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Omni-Channel Contact Center: Are you prepared for 2017?

By: Chris Recio, Inflow Communications Dir. Contact Center & Advanced Applications

It’s fascinating to me how many Contact Center options do not fully extend their solutions to meet the needs of today’s rapidly developing technology and the willingness on the part of consumers to make their own choices. Forcing Contact Centers to cobble together solutions with many 3rd party applications simply to meet the needs of the basic multi-channel requirements is a disservice, and not providing a ready-made platform for an omni-channel solution leaves the Contact Center at the mercy of the vendor.

With this in mind, I wanted to share my thoughts on the distinction between multi-channel and omni-channel within the Contact Center and look forward to a solution that can facilitate your leap into 2017.

 

Multi-Channel / Omni-Channel

As a customer of services myself, I find that I prefer to help myself as often as possible and wherever I might be. Typically, I prefer to be in front of my PC or on my iPhone when conducting certain business. I am not likely to use Social Media for customer service inquiries or for product support, but that’s not to say I haven’t, and, there are those that most certainly do.

It has only been over the past year that I have begun to use SMS as a means for updating an account, making a payment for a service and usually my cell service, or confirming a dental appointment, but that’s not really the point here – at least in part.

The point is: as I think of my own habits and patterns in obtaining customer service assistance, I need only look at what choices I have made to gather insight into the impact these services have on the Contact Center operation and the choices available to consumers.

The use of technology allows me the freedom to pick and choose how I interact with certain services, and more often than not, I leave the old tried-and-true-pick-up-the-phone-and-call-the-toll-free-number as a last option when dealing with certain transactions. I usually save those types of discussions for those special cases where I need to dialogue with someone about something more specific. I will say, I have also used chat services in order to avoid making the oftentimes “dreaded phone call” usually because making the phone call can be painful at times.

The impact of technology on the Contact Center and the increasing knowledge of customers and their demands to get to information any way they feel most comfortable has put an incredible amount of pressure and expectation on Contact Center operations.

Providing multi-channel and omni-channel options is no longer a choice for the Contact Center of today. Consumers are moving at a rapid pace and are becoming increasingly more comfortable with technology and the options it offers. Even the so called “baby boomers” are climbing aboard – I need not look any further than my mom and dad to understand this.

However, bringing a Contact Center up to today’s standards and providing such multi-channel options can be a daunting task.  Add to that the omni-channel experience, and it can become quite a project requiring thought and planning.

Thankfully with the progression of technology, there are Cloud options available now that make the transition a swift process allowing the Contact Center to leapfrog in meeting the customer demands.  Before we get into the options, let’s first demystify the terms “multi-channel” and “omni-channel” as each requires a base level of understanding in order to arrive at a solution to achieve both.

 

Multi-Channel

Simply put, multi-channel refers to the various communication options or media options that can be used to facilitate communication with the service provider – the Contact Center. This includes: voice, email, web chat, SMS, Social Media, and more – and yes there is more.

Each communication process is one channel. Multi-channel refers to the ability to provide the communication methods that customers demand by communication type. You may not even be aware of it, your customers are likely texting you now, searching your website for chat, and the various ways in which they can – or shall I say – MUST reach you because your Contact Center doesn’t offer such choices.

In today’s world of technology, MUST should never be the sole option. It’s to your advantage to discover what your customers are seeking in order to provide the best service options possible, or risk the loss of that valued customer.

 

Omni-Channel

Omni-channel was borne out of the multi-channel needs and has created an overlap of misunderstanding and confusion. But, in the grand scheme of things, multi-channel and omni-channel go hand-in-hand and should be considered as part of the customer journey strategy. That’s not to say they are one and the same, but rather, the demand for multiple channels forces a need to have an omni-channel customer service strategy.

Omni-Channel is the ability to provide a consistent experience to the customer across all channels regardless of which channel is chosen as a first option. Customers shouldn’t have to learn a new trick or jump through a different hoop in order to gain great customer service simply because they chose a different method of communication.

Add to that, the ability to transition the communication to other channels is an important aspect of omni-channel. If the customer initially engages your Contact Center through your website via chat, and then, the discussion needs to move to a phone call, this should be a seamless transition for the agent and the customer.

The key here: each line of communication should offer the same experience, ease of effort, availability of data, and overall satisfaction as any other communication offered by the Contact Center.

 

The Challenge

Ultimately, omni-channel is the here and now, and has been brewing for quite for some time. The concept of omni-channel has been aggressively forced upon us by availability of technology and customer demands for access.

Finding an application that provides a pathway for this foundation is critical and can leapfrog your Contact Center operation to the forefront of customer satisfaction, with a well-planned strategy and goal. More and more Contact Center operations are looking for the all-in-one solution to satisfy their needs now, while offering a platform to grow into the future, no matter the emerging options that may become available to the customer. This will be the continued trend going into 2017 and those that are nimble now will benefit from having a forward thinking strategy for improvement and growth.

If your Contact Center hasn’t laid the foundation for an omni-channel Contact Center, you’re already behind the 8-ball and 2017 will continue to push the demands onto the Contact Center operation.

Learn how Inflow Communications leverages PureCloud by Interactive Intelligence in providing both multi-channel services within the Contact Center with a strategy for taking the next steps in achieving an omni-channel Contact Center operation.

PureCloud is changing the Contact Center game.

 

Want to Learn More About Omni-Channel?

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About Inflow

Inflow is a national leader in unified communications and contact centers. With over 100,000 endpoints under Inflow’s innovative support plans around the world, Inflow’s dedication to knowledge and innovation, and unrivaled customer support, has landed them in ShoreTel’s top 2% in global customer satisfaction and as a winner of ShoreTel’s coveted Circle of Excellence Partners award. Inflow was also recently named a ShoreTel Platinum Partner and is their fastest growing partner globally. In addition, Inflow is the only cloud contact center provider that provides implementation, ongoing support and comprehensive consulting and training programs. Founded in 1997, Inflow has offices in Portland, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Tampa, L.A. and the Bay Area.