Omnichannel contact center – The ultimate handbook

Learn all about omnichannel contact centers and how they can help unify operations on a single platform to improve the efficiency of your customer care.

Pradeep Vasudev
June 11, 2023
17 min read

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In recent times, omnichannel contact centers have become increasingly popular owing to the unmatched levels of support experience they provide. With the enhanced capabilities of support teams to understand customer needs at scale, an omnichannel approach has created a tremendous impact on the way consumers worldwide interact with brands and on how brands cater to their needs.

In this article, we will delve into the concept of omnichannel contact centers and how they can positively impact your customer service, thereby making your customers happier and more loyal to your brand.

What is an omnichannel contact center?

An omnichannel contact center ditches the conventional, siloed approach that companies have traditionally used, and embraces a holistic approach to create a unified and consistent customer experience. Unlike traditional contact centers that handle customer service interactions through independent channels — such as phone, email and live chat — an omnichannel contact center integrates these individual channels into a single source of truth.

Image 1 - from UCXM FP

Omnichannel contact centers benefit both agents and customers alike — agents have conversational context, which enables them to provide highly personalized service. Additionally, it enables customers to engage with businesses seamlessly across multiple channels, turning previously frustrating support experiences into delightful interactions.

Understanding the role of an omnichannel contact center

The role of an omnichannel contact center extends beyond just managing customer interactions across channels. The technology can connect and synchronize data across your support channels, helping you deliver a cohesive and personalized care experience for each and every customer who interacts with your brand.  

It also enables businesses to gain a comprehensive view of each customer's journey, including their preferences and previous interactions, giving your agents a holistic understanding that empowers them to provide contextual support that leads to better customer satisfaction and loyalty.

In addition to that, an omnichannel contact center also plays a vital role in optimizing your operational efficiency. When all customer communications are brought under a single platform, it helps streamline your processes much more easily and reduces duplicated efforts, thus improving your agent productivity.  

But that’s not all. You can also gather insights into customer behavior with data analytics tools, identify trends and make data-driven decisions to improve your support quality.

Learn more: Omnichannel Customer Service: Benefits & Solutions

The next section talks about all the moving parts associated with an omnichannel contact center, to help you understand how you can constantly keep your customer service engine in good shape.

Key components of an omnichannel contact center

Several important functions form the foundation of an effective omnichannel contact center:

1. Channel integration capabilities: This goes without saying — an omnichannel contact center needs to seamlessly integrate various support channels in its operations to ensure a consistent customer experience. To make this kind of extensive integration possible, businesses must invest in powerful omnichannel contact center software and platforms that enable real-time data synchronization across channels without manual intervention/efforts.

2. Airtight customer data management: Centralized customer data management is of utmost importance in an omnichannel contact center, since it helps create a comprehensive customer profile from data across channels and helps agents deliver personalized support. You also need to make sure your data management strategy focuses on keeping customer data secure and readily available in order to provide the best possible customer experience.

3. Unified routing: As important as it is to collect customer messages from multiple channels and bring them into a single platform, it is also important for you to ensure they’re being assigned to your agents in a streamlined manner. Powerful omnichannel customer service solutions provide you with unified routing capabilities that allow you to extensively configure how you want your support tickets to be assigned to your agents — based on channel, region, type of query etc.

Learn more: The shortest route to happier customers — contact center routing strategies

Skill-based routing is also becoming an essential feature with care solutions since it allows you to precisely control ticket assignments based on your agent skills.

In the image below, for example, you can see how skill-based routing controls typically work; you can set a required skill level of a specific skill set as the criteria for a ticket, and the system would automatically choose an agent from the available options that satisfy your skill criteria.

Image 2 - from omnichannel routing FP

4. Performance analytics: Data analytics tools help you see beyond just numbers, and provide you valuable insights about customer interactions, agent performance and overall contact center operations. These insights can help you understand your customer care performance, identify areas for improvement and make data-backed decisions that will enhance the customer experience.  
 
AI-powered capabilities such as conversation analytics go a step further by analyzing customer interactions across the board and predicting customer behavior and how you can achieve the best outcome from that interaction.  

Example: Sentiment detection in conversation analytics analyzes the tone of customer messages in real time, and determines if they are happy or frustrated with your support experience. This works as a great training tool for new support agents, since they can be gently nudged into taking the right actions, which ensures better customer satisfaction.

