Omnichannel contact centres – can businesses survive without them?

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As technology evolves, customers are spoiled for choice when it comes to contacting companies with various queries. They expect a seamless, effortless transition from one channel to the next, depending on what is most convenient to them at the time.

Older customers tend to stick with voice but middle-aged and younger customers are increasingly turning to digital channels. Recent research from Dimension Data shows that 63.5 per cent of baby boomers (those born between 1945 and 1960) tend to choose the telephone as their first option for contacting a company. 28 per cent of Generation X (1961-1980) will choose the phone, while only 12.3 per cent of Generation Y (1981-1999) prefer voice, and 47 per cent of these will choose the internet or social media.

Striving to offer a high quality customer experience (CX), companies try to handle and manage customer communications on varied channels including voice, email, text, web, video, mobile and several social media platforms.

However, customers don’t think in terms of channels – they think in terms of finding an answer to their questions or a solution to their problem. And as more consumers adopt mobile devices, the lines between channels have become blurred and customers expect to easily start a conversation on one channel and then continue on another, depending on their needs.

This is not necessarily a negative trait. According to Accenture Strategy’s latest Global Consumer Pulse Research, the channel-hopping customers are actually the most profitable for business.

Multichannel and omnichannel contact centres

Many organisations cater to their customer needs and offer a full range of engagement channels within their contact centre.

However, multichannel communication usually uses several systems that typically operate in silos with no integrations of visibility between them. This channel segregation can lead to inefficient, inconsistent and often frustrating customer services. As a result businesses fail to meet customers’ demands, which leads to missed sales opportunities, high operating costs and disappointed customers who will go to competitors for better services.

To overcome this challenge, companies need to find the right technology that aggregates all communications channels and allows organisations to gain a complete view of the customer’s journey in order to provide a high performance CX.

With an omnichannel contact centre that integrates all channels into one single system organisations can provide consistent and personalised CX and facilitate a more connected and seamless way of working. They can focus on end-to-end customer journeys which straddle many business units and business functions, rather than on individual interactions.

Omni-channel capabilities are even more crucial due to mobile use explosion – the mobile customer is used to having conversations via text, voice, social and instant-messaging channels, and having constant access to information.

Internal and external performance

By breaking down the silos between various communications channels, companies enable customers to start an enquiry on one channel and effortlessly transition to any other at their convenience, increasing customer satisfaction and saving important resources for the company. 

For example, a customer enquiry that starts on social media can be moved to a web chat or a phone call, transferring the data across channels and saving the customers from repeating the same information several times to potentially different contact centre employees.

This also helps businesses save time navigating between systems to locate relevant information to answer the customer’s query.

A high performance omnichannel contact centre is not just about seamless, engaging CX but also about improving internal productivity by connecting all business departments from sales, to finance and IT. A central system that operates across multiple platforms allowing effortless data flow across channels and between company employees will enable the organisation to access critical insights almost in real time and adjust its strategy in line with the latest trends.

Furthermore, an efficient omnichannel contact centre empowers employees to communicate better and faster, and increase productivity.

Additionally, appropriate tools that make their jobs easier and boost their performance have a significant effect on increasing employees’ retention and loyalty.

With these benefits in mind it becomes clear that the future lies with omnichannel contact centres, and businesses that want to thrive and stay ahead of the competition have little choice but to integrate them at the heart of their activity.

The right tech and expertise

Thankfully the technology providers are keeping pace with these needs and recent research estimates that the contact centre market value will reach $35.32 billion by 2023. This shows the great demand for reliable and agile technology that enables omnichannel experience.

However, setting up a state of the art omnichannel contact centre is a thing of staggering complexity. Integrated with numerous departments, supporting cross-channel communications and leveraging leading-edge IT, there are numerous technical and operational elements that senior executives must handle and address in order to deliver the expected results. Achieving this on a tight budget is a challenge that keeps many CIOs and CTOs awake at night.

According to Dimension Data's 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking report the main technology obstacles to developing an omnichannel contact centre are:

  • Integrating multiple tech systems (reported by 61 per cent of respondents)
  • Legacy systems which inhibit flexibility and progress but can’t be replaced (46 per cent)
  • Stretch on resources - too many competing priorities (37 per cent)
  • Securing budget and cost burdens (37 per cent)
  • No common strategy - solutions created in silos (26 per cent)
  • Lack of required technology (27 per cent)
  • Speed of change - technology can’t keep up with requirements (27 per cent)
  • Maintaining a Big Data view across the organisation (15 per cent)

Another major challenge that hampers omnichannel contact centres adoption is sourcing the right technology at the right price.

Finding the right vendors and negotiating best-in-class pricing, beneficial terms and conditions is a complicated, time-consuming and resource-intensive process.

It can take significant time to evaluate vendors, understand what technology to invest in and find the right fit for the company’s needs and development plans. During this time the organisation is under increasing pressure to respond to customer demands and drive productivity.

Thankfully, as the market developed and evolved, a new breed of sourcing experts emerged. Nowadays, companies can use agnostic sourcing companies that will support CIOs and procurement when choosing the contact centre technology that is the right fit for the organisation’s specific needs and its future growth strategy.

The agnostic tech sourcing agency will do all the research regarding the available technology from top tier suppliers and create a short list of best of breed options in line with the organisation’s unique KPIs, traits and desired business outcomes.

In this way, companies reduce their risks, save significant time and resources that otherwise would have been invested in expensive tender programmes or vetting vendors and technology.

Furthermore, by using an agnostic sourcing provider, organisations don’t have to deal with numerous contracts, SLAs and providers - they can manage everything within a single agreement with one point of contact whose team manages the delivery of the agreed outcomes. 

Regardless of the strategy a company chooses for building an omnichannel contact centre, the reality is that the contact centre as we know it is no longer fit for purpose and companies need to change their mindset and approach, from reactive problem-solving or question-answering to proactive customer engagement, or risk being left behind and abandoned even by their most loyal customers. 

The digital revolution has brought many new opportunities for companies to do more and better business with their customers but organisations need to step up and create an agile approach and culture which embraces and thrives on change.

Gareth Richardson, CEO & Founder, Marketlinx
Image source: Shutterstock/lenetstan