How many digital devices do you have within arms reach? Two? Three? Maybe more?
Today customers have so many ways of engaging with brands than ever before. They can self-serve information from the web, phone a contact centre, send SMS, reach out on social media, email (and the list goes on). And, likewise, brands can use all these channels to communicate with their customers, for example, Instagram has radically changed over the past 5 years. It was 'the photographers' app attracting users through the vintage filters it offered. But as the app has evolved, people are now telling 'stories' on this platform, and this has allowed brands to tell some of their own stories, allowing them market to customers in a much more niche and direct way than ever before.
While this is an exciting situation, as it means customers can communicate more easily in their channel of choice, it does make life more complicated for brands. For every new channel, it increases the complexity of customer communications. In other words, how can service standards be maintained across ever more channels?
Regardless of channel, the basics are still the same. Customers want timely service, that’s easy to use and helps them to solve their enquiry. Omnichannel has come to describe customer desire to contact and be contacted by brands through any channel, with a seamless link between the different channels. Customers want to be able to switch between different channels, so they can use the one that’s most convenient for them and without any disconnect. But, in terms of maturity, most brands are not yet at the stage where they’re fully omnichannel. There are three main stages that brands go through:
#1 Multichannel: Offer a choice of different channels for customers to use (such as phone, web chat, SMS). But, in a single interaction, customers have to continue using the same channel throughout - otherwise the history and context is lost.
#2 Multimodal: Offer a choice of different channels and customers are able to use multiple channels in a single interaction. But when a new enquiry begins, there is no history or previous context.
#3 Omnichannel: Offer a choice of channel and customers are able to use multiple channels across multiple interactions. All previous history and context is retained and integrated.
The quickest and (in the short term) easiest option is to treat channels as independent from each other. But, in this case, if the customer changes channel (perhaps because it’s more convenient for them to phone rather than email), they have to start from the very beginning of their journey.
But, arguably the biggest frustration for customers is having to contact a brand on multiple occasions about the same problem. The promise of omnichannel is that this process will become less painful for customers, as they won’t have to explain themselves each and every time they contact a brand. The frontline is then also in a better position to start solving for the customer straight away.
Interested in hearing some Contact Centre wisdom?
Get your hands on our latest report with ContactBabel where we explore the best methods you can use to gather customer insight and what makes a Voice of the Customer programme successful. What are you waiting for? Download Part One below!