Agents Deserve A Seamless Experience

The Transformative Power of an Omnichannel Contact Center: Key Benefits and the Facts You Need to Implement an Omnichannel Customer Experience

Your customers would give anything to put a stop to their broken record syndrome. 

You know the one. 

It’s diagnosed when customers repeat their explanation of whatever painful issue they’re having time and time again (And again. And again.) It happens all because your communication channels don’t sync up. Customers fill out a form on your site detailing their problem, then send a follow-up email repeating it again, then call in and relive it all over to three more agents.

Well, turns out, your customers are fed up with this clunky and out-of-tune experience.

Some 76% of customers say repeating their issue over and over again when communicating through different channels is the most frustrating piece of their entire customer experience. And another 86% of customers expect conversations with agents to move seamlessly between channels.  

Your customers expect service that:

  • Is consistent across every channel
  • Requires little effort from them
  • Is personalized to their needs

They expect an omnichannel customer experience that meets them where they are, powered by an omnichannel contact center that knows who they are.

An Omnichannel Contact Center Benefits Your Customers. Here’s How.

Omnichannel isn’t piecing together one system for chat, another for email, and a third for calls. Then, using all those systems separately without tying together customer information and history. When you string dozens of channels together with dollar-store thread, you create more work for your team, and a less-than-stellar experience for your customers. 

You task your already overburdened team with tying new knots when the thread breaks, attempting to piece together a positive experience. And you force your customers to start and stop conversations over and over again just to solve a single problem. 

That’s multichannel, not omnichannel.

What’s an omnichannel contact center?

An omnichannel contact center lets customers reach out for help how they want to, without explaining their issue over again each time they switch channels. Instead, customers can change how they communicate with ease. And, it syncs up all your data, so customer service agents know if it’s your customer’s first time reaching out or their 17th.

With an omnichannel approach, companies can pass context between channels. So, when Tammy reaches out to Stitch Fix about her recent shipment, your team of agents knows she’s called in twice about issues, opened a live chat for quick help, and she still has an outstanding case.

And when Kelly ordered the wrong size in her new Spanx leggings, an agent can switch from call to text mid-conversation, so Kelly can snap a picture of her receipt and reach a resolution without ever stopping the conversation.

Sharpen: The Best CCaaS Platform You Haven’t Heard Of (Yet).

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To help you deliver on this seamless experience your customers crave, we’re walking through why you need an omnichannel contact center, the features you can’t miss, and how to implement omnichannel service in your contact center. Today. 

The Role of Contact Centers in Shaping the Customer Experience

The personalized, seamless experience your agents deliver is what makes or breaks a standout customer experience. 

It’s why companies with the strongest omnichannel engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies.

Is the battery life charged on your omnichannel strategy?

So how do you support your contact center agents on the quest to deliver this standout service? 

You flesh out an omnichannel strategy that lowers the barrier to finding (and using) customer data to inform conversations. You marry your systems into one, easy-to-use interface for your team. And, you lean on your reporting engine to tell you what your team is doing right, and where you can lend a hand to help them improve.

Two decades ago, the most progressive contact centers were effectively blending a couple of channels – typically voice and email. Today, it’s commonplace for companies to queue and route inquiries by phone, email, social media, and chat.

But omnichannel done well doesn’t just tie together a few communication channels. It bundles up your knowledge management, your analytics, your CRM, AND all those different ways customers reach out into a single, interconnected experience.

[Learn More] Make interacting with customers easy with Sharpen’s omnichannel

Companies that build up their customer experience with intuitive tools and seamless transitions between communication channels give customers an easy and consistent experience with every touchpoint. And, companies who take that omnichannel service even further, offering up a blend of self-service options and helpful human support, elevate customers to their happiness peak.  

Reach the pinnacle of customer experience with an omnichannel contact center

3 Reasons Why an Omnichannel Contact Center Matters to Your Customer Experience

1. Digital channels like chat and texting are ticking up in popularity.

These days, our phones serve as an extension of ourselves. We use them to consume information, buy our dog food, email our bosses and connect with our aunt from Florida who’s always on Facebook.

