Have you ever stopped to think about why call centers are now called contact centers? A few decades back the term “Call Center” was ubiquitous, and it was the only term used to refer to a business’s customer support center.
Today, however, the more correct term to use is “Contact Center,” even though common parlance still has people referring to them as call centers.
All these multiple channels of support provide a lot of options that yesterday’s call centers lacked. The true wave of the future though is something called “omnichannel customer support.” Anyone who provides it today will no doubt have a very strong competitive advantage.
Will your business be one of the forerunners in this exciting new paradigm of customer support?
What is Omnichannel Customer Support?
First off, we need to define exactly what omnichannel customer support is. Perhaps the best way to do this is to contrast it with the previous modes of customers support. As we’ve mentioned, there used to be only one channel for customer support: voice calls. This system is limiting to customers and the company in many ways, forcing people to be on the phones, and phones aren’t always the most effective way to service a customer.
With advances in technology, this evolved into multiple contact points, known as “multichannel customer support.” However, this created its own problem: support channels tend to be fragmented. The team taking care of voice support is usually not in close contact with the team that does chat support, or the team that does email support. This creates a disconnect; the call experience might be different from the chat experience. Plus, a customer might waste time needing to explain things over again when connecting through a different channel.
Omnichannel customer support is basically multichannel support taken to the next level. The key concept here is to:
- provide a seamless experience between the different channels,
- create a smooth interaction for the customer no matter how he chooses to connect, and
- how often he switches between the different channels.
This results in a single cohesive, positive experience.
How do I start doing Omnichannel Support?
As with the move to contact centers offering multichannel customer service, the move to omnichannel support will be driven by technology. There’s no way around it: this kind of support is only possible with more advanced software to mesh the customer experience together.
That doesn’t mean that it’s all about the technology, though. No matter how great the technology, there has to be someone behind the curtain making the magic work. In the end, it’s still about the people and the customer support team you have interacting with the customers and building relationships with them.
Large companies with big budgets can afford all the latest software platforms to provide the seamless experience, but not every small business can afford to do so. Yet they must keep up, or risk disappointing their customers.
1. Help Customers Help Themselves
If you’re just getting started with omnichannel support, the best place to start is to help customers with self-help options first. Be there and be available when they need you, but in today’s world customers are much more empowered and savvy. Recognize this by building the self-support systems to get them started.
2. Invest in Human Capital
The next step is to make sure to stand by the channels you chose to open to your customers. Staff them with a well-trained team that knows your company and your customers well. Without this human investment and a strong corporate culture and ethic behind it, no system will pass the true test of omnichannel support. Invest in your people before you invest in the technology, and you will be rewarded.
3. Choose a Platform to Put it All Together
Finally, you’ll want a unified software platform that can support all your chosen channels of support. There are many options you can choose from today that offer the kind of tight integration to make the concept of channels disappear.
Customers don’t think in terms of multichannel. They just want to buy your product and that is that. Jeff Nicholson, the Vice President of Product Marketing at Pegasystems, calls this “Channel-less” support.
Much like how a good camera controls disappear and you just take pictures, truly outstanding customer service just disappears into the background and customers just buy and use your product or service.
When your customers don’t even feel the inconvenience of customer service at all, that’s when you know you’ve achieved true omnichannel customer support.
A part of the omnichannel experience is social media. Read our blog post How to start Integrating Social Media into Your Contact Center to get a few ideas on how to get started.