Featured Image for the blog: Want to Achieve Omnichannel Nirvana in Your Contact Center? Unthink it! [Omnichannel Strategy Webinar Recap]

The red badge showing the surmounting number of unread emails rotting in your inbox grows to 1,793.

Your desk phone is ringing off the hook, often going unanswered.

The phone buzzing in your back-pocket is flooded with new text messages from friends and family. And from the occasional agent chiming in with last-minute excuses about missing a shift. (Yeah absenteeism, we know what you look like.)

And as you sit at your desk, juggling four projects, your work synced to three different monitors, you still can’t manage to cram all the information and applications you need into your line of sight– peripheral vision included.

We live in an omnichannel world, leading omnichannel lives. Turns out, increasing digital engagement capabilities is the number one priority for contact centers in 2019, according to CCW’s report on the future of contact centers. And, more than 46 percent of contact center leaders want to improve their offerings in digital channels like chat, mobile, and social.

But, despite its weight on our priority lists, as companies, we struggle to deliver a truly omnichannel customer experience.

So why, after years with dozens of devices and ways to communicate with each other, haven’t we mastered omnichannel?

Lori Bocklund, Founder & President of Strategic Contact and Murph Krajewski, VP of Marketing at Sharpen summed up the persisting problems contact centers have with omnichannel. And how to unthink it. In a 30-minute webinar, Lori and Murph dish out actionable tactics to stop thinking so much about channels and start thinking more about how to communicate better with your customers. They share actionable tactics to create an omnichannel strategy and key takeaways to keep in mind along the way.

Read on to learn how Lori and Murph distill omnichannel in the contact center. Or, jump straight to the webinar recording and tune in to hear it for yourself.

It’s complicated. (But the contact center industry over-complicates it.)

A laser-focus on the term omnichannel rather than on what omnichannel means clouds our view. Omnichannel is a complicated topic, sure. But it’s not as complicated as we’re making it out to be. Partly because of terminology confusion.

Lori delved into the differences between terms like multichannel, cross-channel, and now, the always-buzzed-about omnichannel. The contact center industry has tried to turn omnichannel into something different, but it really means the same thing as its decade-old multichannel and cross-channel counterparts.

An omnichannel customer experience is one that lets customers reach out for help how they want to. And it’s one that lets agents switch channels when needed, so they can help those customers seamlessly, however they reach out.

So, why is omnichannel still a problem?

Organizational silos act as cement roadblocks that keep companies from executing a successful omnichannel strategy. When customer support manages phone interactions, sales holds down web chat, and marketing runs social media, your channels lose cohesiveness. The owners and leaders of the collective silos need to get together and map out a unified strategy for omnichannel to work. And often, that kind of interdepartmental collaboration doesn’t exist.

Plus, organizations need top-level buy in and executive backing to create a successful strategy. 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. It takes a strong vision and company-wide effort to create a successful omnichannel 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

How can companies fix omnichannel?

For starters, unthink it. Don’t get tied up thinking about what’s not working with all your different channels and your pieced-together systems. Getting too into the weeds overwhelms you, then that overwhelmed feeling causes decision paralysis. You get too consumed with all you have to do that you wind up in gridlock and do nothing at all.

Instead, create a vision for what you want your customer experience to be. Then, work backward to execute on the vision you think up. Use customer intelligence and data to inform your vision. Keep your customers’ needs top-of-mind as you create your overarching omnichannel vision, but think about the impact for your agents, too. Your agents act as the integration point in your contact center, linking together all the different ways you communicate with customers. If you leave your agent experience out of the equation, your vision gets blurry.

“You have to do all of it with the customer in mind, obviously, but also the agent. The agent has to be a big part of this. Because like I said, historically I think they end up being the integration point. Or they end up in channel silos which isn’t good for the company or the customers, much less the agents,” said Lori.

Once you have a vision in place, executive teams need to band together to knock down silos. Call on department leaders to help you integrate the right systems and create the coveted, low-effort omnichannel experience customers seek.

Finally, think back to your vision and layer in technology to help support it. If your vision is to have a team of agents who can field interactions on social, SMS, video, and by phone, then you know you need the technology to support all those interactions. Not only that, but you need a contact center platform that makes it easy for your agents to bounce back and forth between channels, or your customers will feel the pains of a disjointed experience.

“We are finding that agents bare a ton of stress from being that integration point. And that makes it hard for them to provide a good experience when they themselves are trying to relieve their own pain to just get their job done.” – Murph Krajewski, VP of Marketing at Sharpen

Use the Phoenix approach + technology that supports agents and customers.

Lori Bocklund uses the Phoenix approach with customers. It’s all about pressing the reset button. If you could start completely from scratch today in 2019 and get your customer experience right, regardless of legacy tools or technology, what would you do?

The answer we see jumping out and begging for attention? Lean in to your agents and make it easier for them to do their jobs.

For too long, agents have suffered at the endless interfaces of difficult technology and a suite of tools that don’t work together. And contact centers leaders are taking notice of the problems that come with this clunky way of working. Some 36 percent of contact center leaders plan to improve their agent desktop and dashboard experience in 2019. And, in Lori’s own research, poor desktop tools topped agent attrition as the top challenge for contact centers this year.

“Contact center people are heroic people,” said Lori. “They find a way to make it work and they solve problems and, you know, they really do a good job of dealing with that. But they shouldn’t have to fight technology all day.”

Let better technology be your connection point instead of forcing that responsibility on the laps your agents.

Break down channel silos to let your agents connect easily with your customers, so they can focus on solving problems and having a conversation. Connect your CRM and your ticketing system to your communication channels, so your agents don’t surf through dozens of interfaces each day. And rope in your analytics and reporting too, so your agents have intelligent data on hand to inform their interactions. And so they can keep track of their progress towards larger goals.

“The agent desktop has historically been a pretty ugly place,” Lori 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.”

Wrapping it all up: What’s ahead for the contact center?

The top challenges facing modern contact centers are poor desktop tools and high agent attrition. And the top priorities for the same contact centers are employee engagement and agent empowerment.

Look at these challenges and priorities through the lens of omnichannel to see where you have opportunities to solve your toughest challenges and improve upon your noted priorities. The negatives of your poor desktop tools are only compounded when you layer on more and more communication channels. And that high-effort agent experience drives up your attrition rates, too.

“In an area where we have very low unemployment rates, people will move for $0.25 an hour, but they’ll also move for a less-stressful, easy-to-do job,” Lori explained.

Use omnichannel and better technology to create a more seamless experience for your agents, first. Eliminating effort from your AX will tackle your top two challenges in tandem, and it will create an environment that engages and empowers your agents, too.

The challenge to leave with: move beyond the buzzword and do something about omnichannel.

Watch the webinar to get your 30-minute brief on how to find your omnichannel nirvana.