Why the Omnichannel Customer Journey Must Be a Smooth Ride

September 25, 2014 Omer Minkara

Contact-Center-Must-Be-Integrated-within-Omni-channel-Efforts We’ve all suffered a frustrating service or support call.

Maybe you’ve called your auto insurer to follow up on a claim, and had to repeat your address and phone number or retell the story you filled out online. Or you’ve had to repeat your software support issue on the phone because the agent has no access to the web-based live chat you had an hour ago (that didn’t solve your problem). Chances are, you thought about switching providers.

Both B2Bs and B2Cs are investing in programs to manage omnichannel customer journey, but they’re not making that journey a smooth one that customers demand. Fully 99% of companies use multiple channels to interact with customers, but just half of those have plans or current activities for an omnichannel program that integrates those channels for a seamless customer experience. Even fewer extend the experiences of customers across multiple touch-points as a formal organizational program for the contact center; instead they act as if the customer journey ended with the sale.

Best-in-class companies use customer and operational data to personalize the conversation, regardless of which channel it comes through. And those that integrate their contact centers into the omnichannel experience enjoy a 9% annual increase in customer retention, versus just 7.1% if the omnichannel experience doesn’t encapsulate all the customer interactions, including those that take place with the contact center. Finally, they boost their customer lifetime values by 5.8% versus just 1.4% for those who don’t integrate. Integrating the contact center within the omnichannel CEM programs pays, and handsomely.

But where to begin?

Step 1: Understand the right channels to take

A lot of companies with omnichannel programs don’t bother to find out if they’re using the right channels. Mobile apps get a ton of press, and concert-goers and sports fans love to pull out their smartphones and use TicketMaster’s app to nail down great seats. But someone seeking support for their internal technology solutions will use their laptops or desktops, and might want the choice of a knowledge base, live chat and phone conversation —whatever suits the individual best. That’s a question best left for existing customers and their user groups, else you risk wasting time and money optimizing something customers don’t want.

Step 2: Empower your agents

A second step is to empower contact center agents as part of efforts to manage the customer interactions via multiple touch-points. Some facts that Aberdeen has discovered:

  • The typical agent spends 20% of his or her time trying to grasp different applications via the agent desktop – as they are interacting with a client.
  • On average an agent has to switch between five screens to pull up information.

Consequently, the service delivered by agents who lack access to effective technology tools isn’t timely, agents are far less productive than they should be, and customers are frustrated by sitting on hold (or worse, repeating information). So the agents must be empowered with a single view on an agent desktop that’s integrated with the relevant enterprise systems like CRM and ERP; but also with others such as automated contact distribution (ACD) and interactive voice response (IVR). And that agent must not be tasked to “drill down” into the customer’s issue, it must be clearly presented on a single screen.

Step 3: Build a strategic alliance with IT

A third step is building a right working relationship with IT, wherein you work together to stamp out bottlenecks to data flow and create an agent desktop that integrates well with enterprise systems. This is no small feat for IT—not with so many touch points in the omnichannel customer journey, and new touch-points evolving. But it is more of a one-time project than a continuous task, then a series of one-off projects as customer requirements change and you introduce new t. Best-in-class companies view IT as a strategic partner, and IT understands well just how serious an impediment non-integration is to company profit and market share. IT becomes an enabler, eager to craft that smooth customer journey.

Serving the agent serves the customer

Integrating the agent desktop with enterprise systems isn’t some “nice-to-have” activity for contact centers; it’s a must-have to better serve the customers. The idea is to delight and inform the clients at every step of the journey, from becoming aware of a product through engagement and into becoming a loyal repeat customer. Otherwise, you risk looking irrelevant compared to competitors who knows how to leverage customer data across all channels, and at every step of the journey—support and service included. The customer sees the same context carry over from one point to another because the databases are integrated, and companies that successfully integrate their channels reap the rewards.

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