Image 3 - from routing strategy blog

5. Workforce management: It is critical for your agents to split the workload in the most efficient way possible to avoid feeling fatigued or overworked. Workforce management (WFM) helps manage your agents’ availability based on working hours and status. It helps you ensure that you always have enough resources in hand to keep your support operations running. 

In addition to streamlining the assignment process, WFM also constantly monitors current agent availability and activity to check if your team is kept at their optimum engagement levels. With solutions that have advanced workforce management capabilities, you can also predict future trends in agent demand and ticket inflow, and deploy precautionary measures to avoid crisis situations. 

Read on to know how adopting an omnichannel contact center approach can help your business reap the reward of providing great customer service experiences.

Benefits of omnichannel contact center

Implementing an omnichannel contact center strategy should be your first priority if you’re aiming to deliver top-notch customer service that strikes a chord with your customers.  

Still skeptical? Take a look at how omnichannel contact center operations can be a game-changer for your business.

1. Exceptional customer service experience

Imagine this — you have all the context you require about a customer, so how is it NOT possible to deliver a great support experience? With context from every single conversation across channels, you can understand your customer’s preferences and needs in advance, before they actually come to your contact center.  

Consequently, you are prepared with all the requisite resources, recommendations and action steps that can help resolve the issue quickly. This instantly improves customer experience. With repeated good experiences, it’s possible that satisfied customers turn into brand advocates and repeat customers in the long run.  
 
In addition, an omnichannel approach allows customers to switch between channels while maintaining context effortlessly.  

Example: If a customer initiates a live chat conversation with your support team, they can seamlessly transition to a phone call without having to repeat information. This level of continuity reduces your customers’ effort and frustration, delivering positive experiences.

2. Improved agent productivity and efficiency

Omnichannel contact centers don’t just make customers happier — they also make the job of customer service agents much easier by collating info about all customer conversations into a single, robust platform. A unified console means agents can effortlessly handle multiple conversations at the same time, reducing their idle time and maximizing their productivity while also eliminating the need to switch between multiple tools and solutions. 

Example: Let’s just say a customer initially connects with one of your product specialists via your website’s live chat. The customer then wants to see your product in action, so they ask to connect with you on video conference, which you gladly agree to.  

Now, they want to know in detail about a particular functionality or module, for which you’re gonna have to forward the call to another agent. Now, when the next agent picks up this call, they will already have full context about your conversation in the form of live chat history and video call transcripts — which they can then use to understand the customer’s needs better. 

Furthermore, omnichannel contact center solutions often have intelligent routing mechanisms that distribute incoming inquiries based on agent availability, skills and workload in real time.

GIF 1 (from customer support automation FP)

You can manage your workforce and ensure that each agent is assigned tasks they are best equipped to handle. Also, remote WFM capabilities can help you dramatically improve productivity — for example, with smart call forwarding that sends support calls to your designated mobile number when you’re not at your desk — leading to better remote team management and reduced average handle times.

3. Actionable insights and analytics

Businesses can use data analytics to identify patterns in customer behavior and address their needs better. You can also use analytics to improve overall operational efficiency by monitoring your contact center's key performance indicators (KPIs) and devising strategies that can help improve performance.  

A robust omnichannel contact center solution can generate analytics across the board — for agents, supervisors and the floor, including:  

Conversation analytics: By leveraging advanced algorithms that sift through customer conversations for insights, organizations can gain a lot more intelligence on critical service parameters such as brand sentiment, key trends and emerging issues. With this data, you can take proactive measures to address customer pain points and improve service delivery. Conversation analytics also help uncover opportunities for upselling and cross-selling with customers, which can help you make your contact center into a revenue driver.

Image 4 (from analytics FP)

Quality monitoring insights: Analyzing previously recorded interactions helps organizations evaluate their support performance against SLAs and identify areas for improvement. You can also set up audit forms that can help you gauge your accuracy in following resolution workflows and make use of AI algorithms that evaluate your resolution efficiency against multiple scoring criteria.

Know More: A detailed guide on Quality Monitoring

Agent performance insights: Real-time performance metrics, such as average handling time and customer satisfaction scores, offer valuable insights into individual agent performance. Organizations can use this data to recognize top-performing agents and enable targeted coaching, and process enhancements, leading to better agent performance and enhanced customer experiences.

