How to implement omnichannel service: 3 tips to get you started

How to Implement Successful Omnichannel Customer Service: Use These Three Omnichannel Best Practice Tips to Avoid Accidentally Delivering a Messy Multichannel Customer Experience

For the past few months, I’ve been using a service called Instacart to order all my groceries. (The fewer people in stores, the better, right?). It’s a safe option for getting the necessities. And, it’s terribly convenient. Every week when I place my order, the service I get continues to impress me.

From my phone, I can order all my groceries while sitting on my couch. Then, the Instacart delivery service drops them at my doorstep just hours later. Even better? I get in-app notifications that tell me when the Instacart employee starts shopping for my groceries and an update when they’re leaving Kroger with my delivery. 

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And, if the shopper can’t find items on my list, I get a text with suggested product substitutions, so I have the chance to approve a substitution or scrap the purchase. That way I never pay for products I don’t want. With an experience this convenient (and affordable – with a whopping $2 service fee), it spoils me from doing business with other brands who don’t offer such seamless service.

Consumer savviness has driven companies to become more customer-centric. Yet, as companies keep improving their experiences, consumer expectations continue to grow. 

How can you keep up?

Customers want their needs recognized, immediately, and via the most convenient communication channels. 

According to Gladly’s 2020 Customer Expectation Report:

  • 79% of customers say a personalized experience is more important than personalized marketing.
  • 86% of customers expect you to know them as they switch from channel to channel.
  • 77% of customers recommend brands that offer personal service to friends and family.

Brands may prioritize making their service widely available and knowledgeable. But, many struggle to implement their service strategy with customers in mind. Organizations still fail to meet customers on their terms.

For several years, omnichannel service has been a buzz word. But, strategy around omnichannel is often watered down. It’s more than providing multiple communication channels for your customers to reach you.

True omnichannel support ensures seamless transitions. It calls for consistent experiences from one channel to the next. To implement effectively, you must collect the right information as you go. This collection of information is vital for driving stronger, more meaningful customer relationships.

So, how do you take the next steps to make your omnichannel customer service the best it can be? How do you implement omnichannel customer service effectively? Let’s dig into the details of omnichannel customer service and highlight three tips to implement your strategy for best results.

The Key Difference Between Multichannel Service and Omnichannel Service

Before I dive into specifics, we should distinguish the difference between omnichannel service and multichannel service. Often, companies believe they’re implementing omnichannel customer service. In reality, they’re adding more channels of communication without connecting them correctly. This can cause a boomerang effect.

Multichannel service involves offering customer support across multiple channels. Put simply, a company with multichannel support offers customers a variety of ways to interact with them. That way, businesses can meet customers on the channel that they prefer using. But, the buck stops there.

Omnichannel customer service takes things a step further. Omnichannel service connects all the channels of communication. Then, it shares customer information cross-functionally to deliver a seamless experience. The customer’s experience is consistent regardless of the channel or touchpoint used to get in contact with a company.

With each transition, that customer’s information gets passed along. Agents share context and notes about the customer’s concerns and actions during previous interactions. Then, customers don’t have to repeat their issues more than once.

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Implementing Successful Omnichannel Customer Service: Use Data & Customer Information So Agents Know How to Help Customers

Imagine this: a customer receives a debit card in the mail from her bank. She goes to activate the card online, but there’s an issue. So, she hops onto the live chat and connects with a bot. The bot asks for her information and for a summary of the problem, then directs her to call the customer service number.

On the phone, the customer then repeats her information and her problem all over again to an IVR system. After all of this, she’s eventually transferred to a live person at the bank. For the third time, she’s asked to explain her situation. Again. At this point, she’s frustrated. She still can’t use her inactive debit card. And, she spent the last hour dealing with this.

Now picture a different customer in the exact same situation. He receives his card in the mail, has issues activating it online, and jumps onto a live chat. The bot collects his information and stores it in a database. The bot notifies an available agent who then reaches out to the customer over the phone. 

Prior to calling, the agent reviews the situation, prepared to address the customer’s question. The customer’s problem is solved, his time isn’t wasted, and he hasn’t repeated himself over and over.

The first customer had plenty of digital and non-digital channels to reach out to her bank. But, the quality of service was poor since those channels weren’t connected. The data and information weren’t getting routed to the best help.

But, the second customer was able to let the omnichannel system do the heavy lifting. He shared his problem once, and that information was shared to the right people so he didn’t have to exert so much effort to solve his problem.

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Omnichannel Implementation Tip #1: Channel Your Data Accurately

When you implement your omnichannel customer service, be sure to channel your customer’s data accurately. Information needs to flow into a single database, capable of notifying your agents of each customer’s needs.

This helps your agents. It relieves them of hopping from one channel to another to address an inquiry. When your channels end at a single queue, with customer history on-screen, your agents see the full picture of the customer’s journey.

This seamless handoff of information matters to your customers. According to a Salesforce study, 70% of customers say connected processes are very important to win their business. This includes seamless handoffs between departments and channels, or added context from a previous interaction.

And, more than 80% of customers will give a company relevant personal information to bridge the connection between their online and in-person experiences.

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Omnichannel Implementation Tip #2: Let Automation Do the Heavy Lifting

Find a balance between your automated and human customer engagement. You want to encourage customers to fall in love with your automated options — like live chat bots, IVR tools, and self service tools on a knowledge base, so they can find assistance quickly. Live agents are great, but consider channeling customer requests to live agents when the need is emotional or complex.

And, be sure to provide those agents with all the customer information prior. Like the story above, serving up customer info to your agents lets them step into any situation already prepared.

Omnichannel Implementation Tip #3: Gather Data as You Go to Drive Future Experience

As your omnichannel platform helps your customers and channels interactions to your agents’ queues, make sure you gather helpful information as you go. 

On average, how many channels do your customers use before they get to a resolution? And, when did each customer last call in about a problem? Was it the same one, or did a new one pop up? Gathering this kind of data and making it available to your team of agents is everything if you want a successful omnichannel customer experience.

Collecting data across your customer journey ensures your customers get the best experience within a single interaction. 

How are they behaving? What channels are they using? Can you ID any trends? What are the primary pain points along the customer experience?

Simultaneously, turning to your data gives you information to improve how you coach and train your team. Track your customer’s journey and satisfaction with metrics like CSAT and qualitative feedback. And, pair that feedback with metrics like Average Handle Time, First Call Resolution and Hold Time, so you can see where you need to focus training for your agents.

Use data to see how your customers behave and let their behavior drive coaching and decision making in your contact center. Customer data sets a roadmap to make your omnichannel customer service better as you go, so you can best serve your agents and your customers long term.

Want to implement the most successful omnichannel customer service experience for your customers? Start with the needs and wants of your customers to create long-lasting brand loyalty.