In fact, the average US citizen spends 5.4 hours per day on their phone. 

Hey... take a break from staring at your phone to keep reading about omnichannel

Our world is mobile-first. So, it makes sense that customers turn to mobile options for customer service, first. More than 6 in 10 U.S. adults use channels like chat, social, and self-service before picking up the phone to dial a customer service line.

Consumers want service on their terms, with minimal wait time. Waiting on hold for an available agent is frustrating for 80% of consumers, according to OneReach. Even worse, more than two-thirds of customers will only wait on hold for two minutes or less.

People rely on their own resources and savvy to find answers to problems now more than ever.

Just last week I watched YouTube videos to learn how to start my car with a dead key FOB. Watching the video got me to a resolution in less than two minutes. If I would’ve called customer service, I might not have even reached an agent in that amount of time, let alone solve my problem.

And these changing tides are why some 77% of consumers aged 18-34 have a positive perception of companies who offer quick channels, like texting, for customer service.

Texting is among the best methods to nullify these issues, and though it’s only one component of an omnichannel strategy, it’s perhaps the most important integration in a time where speed tops customer priority lists.

Texting customer service saves consumers loads of time... and they love it.

Investing in a platform that lets you deliver service tailored to modern customers gives you a leg up on the competition who’s still tied up in the spiral cords of desk phones.

2. Omnichannel tools help your agents build consistency into every experience.

In 2020, the year where anything (I mean anything) can happen, the demand for an omnichannel customer experience comes alongside higher customer expectations. Not only do your customers want omnichannel, now, they also want every brand they interact with to execute an omnichannel strategy perfectly. 

Customers reaching out for help already stew in a state of frustration. But the customer who’s about to boil over needs an agent’s help to solve his problem. Pronto. 

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Whew. That’s a lot of pressure. Pile up that pressure next to the dozens of other metrics your agents have to keep an eye on, and it’s enough to make your agents crack. 

When agents have to keep their eye on too many priorities, they struggle to perform.

These factors put extreme pressure on contact center teams to produce. And when your agents can’t keep pace with customer needs, your chance at “perfect” execution goes out the window. 

Deloitte found 65% of company leaders say overwhelmed employees are an urgent or important workplace trend. 

The overwhelmed employee is real - and you can fix it.

To lift some of the burden off the shoulders of agents, contact center leaders are turning to omnichannel contact center solutions to consolidate their toolsets.

If agents have to mollify the constant frustrations of customers and problem-solve for increasing complex issues, they need tools that help them. Not tools that add more work and frustration to their plates.

[Download Now] Learn 9 business impacts of a better agent experience, like lower turnover and higher CSAT.

That’s why last year, 60% of contact center leaders planned to measure agent effort. They could chart its impact on customer and agent experience. Then another 40% of contact center leaders put reducing agent effort on their priority list.

3. Your customers are different. And they seek help differently, too. 

Customers settle service needs in different ways. Some need their hands held while others want to fly solo, almost never calling in for help. (I’ll raise my hand to that.) Nonetheless, customers all seek the same thing: a fast, effective solution to their problem.

An omnichannel contact center lets you personalize the experience based on how your customer wants to reach out. And, it helps you unify communications, so you create a consistent experience across every channel. 

Let’s face it. The world is shifting. And how we communicate shifts with it. My fiancé’s two-year-old niece already knows how to FaceTime, picking up the phone and clicking all the right buttons herself. And as tech-savvy consumers (darn those millennials) keep aging up, customers continue to seek help in new ways. 

Pop quiz: The last time you interacted with customer service, did you talk to a person or a bot first?

I used to manage a company Facebook page, and I can’t tell you how many times I got messages from customers who needed help but didn’t want to pick up the phone to get it.

That left the customer service experience to me, a content marketer without all the technical product knowledge of my peers, a crop of well-trained, knowledgeable agents. 

Omnichannel fixes this. It gives the control back to your contact center.

Today, 42% of contact centers forecast a reduction in voice interactions, while 87% expect an increase in interactions on other channels. Whether they’re shopping online, calling about car repair service, scheduling a vacation, or checking a potential fraud charge on their bank account, customer service interactions happen in all shapes and sizes. Contact center teams must address and prioritize every channel as voice becomes less of a favorite.