Integrate Sprinklr with solutions you already use.

Are you looking to switch to an omnichannel contact center model right away? Read on to learn how you can do that in the most efficient way.

How to implement an omnichannel contact center

Deploying an omnichannel contact center requires a lot of planning and execution. Here are a few pointers that can help you navigate this process successfully:

Step 1: Audit all your channels 

You first need to understand what channels you’re actively using to identify the best ways to integrate them, so the best way to start this exercise is by conducting a thorough audit of your existing customer communication channels. Identify which channels you use a lot, and which ones your customers use most frequently and evaluate the effectiveness of both these groups. Remember that you’ll need to consider multiple factors, such as:

- customer preferences

- channel popularity

- the level of support provided through each channel

You’ll be using the data from this audit as a foundation for your omnichannel strategy. 

Point to note: It’s essential to include self-serve channels (chatbots, communities, online tutorial videos and IVR) in your channel mix if you want to reach and retain modern customers who prefer to solve their issues themselves.

How to cut time and costs by adopting new customer support channels

Step 2: Invest in omnichannel customer care solutions 

You then need to choose a reliable omnichannel contact center platform that can easily integrate all your channels. Ensure that the platform supports all the necessary communication channels with real-time data sync so that you can make the best use of it while also being cost-efficient.  

Step 3: Integrate your channels and set up routing 

Once you’ve deployed your omnichannel solution, you need to add all your channels to it to start receiving your support tickets on the new platform. This way, you ensure that customer interactions can be easily moved between channels as required while preserving context. Also, set up a robust routing workflow to ensure your agents are kept at their peak performance all the time and maximize productivity. 

Keep in mind: Always make your live agents accessible no matter what channel your customer chooses to interact with you. Customers often crave human touch, especially when they’re agitated. With an omnichannel contact center, you have the option of warm transfers to live agents from a number of channels like website chat, SMS, messaging channels, as well as video calls.

Learn More: Omnichannel customer engagement: How to manage effectively

Step 4: Embrace automation and AI 

An AI-powered omnichannel contact center solution can be your best bet to deliver disruptive customer service since AI analytics can help you gather conversational insights and provide proactive solutions to customer issues.  

Helpdesk Automation capabilities can help you respond to routine queries without the need for humans and remove the manual effort from repetitive tasks, lowering your overall support costs in a big way.

GIF 2 - from customer support automation page

A good example of these technologies working in tandem would be an AI-powered chatbot, where sophisticated AI algorithms can have human-like conversations with customers without the need for agent intervention.

Learn more: Improve your customer service with AI-powered chatbots (2023)

Step 5: Train your contact center agents 

Once you’re done deploying the solution in your customer care infrastructure, you need to provide comprehensive training to your agents. The training can be about how to use your new omnichannel platform and the best practices for delivering exceptional customer service.  

Agents are usually trained on all essential operations like:

  • receiving and assigning tickets, and how to use their dashboards

  • viewing previous customer conversations and agent notes

  • viewing and understanding newly available metrics in the solution

  • automating certain repetitive tasks using features like macros and workflows

  • scheduling, viewing and interpreting customer service reports

By providing your team with training, you can ensure all customer service stakeholders are on the same page about new processes regarding your support operations. A clear plan of action for deploying your new strategy helps eliminate unnecessary confusion and accelerates the rate of adoption.

Step 6: Continuously monitor and improve 

To make the best out of your new strategy, you need to keep an eye on your new operational workflows and how they are impacting your contact center performance. You can automate agent performance, and customer behavior reports to schedule important performance data to be directly sent to your inbox and use this information to improve and refine your support strategy. 

Now that we’ve seen how we can put an omnichannel contact center solution in place, what are the setbacks that you might face during or after implementing it? Let’s discuss this in the next section.

Challenges and solutions in omnichannel contact centers

Implementing an omnichannel strategy comes with its own share of challenges and technical constraints that can make it seem daunting. But these difficulties can be overcome easily with the right processes and solutions. Let's discuss this in detail. 

Challenge 1: Channel integration complexity 

Bringing together various channels under one platform and ensuring seamless data sync might seem like a very difficult endeavor sometimes. Integrating channels becomes even more complicated when each channel has different protocols, interfaces and data formats for integration with other solutions. 

