Omnichannel contact centers: the evolution of customer communication
When you think of the best forms of customer communication, what jumps to mind?
Maybe it’s traditional advertising or digital display ads. Or maybe you prefer email and social media. Or, for some companies, the majority of contacts come over the phone.
So what’s the best form of customer communication?
You might not be surprised to hear that it’s not one specific channel, technique or form of marketing. It’s being able to reach customers—and allowing them to reach you—wherever they already are.
In the past, shopping was a pretty linear and siloed experience. You needed an item, you went to a physical location to purchase it, and then if you encountered any problems or needed advice or support along the way, you went back to that location for further help.
Not sure which type of paint is best for your project? Chat with an associate in the paint aisle for more information. Need to return the sweater that didn’t fit? Bring it back to the store with a receipt. Comparing several brands of baby food? Look at the varieties available in your local grocery store and compare in-store before deciding which to purchase.
Now, the customer journey is much less linear and more centralized.
The modern customer journey
While customers want a smooth, streamlined experience, customer journeys may include shopping online, doing online research and comparisons, shopping in-store, using an app, looking on social media, making a phone call, reading Google reviews and more.
In the past, having associates in-store to answer customer questions and needs may have been enough. But now the customer support experience has evolved alongside the customer shopping experience. And it’s going to keep evolving!
Beyond in-store experiences, many brands and businesses began to offer support call centers as well. Then, customer care expanded to include things like email, web chat and SMS. Now, customer care can take place in a variety of channels, from phone to web to social media to AI and more.
The more channels available for a customer to reach you, the more important it becomes to have an omnichannel contact center to provide a streamlined experience for superior customer support.
What is an omnichannel contact center?
Omnichannel contact centers integrate customer communication across many channels through streamlined technology and systems to provide a seamless experience for the customer and superior customer care.
While many brands may have customer contact centers or call centers, not all contact centers are omnichannel contact centers (even if they manage customer support across many channels!).
Sound a bit confusing? Keep reading to understand the different types of contact centers.
In omnichannel contact centers, advanced technology and systems seamlessly integrate all of the channels you’re operating in. This provides superior, personalized customer support while also saving time for your team through streamlined operational processes.
Omnichannel contact center services
Omnichannel contact centers provide a variety of services and features, including:
- Inbound and outbound voice calls
- CRM integration
- Customer satisfaction tools & customer engagement analytics
- Email, web chat and SMS
- Social media
- Cloud-based software or other technology to integrate customer communications
As the name suggests, omnichannel contact centers can handle many different channels, from voice calls to text and web chat, to email and social media and more. If you’re weighing inbound vs. outbound call center capabilities, omnichannel contact centers can accommodate both.
Of course, omnichannel contact centers may not handle every channel in existence—and you should customize what channels you need for your business! However, regardless of the channels you support, an omnichannel solution will provide advanced software and technology that integrate all customer communications to a single source.
This centralization allows agents and other team members to easily understand a customer’s entire contact history when interacting with them. Technology serves to both integrate customer communication and streamline internal processes.
Do I need an omnichannel contact center?
While this may sound all well and good, you may be wondering, “does my business actually need an omnichannel contact center?”
The fact is…
According to a research study by Nemertes Research, omnichannel contact center usage increased from 8% in 2016 to 31% in 2019. While this means that omnichannel contact centers are definitely on the rise, it also means that they’re still much less common than they should be—especially given that new communications channels and technologies are being created all the time.
Most businesses could benefit from an omnichannel contact center approach. Not only does it provide a customer service experience that meets (and exceeds) customer needs and expectations, it also gives you a competitive advantage over the 69% of businesses who are not delivering an omnichannel experience to their customers.
Still not sure? Omnichannel contact centers can be a great solution for any business that:
- Is struggling to keep up with the demand of customer service inquiries.
- Wants to reach their audience on more channels than just voice calls.
- Needs to provide a streamlined customer experience.
- Works in an industry with a long customer purchase journey (customers often contact you many times throughout the purchase process).
- Wants to optimize internal processes.
Omnichannel contact centers vs. traditional call centers
|Traditional Call Centers||Multi-Channel Contact Centers||Omnichannel Contact Centers|
|Manages voice calls||✓||✓||✓|
|Can manage both inbound and outbound calls and support||✓||✓||✓|
|Manages multiple channels of communication, from voice to email, SMS, web chat and more||✓||✓|
|Allows customers to contact you from any channel||✓||✓|
|Integrates all customer communications through advanced technological systems & processes||✓|
|Streamlines business objectives to save on costs and optimize KPIs||✓|
|Delivers top-of-the-line customer support and experiences||✓|
Types of contact centers
Companies can use all different types of contact centers, from multi-channel contact centers to omnichannel contact centers. Multi-channel contact centers, as the name suggests, can handle customer communication across many channels. However, they lack the technology or processes to integrate all of those customer communications into a streamlined platform.
