ll discuss below. Every business is different, as is everyone’s customer service strategy, so you’ll have to think about what each digital channel does well and which are best suited to serve different types of customers at various stages of the customer lifecycle.

Live Chat

There’s a lot of opportunity in live chat as a customer service channel. 56% of CX professionals in retail and wholesale say they’re currently using a chat-based interaction channel, and another 26% say they have plans to add it as a customer service channel within the next year.

Deploying chat on your website or within your mobile app can support everything from answering questions to proactive notifications, to relaying shipping and invoice information about products and inventory and offering post-sales service.

Voice

Voice calls remain the most common way people interact with businesses. They’re also the easiest to record and store. First-contact resolution rates for the telephone are still typically the fastest, so if your customers have complex needs or you have frequent sensitive escalations, you may want to put a lot of your attention on voice.

Messaging

Mobile phones are, at this point, nearly ubiquitous — but only 32.7% of retail and wholesale respondents are currently using instant messaging like WhatsApp and SMS. Maybe that’s why a whopping 40.8% have plans to add it within a year.

And don’t forget MMS — multimedia messaging services — which “lets you send longer text messages. While SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, with MMS, you can send messages with up to 1,600 characters, plus 10 images,” said Founder and CEO of Contacto by Plivo, Venky B.

Chatbots and virtual agents

A chatbot is software designed to simulate human interactions, enabling interactive voice or text conversations. They can be used on your website or mobile app to provide self-service options in response to common questions, so customers can get answers 24/7/365.

By employing a chatbot acting as virtual agents to divert some of the repetitive, frequently asked questions, that leaves more time and energy for live agents to deliver high-touch service for more complex cases.

Self-service

Customers will most likely try to look for answers on their own before reaching out to customer service. Making that process simple can make the interaction so much more convenient for the customer. It may also reduce the agent’s workload as customers won’t have to call in for frequently asked questions.

“While 67% of consumers are willing to use self-service tools, 59% would prefer to call the company. Keep in mind that there is a difference between willingness and preference,” said Shep Hyken.

Benefits of omnichannel customer service

According to insights from McKinsey, customer expectations in service journeys fall into three categories:

  • Speed and flexibility
  • Reliability and transparency
  • Interaction and care

Let’s look at all the ways an omnichannel approach can facilitate positive results in all of those categories.

360-degree view of the customer

When you have all your data about a customer at your agent’s fingertips — like interaction history, past orders, preferences, and more — the experience for customers is more consistent, regardless of the channel they use without having to ask the same questions again and again. Keeping this context at the center enables personalized interactions across channels and can facilitate a higher quality of service.

Plus, when all your systems are integrated, customer service representatives have access to all the information they need, centrally from one screen. They can also switch channels if that’s most convenient for the interaction. The best contact centers will make this easy.

Simplified customer journey

“74% of Americans are likely to recommend a brand or company to friends/ family if they provide a convenient customer experience,” found Shep Hyken. It’s time to end the frustration of hanging up and calling another number.

The omnichannel experience is more user friendly. Customers can switch from one channel to another without worrying that they’ll have to go through the whole process from the beginning or repeat themselves over and over.

Higher customer service agent productivity

It’s not just customers that have a better experience with an omnichannel contact center — it’s your agents, too. That’s true for two reasons: automation and integration.

77% of agents say automating routine tasks allows them to focus on more complex work — up from 69% in 2018. That means that they have more time to spend on more complicated requests to ensure high customer satisfaction.

Integration of business systems gives agents better access to the information they need to do their jobs. In fact, high performers are 1.7x more likely than underperformers to agree with “I can find all the info I need to do my job on one screen.”

Differentiated experience

Competition keeps growing across every sector, but businesses can really differentiate themselves with high quality, personal service. When your customer service teams can go above and beyond to make a happy customer, you increase customer engagement and encourage more customer loyalty.

Continuous feedback loop

When implementing new technology to help with customer service, ensure that you create a continuous feedback loop both on your customer’s end and internally to measure customer service satisfaction and employee engagement. In other words, it will help you assess the success of your technology, while offering you the opportunity to constantly apply your customer’s suggestions and improve goods and services.

Delight your customers with an omnichannel approach

Customers don’t want to need customer service. That’s why it’s so important to remove the friction from frustrated customers’ path to a solution. Omnichannel contact centers can help you achieve that by bringing everything into a unified view, from past interactions to past purchases and preferences. That means you can offer a consistent, seamless experience no matter which channel your audience uses to reach out.

The improvement in your team’s processes is also a win, as it optimizes agent time so they can spend more of it with the customers who need you. Plus, customer service leaders get access to unified data that you can more quickly translate into data-driven insights.

Need help bringing it all together?

Contacto offers an easy-to-use way to deliver streamlined, omnichannel customer service. It integrates with your existing business systems to give customer service teams all the data they need, from a single pane of glass. Read more about Contacto’s channels and features.