The 6 Non-Negotiable Features Your Omnichannel Contact Center Needs

1. A Simplified Interface 

Agents use an average of 8.6 different tools, have 23 interactions with their peers, and handle 130.5 different support interactions in a day. 

It’s no wonder, then, that contact center leaders say the lack of an integrated agent desktop is their leading productivity challenge. 

“The top five challenges are all united by a common theme: agent effort.” 

– Brian Cantor, CCW April 2020 Market Study

Gartner data from real companies shows that an improved agent experience brings higher agent productivity, lower intent to leave their jobs, higher customer satisfaction and less customer effort. Lower agent effort with omnichannel contact center software that makes life easier for your team. 

[Learn More] Give your agents a user friendly interface to better help customers.

Find an omnichannel platform that compiles customer context into one, easy interface for your team. 

A simplified contact center interface  (like ours) saves agents from info overload

The more info your agents have access to, and the fewer barriers to actually find the customer history they need, the more equipped they are to solve problems for your customers. And fast. 

2. Obvious ROI

Bad service experiences drive up your operational costs. And siloed tools that don’t fit into your digital ecosystem keep you from realizing greater revenue gains. Nearly two-thirds of contact center leaders struggle to realize intended ROI from their contact center because they can’t integrate their systems and channels. 

A platform that doesn’t integrate with your other customer systems isn’t really an omnichannel contact center. It’s just multichannel. 

Not only that, but according to CCW’s August 2020 Market Study, 57% of consumers complain to a contact center team member while on the line after a bad experience. These complaints heighten your handle times, making you pay more for each customer resolution and wasting valuable (and costly) agent hours. 

[Learn More] See 5-15% ROI from Sharpen in 60 days or get your money back. No fine print. Everyone qualifies.

Seek out software that can improve your key metrics and drive down expensive handle times. And, look for an omnichannel contact center platform that streamlines your operations – from the way your agents handle an interaction to how you report on (and coach to) performance data. 

3. Integrations

The best omnichannel contact centers are scalable, agile, and robust enough to integrate with new technologies as they pop up in the market.

They work like large rivers with tributaries from various ponds of customer data. When new service channels pop up, your vendor can partner with your IT team to integrate them into your new omnichannel environment, without the downtime that harms your service. That way you still have a single interface to house all your channels and customer data, with the added benefit of multiple systems with different strengths all working (and reporting) together.

With tight integrations and open APIs to share data, true omnichannel contact centers make it easy to operate and make changes to your system on the fly. 

Open APIs helps your omnichannel contact center share data with other systems

As you invest in new systems or add more channels, your agents’ workflow doesn’t have to change. Data passes from system to system seamlessly, without putting the burden back on your already-overwhelmed team of agents.

In our modern tech world, it’s hard to predict what channels and technologies will change the market next. You need a nimble omnichannel contact center that can adapt with you as the world changes.

4. Quality and Performance Management 

Without investing in the performance of your agents, your customer experience can never improve. No matter the crazy cool toolset you use.

Partner with vendors who understand that quality and coaching are core to the customer experience. Look for agent development tools like scorecards, call recordings and transcriptions, individual agent dashboards and performance tiles embedded in your omnichannel platform.

Quality and performance management tools give managers and supervisors the daily (and historical) data they need to train and coach agents regularly. With insight into daily performance and historical trends, contact center leaders can know at a glance where they need to help team members improve. 

And with an omnichannel contact center platform that surfaces performance data to agents, too, agents can track progress with every interaction. They’re empowered to course correct when they make a mistake and see a metric dip. And, they know at the end of each day where they stand against their goals. So, they can keep improving customer outcomes daily.

Performance Tiles built into your omnichannel software inherently improves agent performance

5. Cloud Architecture 

Especially in the contact center, work from home has largely been viewed as the exception, not the norm. Until March of 2020 when businesses were forced to suddenly shift. Now, Gartner reports that 35% of the customer experience workforce is expected to work from home by 2023 – up from a slim 5% three years ago.