Omnichannel contact centers integrate all of the customer’s communications and inquiries into a single platform, allowing team members to view the entire history of a customer’s contact and provide exceptional service, reduce handle time and increase customer satisfaction.
With a traditional call center, or even a multi-channel contact center, customers may have to reach out several times to get their request handled.
Each time, they’ll be stuck re-explaining their situation—and what’s been told to them previously by other agents—again and again, increasing frustration and handle time.
With an omnichannel contact center, each team member can see the previous communications by each customer, quickly get up to speed (without needing the customer to re-explain themselves!), and solve problems quickly and effectively.
Omnichannel contact center benefits
Studies have shown that customers who receive good customer care are 3.5x more likely to make repeat purchases.
Not just that—32% of American consumers say they would stop shopping at a brand they loved after just one bad customer experience. After a few bad experiences? 59% of consumers would walk away from the brand.
It’s obvious, then, that providing superior customer support isn’t just for the benefit of your customers—it’s also to the benefit of your sales and retention strategies.
There are many benefits of an omnichannel contact center, including:
- Improved brand consistency and messaging across all customer communication
- Increased sales and growth
- Superior customer service that gives you a competitive advantage
- Improved customer retention, loyalty and satisfaction
- Cost savings for your team as well as improved KPIs and metrics
Let’s dive into some of the biggest omnichannel contact center benefits.
Understanding the customer journey
The customer journey is the steps your customers take to make a purchase or get an issue or question resolved when they reach out to your company.
In order to provide exceptional customer service, you need to be familiar with the process a customer goes through to get in touch with you, from the first step of deciding how to contact you all the way to finding a favorable resolution.
One of the biggest benefits of an omnichannel contact center is being able to access and understand customer data to help develop, track and understand pain points along the customer journey.
An omnichannel contact center centralizes all customer communication and data in one place, allowing you to see and analyze the customer journey more easily.
Not just that—an omnichannel contact center allows you to improve the customer journey by reducing handle time and increasing first-contact resolutions.
Improving customer experience
Did you know that 56% of customers won’t wait on hold for more than 2 minutes?
We live in an instant world, and customers expect quick—if not immediate—service and answers. An omnichannel contact center allows you to improve customer experiences through faster resolution, integrated systems and a streamlined customer experience.
Everyone hates waiting on hold. But if customers can contact you via web chat, Facebook DM, or text, they won’t have to. What’s more, responding to customers via chat is often much faster than a phone call, reducing overall handle time and allowing contact center agents to help more customers.
It’s always frustrating to have to repeat your situation again and again to different agents as you try to get your problem solved. But with integrated omnichannel contact center technology, customers won’t have to. Your agents will know exactly what’s already been communicated to the customer and won’t have to rely on tedious questions to solve the customer problem.
All of this, saves the customer time and energy and creates loyal customers.
Optimize contact center KPIs
An omnichannel contact center isn’t just useful for the customer—it’s also one of the best ways to optimize your contact center systems and KPIs.
Another benefit to omnichannel contact centers is being able to streamline your internal processes to reduce overhead costs and improve KPIs.
Whether you’re tracking average handle time, first contact resolutions, abandonment rate, CSTAT or other call center metrics, an omnichannel contact center solution can provide you with the data and technology to improve important KPIs.
Omnichannel call center best practices
Despite the clear benefits of omnichannel call centers, it’s still important for businesses and organizations to follow omnichannel contact center best practices to get the most benefit and the strongest customer support.
Here are six best practices to optimize your omnichannel call center and provide standout customer experiences that build loyalty.
1: Structure for brand and service consistency
The stronger and more consistent your brand voice, the more easily recognizable you’ll be—and the more market share you’ll be able to capture.
Of course, it’s not just your brand voice and communications that need to stay consistent across channels—it’s the entire brand experience. That means if you’re super quick to answer phone calls from customers, but never bother to respond to social media messages (despite having a social media presence), customers will have inconsistent experiences with your brand, leading to frustration and decreased brand loyalty.
A recent survey found that while most call centers aim to answer at least 80% of calls within 20 seconds, more than 60% of companies never respond to customer emails.
