Challenges and Building Blocks of an Omnichannel Strategy in Your Contact Center

Annette Franz

March 21, 20247 min read

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In this article, Annette Franz, stresses the importance of smooth customer interactions across various channels, advocating for omnichannel contact centers. Despite integration challenges, the benefits include enhanced satisfaction, operational efficiency, and competitiveness. Consistency builds loyalty and attracts customers. Assessing readiness for implementation is vital for success. 
 
When customers interact with brands, they want (expect) a smooth, seamless, consistent, and personalized experience – via the channel they prefer. They often make purchases and reach out for help via multiple channels, usually starting a purchase in-store and finishing online or trying to solve a problem via the website before speaking to a customer service agent. When transitioning from channel to channel, it’s frustrating to reauthenticate or repeat the question or the issue. Without a doubt, it’s a breakdown in the experience when this happens.

The solution for customer service interactions? An omnichannel contact center.

Table of Contents

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel

The term "omnichannel" refers to the ability to interact with customers through multiple channels –phone, email, chat, social media, SMS, video, and more – while maintaining consistency and continuity in the experience. All communication channels are integrated to allow customers to transition between channels without losing context, providing a seamless and unified customer experience.

By contrast, “multichannel” refers to offering support and communication through various channels that often operate separately and are not integrated. Each communication channel typically operates in its silo, with separate teams or systems managing them. Customers may receive different information or service quality when switching between channels, diminishing the quality of the customer experience.

Omnichannel Contact Center

Thus, an omnichannel contact center is a support and communication system that integrates various communication channels to provide customers with a seamless and unified experience. Some key services that omnichannel contact centers offer include customer and technical support, sales and upselling, order and payment processing, billing and account management, appointment scheduling, inquiry response and complaint resolution, returns and refunds, and more.

Customers Benefit

Omnichannel contact centers provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels, removing friction and frustration and driving increased satisfaction and loyalty. When brands offer multiple communication channels (in an omnichannel way), customers can engage with businesses on their preferred platforms without degrading the experience, leading to higher engagement and interaction rates.

So Do Employees

Omnichannel systems empower agents with a comprehensive 360-degree view of the customer's history and interactions across channels, enabling them to provide more informed, personalized, and efficient service without asking customers to repeat information. In addition, with the ability to integrate self-service options like chatbots and knowledge bases, agents don't have to handle every routine or simple inquiry. This reduces their workload, allows them to focus on more complex and critical customer issues, and improves job satisfaction.

And The Business Does, Too

An omnichannel contact center enables brands to meet customers’ diverse needs and expectations.

It helps enhance the customer experience, streamline operations, and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace. By investing in an omnichannel approach, brands can build stronger customer relationships and achieve better business outcomes.

Challenges of An Omnichannel Contact Center

Of course, those benefits sound wonderful all around. However, some brands are challenged with designing and implementing an omnichannel strategy in their contact centers. Overcoming these challenges is crucial for delivering a seamless and effective customer experience. 

Just some of the challenges brands face include: 

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Complexities of integration

Integrating various communication channels can be complex and may require significant technological investments. Ensuring that these channels work together seamlessly is a considerable challenge.

Siloed data

Legacy and disparate data sources and systems result in data silos, making it difficult to not only understand customers but also to maintain a unified customer view from both online and offline data sources. Data has to be centralized and consolidated to provide agents with a complete picture of each customer's history.

Inconsistent customer experience

Customers will receive inconsistent information or service quality when transitioning between channels without proper coordination and integration. Maintaining a consistent customer experience is the name of the game.

Agent hiring and training

Hiring suitable agents with the right skills is critical to success. Agents must also be trained to handle customer inquiries across various channels effectively. This includes training on channel-specific best practices, communication skills, and the use of technology.

Channel prioritization

Determining the appropriate channel for different types of inquiries and prioritizing them can be challenging. Ensuring inquiries are routed to the most suitable channel and agent is important.

Change management

Transitioning to an omnichannel approach may face resistance from both leadership and employees. Providing a change vision, involving employees in the decisions, and ensuring that ongoing communication that celebrates progress and success will help ensure that employees are on board with this new strategy.

Building Blocks of An Omnichannel Contact Center

It’s fair to ask what the requirements are when designing and implementing an omnichannel strategy in your contact center. Some of the things to keep in mind include the following.

Customer-centric culture

With the proper foundation in place, making any changes to the business that are meant to benefit customers will be much easier.  

A customer-centric culture is one in which there are no discussions, no decisions, and no designs without bringing in the customer’s voice, asking how it will impact the customer or make her feel, and identifying how it will create and deliver value for her.

How to build a Customer-Centric brand

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why this type of culture, which is deliberately designed, is essential to the success of your omnichannel strategy.

Clearly defined objectives

Always start with the end in mind. Define the goals and objectives of your omnichannel contact center. What do you want to achieve regarding customer experience, employee productivity, efficiency, and business outcomes?

Unified customer data

Data is at the heart of designing and delivering a great experience. Centralized customer data and interaction history ensure a 360-degree view of each customer. It’s essential for the consistency and personalization mentioned previously and for providing context to agents.

Integrated channels 

At the root of your omnichannel strategy is seamlessly integrating all communication channels. Data and context must flow smoothly between these channels.

Brand consistency

Service quality and your brand voice and tone should be consistent across channels. This ensures customers have the same experience and feel like they’re interacting with “one brand,” regardless of their channel preference. 

Agent training

Provide comprehensive training to agents on effectively handling interactions across all channels. As noted earlier, training should include communication skills, channel-specific best practices, and the use of technology.

In Closing

For several reasons, a seamless and consistent experience across channels is critical for customers and the business.

Customers value convenience and a seamless and consistent experience provides that. A seamless experience allows them to switch communication channels without repeating information or starting their inquiry from scratch. This saves them time and effort and is much more efficient and frictionless than a multichannel option. It also reduces frustration, offers a more personalized experience, and allows customers to communicate via their preferred channels. When this type of experience happens consistently from channel to channel and interaction to interaction, customers are more likely to trust the brand and build long-term relationships.

For businesses, delivering a seamless and consistent experience contributes to better outcomes, such as higher customer satisfaction and loyalty; satisfied customers are more likely to return and recommend the business to others. From an operations perspective, designing and delivering a consistent experience streamlines operations and reduces agents’ time resolving issues. Providing superior and consistent experience across channels can give businesses a competitive edge in the marketplace (not everyone does this!), attracting and retaining more customers. We also need to talk about the efficiencies this strategy introduces, as efficient resource allocation, self-service options, and consistent customer experience can lead to cost savings for the business.

Assessing readiness to implement an omnichannel strategy in your contact center is crucial to ensure a smooth transition and successful implementation. Consider the challenges and the building blocks noted in this article to determine your initial readiness. 

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