I was with my family last week on vacation. And as we were sitting around the campfire, we were chatting about good customer service experiences we’ve had before. I mentioned the word “omnichannel” and everyone looked at me with expressions that read “what on earth does that mean?”
After some added description about “seamless experiences” and brands that keep track of your information from channel to channel, my family caught up. Though they didn’t know the industry jargon, they’re all big fans of omnichannel customer service.
By now, as customers, we’ve most likely had at least one experience with a brand that really gets their omnichannel strategy right…and it’s amazing.
Omnichannel customer service is a term that’s nearly a cliche in the contact center industry. Think about why:
- 98% of the average American customers switch between multiple devices in the same day
- Over 35% of customers expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative on any channel
- 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels.
Customers today not only expect brands to provide customer service across multiple channels — live chat, email, phone, text, etc. They also expect to be remembered personally every step of the way.
This is where contact centers get tripped up. Multichannel service is really good at dressing up as omnichannel service. But let’s get this straight. The glass slipper doesn’t fit. It’s not the same as omnichannel customer service. When contact centers struggle to grasp true omnichannel customer service, their customers suffer.
Maybe your contact center is a victim of a poorly executed omnichannel strategy. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world! You can still rewind and salvage a customer experience your customers will love.
How do you hit the reset button on your omnichannel strategy? Let’s dig into three actionable steps to take to get a fresh start.
Step One: Don’t Start With the Channels — Start With Customers
Did you know: In the phrase “omnichannel customer service,” the least important component is actually “channel.” In fact, if I take that phrase and break it down in order of importance it would be:
And last but not least…
Too often, contact center leaders start the conversation (and get stuck in it) by debating which channels they should or shouldn’t offer. Can we support the technology and automation for live chat, self-service portals, phone, email, text? The checklist of features gets longer. The budgeting concerns and search for the perfect vendor keeps you up at night.
The reality is, the only one who really benefits from this situation is the vendor who can corner you into buying expensive features you don’t know how to use well. You’re losing here, and so is your customer.
How do we flip that conversation, then?
Read Now: Start with Your Customers to Craft Your Omnichannel Customer Experience to Create Long-Lasting Brand Loyalty Your Competition Can’t Beat
Before delving into loads of research about what everyone else is doing and what vendors offer, start with your customer. To quote McKinsey and Co.: “Today’s consumers do not buy just products or services — more and more, their purchase decisions revolve around buying into an idea and an experience.”
Look from the outside in and ask, if you were your own customer, how would the experience feel? Is it as natural as asking a friend for help? Is it immersive? Unique? Self-explanatory?
Think like a customer because you’re one of those, too. Your customers can provide you with an overwhelming amount of data and feedback. How can you know what needs to change and what your customers want from you without asking them?
If you start developing an omnichannel strategy by asking your customers what they want, you won’t have to question which channels or what features you should spend money on. Doing so will help you to truly solve the problem of low customer satisfaction, not just put a bandaid on it.
Step Two: Empower Your Front Line Agents to Deliver Quality CX
Let’s say you’re running an ice cream shop, and you have one person behind the counter to serve customers. Now imagine there are no labels on the tubs of ice cream, the uniform you’ve provided includes a blindfold, and the one utensil they have to scoop out product is a salad fork.
It’s safe to say that everyone involved is going to have a pretty bad experience. Customers won’t get what they came for, the server will be extremely frustrated, the shop will be poorly represented, and both customers and employees will look for the emergency exit. You may make the best ice cream in town, but who cares? If the face of your brand can’t serve customers well, your business will never get off the starting block.
It would be pretty naive to think that technology alone can maintain your customer’s happiness.
You and I both know that the people behind each customer interaction matters most. In fact, it’s been found that after just one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with a company again. But, when your customers have just one positive experience with your company, 77% of them would recommend you to a friend.
That means the people managing your customer relationships must be in a position to provide real help. They need information about the customer, the customer’s problem, their history, their preferences, etc. To develop quality, omnichannel customer service, you have to account for the needs of your agents. What information do they need to successfully answer a customer’s question?
Read Now: Three Essential Omnichannel Trends to Adopt to Fight Burnout and Simplify Your Agent’s Experience
Use your omnichannel technology to make your agents’ lives easier. Ensure that all of your customer interactions channel into a single queue. That way your customers’ information is easy to find and your agents aren’t stuck pivoting between different processes, systems, and windows.
Armed with deep information, measure your agents with attainable KPIs. Use automation to handle monotonous tasks and free your time to coach and train your agents through more complex customer issues.
Put the people using your omnichannel tools at the center of your strategy to support the needs of your customers and your agents.
Step Three: Find the Right Vendor to Partner With
So, it’s not all about the technology you use. But, finding the right technology for your omnichannel customer service is pretty vital, too. Find a vendor who understands that multichannel service isn’t the same as omnichannel service. Find a vendor who creates quality tech that helps your team to grow and adapt with changing customer expectations. And, find a vendor who has the same customer-centric and agent-centric mission as you – one that works to help you reach your business goals, rather than only prioritizing their own.
Systems aren’t all built and sold based on feature lists. The wrong vendor won’t work for your customers’ and agents’ needs. Instead, they’ll cram your business into their framework.
It’s essential that you and your vendor have a mutually beneficial relationship, so you create one powerful digital ecosystem. Gather feedback from your customers and agents to learn what matters most in your customer experience (and which vendors can get you there). Once you understand customer and agent sentiment, you have a kicking off point to build a criteria list for vendors. Then, the stage is set for you to cast an RFP bid that narrows the pool efficiently.
Ask your vendor the right questions to ensure they can fully support the customer experience you want to deliver. And now, you’re on your way to starting fresh with an omnichannel customer service strategy that perfectly fits your needs, your agents’ needs, and your customers’ needs.
We originally published this blog on December 12, 2017, and we refreshed it for new insight on August 6, 2020.