On-premises systems met their match when companies had to abandon hard-wired offices for desks in our bedrooms. The pains became clear: on-premises solutions just aren’t as flexible as cloud systems. When the world called for flexibility, cloud answered. 

And now, it’s up to you to determine what makes the most sense for your business moving forward. Will you stay rooted in legacy or listen to the tides and move to the cloud? We suggest the latter. If you’re seeking out new omnichannel software, investing in cloud architecture is the low-risk option. You’ll get more flexibility in your day-to-day environments, and you’ll strategically support your business continuity plan. 

6. Reporting

An omnichannel contact center gives call center managers a comprehensive look into the performance of their team, without keeping data under lock and key. Instead of looking at performance by channel across disparate systems, an omnichannel contact center platform bundles up performance data across all channels and every team.

First, you have to pick the KPIs you want to measure. Next, outline your benchmarks. What does success look like for your contact center? Do you want to get higher CSAT scores? Decrease Average Speed of Answer? Or maybe you’re itching to improve FCR? Set comparative benchmarks for success. 

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Then, the right omnichannel contact center platform does the work for you. A true omnichannel platform monitors data across every channel and pulls info from other systems for easy reporting.

Omnichannel contact center reporting bridges all your important info into one interface

You can do things like:

  • Measure the origin, hold time and length of calls across all channels;
  • Monitor customer self-service journeys on your website, IVR and mobile app;
  • See how many inquiries came in via social media, chat and other self-service channels;
  • See which specific channels customers use to contact your call center over time;
  • Use a universal, integrated queue and retire disparate, channel-specific queues that separate agents.

The most successful companies use omnichannel insights to measure, report and analyze their data. They gather intel directly from their platform to inform their decisions on where to allocate resources, streamline operations and improve agent performance. 

An omnichannel contact center gives you the puzzle pieces (and the box with the picture on it) to put together your 360-view of customers.

With customer experience as a competitive battlefield, omnichannel is the weapon you need to win.

Zoom Out: What’s the current state of omnichannel? 

Now that you know what an omnichannel contact center can do for your customer experience and the kind of platform features you need to get there, let’s zoom out for a second. 

How are your competitors executing on omnichannel? And is anyone nailing the “perfect” strategy yet? 

Summed up: We’re not there yet.

Brands still have work to do to bring their omnichannel experiences up to par.

Reminder: you might have a lonely purchase sitting in an abandoned cart

Turns out, customers still feel like companies aren’t living up to their experience expectations. A CCW Market Study found that only 11% of customers felt like brands genuinely cared about improving their experiences. And, a slim 12% of customers felt like brands actually took action to improve their CX.

Let’s consider the mindset and service of an online shopper – you, sitting on your couch with the TV on while you search for those shoes you’ve been eyeing. You’re likely shopping from the comfort of the couch because… well… it means you don’t have to leave the house. Or fight crowds. Or change out of your sweatpants. Maybe though, it’s because in 2020, this became something we all had to do.

But, when you have a question about how those shoes fit, or how you can expedite delivery, you don’t have a person in a physical location to turn to. That said, you’ll seek information from the ecommerce site’s FAQs, a live chat window, or maybe even an email address.

Current state, more often than not, all these channels aren’t offered. Or, they don’t answer the right questions.

In a survey of 7,000 online shoppers, two-thirds said they used more than one device to shop – but only 7% of these shoppers were satisfied with the experience. And, 55% of U.S. adults say they are likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question.

It’s not too late to jump on board the omnichannel contact center ship.

You still have time to execute a better strategy for your customers. 

Start today. 

When companies start operating in an omnichannel headspace, they provide better service and boost revenue. They turn to data to tell them what’s broken in their customer experience today, so they can lean on numbers, not instinct, to fix disjointed pieces of their experience. They ask clarifying questions to learn what’s holding their teams back – like clunky desktop tools. 

And once they know what’s missing in their customer experience – they partner with the right vendors to do the rest. Like adding web chat, self-help, and texting to their omnichannel queues, so agents can meet customers where they are. Because after all, 70% of your customers expect it.

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We originally published this post on November 30, 2016, and we updated it for tone and new insight on August 27, 2020.