Today’s empowered customer interacts via many channels, forcing organizations to evolve in order to provide a seamless, consistent customer experience across all of them. The vast array of channels available to consumers runs the gamut from Web, phone, IVR, mobile applications and self-service to e-mail, video, mobile Web and social media.
Consistency among all customer interactions via multiple touch points, a core characteristic of omni-channel customer care, is obviously important to maintaining customers’ confidence and trust. Companies focused on increasing customer satisfaction must ensure internal access to accurate, up-to-date customer history across all channels. They must empower contact center agents with quick access to a single view of all historical customer data—regardless of how customers choose to get in touch. Multi-channel contact centers are not well positioned to accomplish this, since by definition, they use multiple channels but interactions through these channels are not synchronized.
“By simply focusing on adopting multiple channels without ensuring that messages across these channels are coherent, multi-channel contact centers are falling behind their omni-channel counterparts. An omni-channel strategy is crucial to achieving goals such as increasing customer satisfaction and revenue and reducing customer service costs,” says Omer Minkara, Research Director at Aberdeen Group. (For further insights, see Aberdeen’s related report, “Omni-Channel Contact Center: The Smarter Way to Engage Customers.”)
Best-in-class omni-channel practices deliver a much higher customer retention rate, increased annual revenue, improvement in first contact resolution rates and decreased cost per customer contact. Increasingly, omni-channel contact centers are outperforming their multi-channel counterparts—often dramatically—for the simple reason that they ensure the most effective use of the customer data set.
One of today’s most important customer contact channels is social media.
Organizations have become aware—sometimes painfully—that it is absolutely imperative to have a process in place that monitors social media for issue reports, as well as identifies frequent posters who wield a strong influence. Companies are learning that without enhanced analytics capabilities, they are robbed of insights that will help them dramatically improve issue resolution. For example, issues with consumer products begin to appear in social media channels well before they are recognized in the contact center. Savvy organizations that deliberately monitor social channels for early issue detection are more likely to recognize and resolve these issues and thus avoid being overwhelmed with calls regarding a problem they’ve not encountered before. Early detection though social media enables organizations to offer self-service options on the Web and create proactive training programs for contact center agents, thus reducing call volumes and handle times and increasing overall satisfaction by resolving issues in the first interaction.
Omni-channel contact centers empower their agents with easy, rapid access to relevant customer data via the agent desktop. However, building a successful omni-channel infrastructure doesn’t stop at empowering agents with seamless access to data. The data captured there is also integrated seamlessly with data throughout the enterprise, so agent updates automatically roll into other enterprise systems, such as CRM, ERP and e-commerce. This yields valuable insights that weren’t possible before. Plus, these capabilities drive gains in agent productivity and provide them with guides for cross selling and upselling, while providing management with a speedy analysis of agent effectiveness.
Seeing Is Believing: The Proof Is In the Performance
Perhaps the greatest game changer of an effective omni-channel strategy is its ability to accurately measure the impact of each interaction. With the right reporting system—one that provides a common set of metrics that enables program performance comparisons across all channels—it is possible to monitor improvements in customer care on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. Organizations with effective measurement and reporting capabilities realize actual improvements in key metrics such as customer satisfaction, issue resolution rates, customer retention and increased revenue. In other words, operationalization of omni-channel best practices is yielding the pay-off the analysts promised.
“An omni-channel program with effective analytical reporting tools will enable the accurate measurement of customer retention and first contact resolution rates across all channels, as well as monitoring how each activity influences cost-to-serve customers.”
Insights obtained from the data captured in an omni-channel environment can improve business in other ways, too—most notably by helping organizations innovate new products and services that enable them to retain customers.
Enterprises are struggling with how to operationalize omni-channel best practices in order to derive the most benefit. To address this challenge, it’s also important to distinguish between channel adoption and channel usage. Enterprises must evolve beyond simple adoption and determine the most effective use of a channel. “It’s a tangled web of social platforms, e-mail, chat and voice. Just because you have all of them in play doesn’t mean you’re in the best position to respond. Harte Hanks’ customers value the fact that we keep all of the channels straight and present a unified, informed presence to their customers,”: Andrew Harrison, Senior Vice President, Harte Hanks notes.
Bottom Line: Omni-Channel’s Fast Issue Resolution Keeps Customers Happy
The discovery of meaningful customer insights demands an open channel of communication among all customer facing functions, as well as the back office. Such communication must be built upon seamlessly integrated enterprise systems that capture data across different touch points within the business. By establishing a single view of the customer via systems integration, companies enhance their ability to ensure the delivery of consistent messages to each account.
Customers’ use of digital channels continues to rise—thus organizations must adopt these channels to ensure that they are delivering the highest level of customer care. However, when doing so, they must determine exactly which channels clients prefer for interaction with the business—rather than making assumptions about which channels customers might prefer to use. The unified view of customers made possible by technology partners such as Harte Hanks integrates an organization’s contact center with its sales, marketing, social presence and back-office functions, providing not only agents but the entire enterprise with a deep understanding of customers’ needs.
An effective strategy will successfully operationalize omni-channel customer care by:
- Tailoring customer conversations via all direct interaction channels by using data and analytics
- Putting the customer experience at the forefront of business objectives
- Deploying best practices and constantly re-evaluating opportunities for efficiency gains to establish a consistent track record of delighting customers
Going forward, organizations with an omni-channel program that integrates sophisticated analytics, metrics and reporting capabilities with a unified, enterprise-wide view of customer data and enables them to interact with buyers via the customer’s channel of choice will far surpass competitors who cling to a multi-channel approach. Many organizations are currently struggling with how to make the best use of their customer data. Engaging a competent technology partner with proven expertise in omni-channel strategy execution offers the greatest opportunity for these companies to increase customer satisfaction and revenue, while simultaneously reducing customer service costs.