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The future of the contact centre is omnichannel

Companies today need to be able to interact with customers on an expanding number of contact channels, from video calls and email to chat, social media and the phone. At the same time they need to deliver a joined-up, omnichannel experience, however people make contact.

What is driving the need for omnichannel?

First and foremost omnichannel is growing because customers want to interact with organisations in multiple ways. They pick the channel that’s best for them in that particular moment, but want to be able to seamlessly switch to other channels during the course of the interaction.

The channel they pick will usually be based on their circumstances and preferences, and the type of query they have. Video provides the ability to show a faulty product for example, while email delivers a written audit trail, and the telephone brings personal, conversational help. With queries growing in complexity, there is often a need to switch between channels depending on which best suits the customer at the time.

Realising the benefits of omnichannel

A successful omnichannel strategy benefits customers and businesses:

Benefits for customers

For customers it improves the experience. A joined-up approach means there’s no need for them to repeat themselves when changing channels. This increases customer satisfaction, leading to happier, more loyal customers.

Benefits for the business

These fall into four main areas:

  1. It breaks down silos between channels, increasing efficiency by removing duplication and speeding up responses.
  2. It allows agents to work across channels, increasing productivity and allowing contact centres to balance resources and workloads.
  3. Providing variety in terms of channels increases job satisfaction for agents as their roles are more interesting. In turn this boosts engagement and retention rates.
  4. It delivers a deeper understanding of customers and their needs, highlighting the steps in the customer journey and how they can be improved.
  5. It enables businesses to provide consistent customer service, improving satisfaction and efficiency.

Despite these benefits less than a third (30%) of contact centres provide true omnichannel capabilities according to the latest ContactBabel research. This risks souring customer relationships, especially as 53% of consumers in the same research complained that having to repeat themselves or re-enter information when moving between channels was one of their top three biggest customer experience issues.

Looking to the future

To help deliver efficient, high-quality omnichannel service, businesses are increasingly implementing Microsoft Teams. With this they can achieve greater collaboration, communication and agility in their contact centres, across multiple channels.

Going forward AI is going to be key to delivering effective omnichannel performance. For example, Teams will integrate with Microsoft’s AI Cognitive Services, tapping into algorithms that can immediately understand, respond to and support voice, video and text-based interactions. This will deliver fast, consistent and joined-up replies to help both agents and customers.

AI is already being used to deliver automated answers for routine queries through channels such as web self-service and chatbots. Extending AI to other channels will help increase performance, better support agents and uncover new opportunities, such as for upselling and cross selling. For example, in the travel industry, it could analyse contact centre conversations around specific holiday destinations in real-time and automatically suggest special offers that agents can pass onto the customer.

Analysing customer interactions highlights areas where performance can be improved and helps deliver consistency across all channels. By analysing what customers are asking for and how typical customer journeys move across different channels, AI has enormous potential to deliver deep insights that enable companies to improve omnichannel performance, introduce new services and differentiate themselves in the market.

Businesses today are operating in an increasingly omnichannel world. Being able to deliver this service consistently and meeting customer needs is therefore vital. These demands are only going to increase.

Our latest guide therefore explains how technologies such as Microsoft Teams and AI can help deliver an optimised omnichannel experience. Download it here.

Published in AI omni-channel