To optimize your omnichannel contact center practices, aim to make your brand experience consistent across all channels—both in terms of messaging and engagement. A true omnichannel approach will make this much easier, by introducing tools and processes to streamline communications both internally and externally.
2: Outline the customer journey and touchpoints
The integrated data from an omnichannel contact center strategy provides you with ample data from which you can construct an understanding of various customer journeys.
Not only that, but you’ll also be able to see all of the customer touchpoints experienced at various stages of the journey—from in-store experiences to phone calls, web chat and website messaging to transactional emails, social media messages and more.
With this data in front of you, you can then develop outlines of all customer touchpoints and make sure to align your brand and messaging across them. You can also develop a deeper understanding of the pain points across the customer journey and optimize your omnichannel approach to provide a frictionless experience for customers.
3: Integrate your tools & communications
The best omnichannel contact centers rely on advanced technology to track customer interactions and engagement. Then, that data and communications will be integrated across channels into one seamless, integrated platform.
While this can be limited to just customer communications, it can also be expanded to include online purchases and transactions, reservations, website and mobile app data, product availability, in-store data and more to create a seamless shopping experience at all customer touchpoints.
4: Humanize your customer service
While many claim AI and chatbots are the way of the future (and certainly an important part of your omnichannel strategy), there’s no substitute for the personal touch and empathy of a one-on-one support call with a customer-obsessed team member.
In fact, nearly 90% of consumers prefer to speak with a real human when resolving a concern or issue with a business.
At Global Response, we specialize in creating a human-centric partnership powered by technology, so that our customer-obsessed brand associates can provide your customers with the highest level of personal attention and care. There’s few better ways to build trust with your brand than by providing exceptional customer service where the consumer knows they will be taken care of.
See how FILA improved brand trust and loyalty and created repeat customers through Global Response’s human-centric omnichannel approach.
5: Track and analyze customer data & preferences
Of course, all of the data that an omnichannel contact center solution can provide does no good at all if it’s not tracked, analyzed and used.
One of the best practices for your omnichannel contact center is simply to make use of all the data and customer preferences that are being acquired. This is important not only for your product—what common complaints might be eliminated through a feature fix, a helpful guide on your website, or through some other means—but also for customer preferences in general.
Customer preferences evolve over time. New channels might become more important within your omnichannel contact center strategy and older channels might need to be dropped to allocate resources more efficiently.
In addition, tracking and analyzing customer preferences and history can help you provide a more personalized customer experience in the future, in turn creating more loyalty and happy customers.
6: Personalize the customer experience
Speaking of data and personalization, creating a personalized customer experience is one of the best ways to optimize your omnichannel contact center strategy.
Customers not only expect speedy service, but also service that understands who they are, what they want and what their needs are. The best way to know the answers to those questions and provide solutions? Pay attention to what your customers are already telling you.
By analyzing customer data and history, including how they contact you, what questions they’re asking, what products or services they’ve been interested in the past, what issues they’re running into and more, you can discover how to best personalize their experience in the future.
The more personalized the experience, the quicker and more effective the customer service resolution.
How to transition to an omnichannel call center
It’s easier than you think to transition to an omnichannel call center. Most companies with existing call centers or contact centers can make the transition within 4-8 weeks.
If you have a complicated existing call center, the process may take slightly longer, but with the right tools and processes from your new omnichannel contact center, the transition will be easy and smooth.
When onboarding with Global Response, the process is carefully managed by an experienced project management professional, ensuring that your onboarding and transition process is as smooth as possible.
Once you’re ready to onboard or transition to an omnichannel call center, there’s 5 key elements, or stages, that will be worked through:
- Technology: Our team will work together with you to ensure that our technology stack integrates with your current tech, as well as to onboard your team’s customer communications into our tools and tech platforms.
- Recruiting and hiring: We make sure that our agents are dedicated to your business and become brand specialists—which means we’ll recruit and hire dedicated agents that will be committed to your brand.
- Training: We’ll make sure your new brand specialists are trained on best practices for call center and omnichannel contact center management, customer service, your brand guidelines and culture, and everything else they need to know before da
- Transition to production: Once the above steps are completed, we’ll be ready to fully transition your contact center management to our Global Response team, taking care of services from omnichannel contact center management, voice calls, help desk tech support and more.
- Measurement and reporting: Our involvement doesn’t end once you’re up and running. Our experienced leaders make sure we’re measuring the KPIs necessary to take your business to the next level, and will analyze and report on customer data and service analytics to grow your brand and optimize our contact center processes.
Ready to benefit from an omnichannel contact center? Connect with a consultant at Global Response to get started.