As modern consumers, we want easier (and faster) access to products and services. And we want answers to our most pressing problems…yesterday.
That’s why now more than 6 in 10 U.S. adults turn to channels like chat, social and self-service before picking up the phone to call customer service. Opening up a webchat and asking a question takes a few seconds. Picking up a phone and dialing a customer service line takes longer than that on its own. Add on the time customers spend waiting in a queue (even just two minutes), and frustration only grows.
Funneling customers into a voice-only experience is a recipe for disloyalty with your modern customers.
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As digital channels grow in popularity, contact centers need to put more intention into their omnichannel strategies. That’s why we chatted with our friend Lori Bocklund, Founder & President of Strategic Contact, about what an omnichannel experience really is, and how to reach omni-nirvana – a seamless customer AND agent experience.
What is omnichannel nirvana (and how does my contact center get there)?
You see, lots of companies tout omnichannel products or experiences. But too often, contact center leaders can’t get a real grip on how to create a successful omnichannel experience. Messages sit in a wasteland of unread emails. Your team doesn’t monitor Twitter because it adds yet another screen for them to look at. You don’t filter customer data to your agents’ desktops because you don’t want to overwhelm them with info.
Leaders find gaps in CX and try to putty them shut by adding new tools and more channels. But the “omni” experience still doesn’t make customers happy. Why? Because it fuels agent burnout and customer frustrations rather than streamlining CX and reducing customer effort.
But according to Bocklund, achieving omnichannel nirvana in your contact center is as simple as unthinking it.
Thus far, too many companies have had a laser-focus on the term omnichannel rather than on what omnichannel means. Our obsession with the word omnichannel clouds our view of what really matters: the outcomes omnichannel brings for your contact center.
So, we’re here to unthink it. Follow these four steps to reach omni-nirvana in your contact center.
1. Think about your ideal customer experience, then reverse engineer it.
The last time you interacted with your favorite brand, what made the experience so great? And, over time, what have they done to earn your loyalty?
Rather than diving into the weeds thinking about channels and dozens of small details, think about the big picture customer experience you want to deliver, first. Do you like Amazon because you get fast replies from sellers when you have a question, or because you can communicate through an app, email or chat and the level of service is always the same? Reflect on what stands out about your favorite brands.
Then, match it up to the experience you and your agents deliver. Do the experiences align? If not, where do gaps exist? From your customers’ first engagement to their 10th, map out their journey. Once you have a grip on your journey, ask yourself how you can close the gaps for your customers (and your agents).
What tools would make it easier for agents to do their jobs? What big rocks can you address to create seamless experiences in your contact center?
Map out a high-level journey that mirrors the experience your favorite brands deliver. When you focus too much on tiny details from the start, you clutter your brain and talk yourself out of making decisions to move your customer experience forward. Too many priorities bring on decision fatigue. And fast.
2. Bulldoze silos.
You’ll never reach omnichannel nirvana with organizational silos standing in your way.
As you build out your ideal customer journey map, work with leaders across departments to create a clear and consistent communication strategy. When customer service handles phone calls, sales holds down web chat, and marketing answers your Tweets, the experience you deliver can quickly feel disjointed.
There’s a reason companies with all-star service, like Amazon, have a Twitter account dedicated to helping customers with service requests.
They staff it with knowledgeable and friendly agents who’ve been trained to answer technical questions with poise (and good prose). That way, the customer service experience isn’t left to people like me, a mere marketer without all the detailed knowledge of how to solve customer problems.
Proactively addressing silos, then building a plan for consistent service across every channel, gives control back to your contact center. The troop trained to help customers daily.
3. Make changes with your agents in mind .
Some 65% of company leaders say overwhelmed employees are an urgent or important workplace trend, according to Deloitte.
Without the right strategy, adding new tools and channels to your collection just adds clutter to your agents’ desktops. And, it can easily overwhelm them.
As you plan your omnichannel strategy, do it with the agent experience in mind, too.
No matter the shiny tools and cool new features you build into your roadmap, if your agents are stressed out and overwhelmed, your service will suffer. And you won’t deliver on the omnichannel experience your customers expect.
“The agent desktop has historically been a pretty ugly place,” Bocklund said. “Let’s get it right this time and truly get to a place where that desktop is a better place to spend your day working. That’s not too much to ask.”
Fix your agent experience by making sure your omnichannel tools contribute to agent engagement rather than discourage it. In another recent article, Bocklund went into detail on this trend. When evaluating your omnichannel experience, ask: does your suite of omnichannel tools actually make your agents’ lives easier, or does it add more problems to the mix?
Let’s walk through an example of positive vs. negative impact that Lori mapped out in her article:
“Example of Positive impact: We have technology like an excellent, dynamic knowledge base, workflow tools, and CRM.
“Example of Negative impact: Our desktop is messy with more than 15 applications that agents have to navigate with little automation and integration; they are often overwhelmed and frustrated.”
4. Connect all your systems, not just your channels.
Omnichannel done well doesn’t just tie together a few communication channels. According to Bocklund, it bundles up your knowledge management, your analytics, your CRM AND all the different ways customers reach out into a single, interconnected experience.
“When we talk about seamless and integrated, we’re not just saying, ‘oh, how do I tie together my chat channel with my voice channel, it’s all those other things we have to keep in mind as well.”– Lori Bocklund, Founder & President of Strategic Contact
What’s more? The biggest challenge plaguing contact centers this year is high attrition. And, the second biggest challenge is poor desktop tools that don’t help your customer experience (like your CRM, Knowledge Management and Collaboration tech stack).
Connecting your systems can solve for both.
When your tools don’t work together, your agent experience suffers alongside your customer experience. Then, you send agents running for the door. In fact, according to Gartner, moving from siloed, multi-platform experiences to a more unified environment is one of the biggest factors to influence your agents’ decisions to leave or stay with your company right now.
Tackle your top challenges and reach omnichannel nirvana with an experience that benefits your customers and your agents all in one.