As customers we expect companies to provide us with an excellent consistent omni-channel Customer Experience, regardless of channel, including bricks-and-mortar retail. But there are several stumbling blocks to executing omni-channel strategies:
- Disconnected channel and product and service silos, with separate teams, applications, budgets, priorities, work plans, and reporting. Customer data may be residing in separate files.
- Legacy ACD, IVR, and dialing systems that lack multichannel capabilities, such as chat, SMS/text, social, video, and automated multi-channel proactive customer contact. A 2014 Frost & Sullivan survey reports that IVR, live agent, and email use will decline, while chat, mobile apps, social, video, and Web channel use will increase.
- Customers are contacting companies about complex issues and opportunities that are beyond the contact center agents’ abilities (and authority) to handle. Most customers now begin their customer journeys in IVR, mobile, and web self-service, and in social media, which siphon off the simpler or the less company -or product-specific questions.
- Many bricks-and-mortar stores and sales counters are only loosely connected customer information-wise with the enterprise. Sales staff may have no idea what their customers what have told the contact centers or said about their companies in social media. Floor personnel are “tethered” to the terminals.
So how can companies provide that omni-channel Customer Experience? Consider:
- Remove the silos between departments, databases, and channels. Bring marketing, sales, and service organizations together and integrate their missions into one, which is to enable the best (and most profitable) “customer moment”. Source multi-channel analytics to gain real-time intelligence from Big Data and apply them at those “moments”.
- Obtain advanced multi-channel contact center solutions, ideally from the cloud for low ownership costs, scalability, and flexibility, including the ability to add new and advanced features, and to support mobile and remote staff. Optimize self-service systems, particularly IVR, to improve customer retention, customer satisfaction, and to lower costs.
- Introduce unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions that connect the contact center with subject matter experts (SMEs). Agents can determine if the customers are best handled by SMEs, and by whom. Agents then check SMEs’ availability, transfer contacts, and, or set up audio, video, or web collaboration sessions with them and the customers. UC&C solutions can also be integrated with self-service applications that can screen and direct customers, thereby allowing customers to set up sessions by themselves.
- Integrate bricks-and-mortar with the enterprise. Equip staff with tablets that alert them to customers’ conversations, allow them to answer and resolve customers’ inquiries and issues, and, through UC&C applications, engage with customers online and over their headsets.
Only when customers feel that “wow!” from interacting with companies as a result of implementing an omni-channel strategy will they continue to buy, but buy more, and become brand advocates on social media, which will result in even more business.