Omnichannel is not a new idea. In fact, it’s been around for a decade or more – what is different now is that there are more channels than ever, therefore more combinations of channels possible, and exponentially more creative ways to 'channel' across the new digital landscape.
Social – mobile – cloud – voice – messaging – video – app – in app – A2P - B2C – C2B – B2B – B2B2C – the world is literally buzzing non-stop with interactions. Some forms are declining (for example toll-free calls to contact centres) while others are on the rise. For example, using Facebook bots to interact with humans to answer questions and products and sell more products to the consumers who prefer friendly machine support.
One of my favourite apps on the planet right now is Waze. If you’re not a Wazer yet, go download the app and use it while you’re walking down the street looking for sushi, in the passenger seat of a car gaming traffic, on a Citibike looking for the closest place to dock.
Oh, and while you’re at it, you can see if any of your friends are in the area, you can contribute to the crowdsourcing of information (pothole ahead), you can see which sushi places get the highest ratings, and you can grab a discount on a cup of coffee, or find that really special bottle of wine you’ve been dreaming about.
Talk about real time convenience, and an application that seamlessly blends machine data and human communications. While Waze doesn’t say so and doesn’t need to, it continues to build an omnipresent service that feeds from sensors and subscribers. This – is the future.
So with that said, what is the future of customer service? Will contact centres go away, for example, or will they rapidly shift to not only omnichannel – but omnipresent – services based on how consumers prefer to get their questions answered and problems solved?
Will they replace humans with machines who can serve humans faster with less errors based on deep learning, cognitive computing-based interactions, delivered with empathy and a great sense of human? When I put 'fine wine store' into Waze, I got the route back and before 'she' went quiet, she said, 'drive safely'.
Let’s innovate the new mix of humans and machines, because sometimes only a human will do. In fact, one recent study shows that millennials, who spend four times more uploading as many videos as they download, increasingly now would rather speak than text, particularly when they have an app that makes talking easy and inexpensive – faster than typing. The humans in those contact centres, I believe, will become increasingly valuable as 'experts' who are helped by machines to complete more successful transactions with more accurate information and cognitive-enhanced coaching.
This is already happening in contact centres, for decades really, and has fuelled the growth of BPO, or outsourced, contact centres where the fusion of technology and talent is delivering great results to brands. Hold times are lower, people are nicer, computer telephony integration has matured, and data is being captured and analysed for continual improvement.
So what about this shift from 'omnichannel' to 'omnipresent'?
Location, location, location has now become location with context
This adds layers of value in and with the advancement of the Internet of Things (lower cost sensors, more efficient 'low power, low battery consumption' networks, cloud solutions that can scale up to support billions of sensors, and more), we have so much information feeding our experiences that we can tell where a consumer is, in which retail store, in which aisle, considering which purchase, so that we can build what I like to call '3D Amazon' shopping.
You picked up the latest Xbox? Boom, there goes an offer to your mobile device, into the shopping app, from a beacon, giving you a two-for-one deal. Why not?
Or let’s say you’re buying your wife a super high-end camera, and you know which one she wants, but you’re not sure about the accessories. Tap the package with your mobile device, and an expert appears ready to answer your questions – sell you accessories – increase the purchase in the store – and feed information back to Leica so they can better develop and market products in the future.
Space – the final frontier? Not really, but all this does add up to the new era of omnipresent communications.
The next stop? Ask IBM Watson, with whom Kandy is working on some pretty amazing experiences. Will Watson and other cognitive computing platforms push us to the next level: omniscient communications between brands and consumers?
Paul Pluschkell, CEO and Founder of Kandy.io
Image Credit: Kentoh / Shutterstock