Solution: Adopting an integration platform that serves as middleware and connects different channels and systems would be a great solution to this. The platform must obviously support APIs and have the ability to transform data between different formats. Otherwise, solutions that natively provide support for a wide range of channels can be a safe choice for businesses that don’t have the bandwidth or the workforce to manage multiple solutions.

Challenge 2: Data security and privacy 

Generally, collecting customer data across a range of active channels raises concerns about data security and privacy. Protecting sensitive customer information is of utmost importance in a customer service environment, and ensuring compliance with data protection regulations can be a challenge too. 

Solution: Encryption, access controls and secure data storage can be the keystones to a safe customer database. You also have to ensure you comply with industry-specific regulations (such as GDPR or HIPAA) — and regularly audit and monitor security practices. Also, consider using trusted service providers that are committed to providing superior data privacy and security for your contact center operations.

Learn More: How to ensure contact center compliance

Challenge 3: Scalability and flexibility 

Customer expectations keep evolving with time, and as new channels emerge, you need to ensure that these channels will be able to cater to increasing customer needs. Organizations also need to adapt to changing customer preferences and set up processes that allow them to add new channels with ease. 

Solution: It is highly essential to select a contact center platform that is scalable from the get-go, providing you with peace of mind since it can easily allow the integration of new channels. If you already have a contact center solution and want to upgrade to a better choice, you can consider cloud contact centers that offer scalability on-demand and enable your organization to scale up or down whenever the need arises.  

Confident that you can deploy your new contact center solution easily? Read on to learn some tips to leverage your new omnichannel contact center strategy to its full potential.

Best practices for incorporating omnichannel contact center

Below are some key practices to consider that can help you make the best out of your new omnichannel customer care strategy.

1. Map the customer journey. Understand your ideal customer journey inside out to identify pain points, preferences and opportunities for improvement. You can then use this information also to align your omnichannel strategy with your customer's expectations and provide an enhanced experience.

Image 6 - from LucidChart

Learn more: Map your way to happier customers — 4 proven customer journey mapping tactics

2. Consistent, on-brand messaging is key. With omnichannel support, you need to ensure your brand voice doesn’t get lost in the limitations of each channel. Ensuring that visual elements, tone of voice and messaging align with your brand guidelines across all channels reinforces your brand’s identity and improves recognition.

3. Enable collaboration and internal communication. A powerful contact center solution promotes collaboration between agents, departments and teams in addressing customer queries effectively. With tools that allow you to collaborate effortlessly with other agents— Slack for instant messaging or Zoom for your video conferencing/screen sharing — you can ensure the best customer care quality through active collaboration with your peers.

4. Test, analyze and evolve continuously. By regularly analyzing the effectiveness of your customer service strategy, you can keep a pulse on customers’ evolving preferences and keep refining your operations to ensure the best service quality. You can leverage analytics and reporting tools to gain insights on performance and customer behavior and adapt your omnichannel contact center strategy to stay relevant to your customer base.

Know More: Customer service tips: how to improve your strategies with technology

How Norse got on the omnichannel route with Sprinklr

Norse Atlantic Airways, a new low-cost airline from Norway, had a difficult time with their support operations, since their customer care channels were unorganized and disconnected from each other. They were looking for an easy-to-deploy omnichannel solution that could simplify their customer service operations and could easily integrate with all their existing solutions.

With Sprinklr’s omnichannel customer care solution, this is how Norse was then able to deliver high-quality customer care:

  • Enabled its agents to view messages across all channels on a single console, with proactive listening to filter out the noise and detect posts without @ mentions

  • Leveraged self-service tools to reduce agent workload and to deliver a better customer experience through enablement

  • Deployed an SEO-friendly knowledge base that helped thousands of its passengers to get common queries answered without contacting support

Image 7 - Norse quote

READ THE FULL STORY

Conclusion

Implementing an omnichannel contact center enables businesses to exceed customer expectations, improve satisfaction and enhance operational efficiency. Through the integration of channels, centralization of customer data and comprehensive agent training, organizations can ace the omnichannel game and deliver seamless, personalized customer service experiences.  

Sprinklr Service is a unified, omnichannel customer service solution that can help you deliver consistent customer experiences across all your active channels. Being built on the world’s first unified customer experience management (Unified-CXM) platform, our powerful solution can help you collect customer conversations across your channels, collate them on a single window and deliver exceptional care with every single interaction.

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