The battle of the prefixes is on, and it’s one that could determine both the organization of your contact center and your company’s bottom line. So is your center “multi,” or is it “omni”? And how should you sort through the buzzwords and grammar?
Multichannel contact centers evolved out of the need to embrace the technological realities of today’s market. As one would expect from the prefix, multichannel means the center has implemented different methods by which the customer can get in touch, whether it be voice, text, chat, or any other. However, just because these channels are in place doesn’t mean they all work together. In fact, the 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report by Dimension Data found that 59 percent of contact center channels are managed in silos.
Omnichannel, on the other hand, also follows its prefix and embraces all channels, together, in pursuit of a holistic whole. And that involves another common buzzphrase: Seamless integration. An omnichannel customer experience requires gathering context and information across all engagement channels throughout the entire customer journey so your agents can view every interaction, from the first website visit to ongoing engagement on social media channels. This enables your agents to provide a truly personalized experience, which makes the whole process much more rewarding for the customer.
The two definitions also include somewhat opposing views of the importance of the customer. The multichannel approach is concerned with center performance and with maximizing channel efficiency; omnichannel puts the customer’s journey front and center with the goal of achieving the kind of consistent experiences that lead to higher levels of engagement.
As one would expect, if you’re basing your most meaningful goals on the customer experience, accurately measuring that experience is critically important. As well as channel analytics tools, stronger knowledge management systems are required to effectively address common, or even likely, customer issues.
According to EContent, there’s a certain directionality implied in these two terms as well. Multichannel implies that your center must always add channels to stay current; the effort tends to proliferate. Omnichannel, on the other hand, seeks to gather all the channels where your customers are and narrow down their effects, thereby taking the effort out of the customer experience. The Everest Group agrees, noting that the omnichannel experience strives to mimic human interactions by using the memory of past interactions and delivering a more natural engagement.
“Multi” vs. “Omni”: The Spectrum
The Aberdeen Group regularly studies contact centers and has determined that “adopting multiple channels is not a differentiator; orchestration of these channels is what makes the best-in-class succeed.” The success of these omnichannel, best-in-class centers can be defined as:
- Customer retention rate of 77 percent, which was more than twice all others (35 percent).
- Year-over-year improvement of 13 percent in the customer satisfaction rate, when all others posted a loss of 1 percent.
- Year-over-year improvement of 7 percent in average handle time, vs. a loss of 4 percent for all others.
- Year-over-year improvement of 7 percent in the first-contact resolution rate, vs. a loss of 3 percent for all others.
Many companies are finding that, in today’s marketplace, it takes more than just a quality product and fair pricing; service is now their key differentiator. Contact centers must move farther down the spectrum, from multichannel service to omnichannel service, if they’re committed to increasing customer satisfaction, sales, and brand loyalty.
The good news is you don’t have to move to omnichannel all at once. Plan a methodical, long-term transition and proceed according to your business goals:
- Do your research and thoroughly get to know your customers. Once you know when, where, and how your customers are interacting, you can plan to be there as well.
- Making the transition to omnichannel requires agents to have a wider set of skills and tools, including a unified desktop to view every interaction. This entails making a culture shift, as well as providing training on how to use the content and context they now have at their fingertips.
- In addition, make sure your agents are well-versed in customer expectations around timely replies – their goal should be to respond as quickly as they would like to receive a response themselves.
- Along with agents, the entire company, including executives and management, needs to be fully committed and aligned with omnichannel goals and objectives.
- Launch incrementally, and make sure your early customer service experiences are positive ones.
Of course, the truly daunting part is achieving the organization-wide, fully integrated mix of technology that omnichannel requires – but it doesn’t have to be. VHT offers an award-winning over-the-top solution that integrates with existing infrastructure and doesn’t require a rip and replace approach.
Your customers, of course, don’t care what you call your center or about channels they never use. They care about their own experience with your company, getting their own issues resolved quickly, and about feeling good about the business relationship they’re developing with you. What could be a better goal for a contact center than that?