Customer experience has fast become a top priority for businesses. Organisations recognise that today’s customer is inundated with choice and therefore realise that they cannot rely on unique selling points or branding alone. In fact, research shows that more than two-thirds of a company’s competitive edge in the marketplace is based on the experience they deliver to their customers[i].
What exactly is customer experience?
A Forbes article describes the term ‘customer experience’ as being the perception the customer has of your brand[ii]. So, everything a company does will have an effect; from the messaging used, the products and services sold, the sales process, what happens after the sale. To other internal factors, like the interworking of the company and its leadership. Arguably the most important, are customer-facing processes like customer services, but all must be in line so as not to let the others down. For instance, a customer might receive great pre-sales customer service from an agent in the contact centre but if that service isn’t consistent during the sales process, it might not come to a close.
Is consistency important for the customer journey?
Multichannel experiences are now the norm, so when we talk about consistency in the customer journey we must consider all channels. According to 2017 research from Forrester, 95% of customers use three or more channels to connect with a company in a single service interaction, with 62% using more than one device. And Accenture research has found that 65% of customers expressed frustration over inconsistent experiences or information presented across channels[iii]. So yes, consistency is an extremely important part of the customer journey. 86% of buyers will pay more for a better brand experience, but only 1% feel that vendors consistently meet expectations[iv] – this presents an opportunity for those who are serious about creating a consistent customer experience.
The omnichannel experience.
When we talk about providing consistency amongst channels what we are really talking about is an omnichannel strategy. In a recent blog, ‘The differences between omnichannel and multichannel customer service’ we explored what omnichannel is and why it’s so important – let’s recap:
What is omnichannel customer service?
The omnichannel approach means having a cross-channel strategy based on the simultaneous use of all available communication channels.
How is multichannel different?
The multichannel approach only aims to quickly communicate or deliver information to the customer using as many individual communication channels as possible and not in a connected way.
Why is omnichannel the way forward?
The rapid rate of digital innovation has had a profound effect on customer expectations. Customers expect a consistent experience, they also expect to be able to contact a business on their preferred channel and expect to be able to switch between channels without interruption. The Retail Times[v] explains how most customer journeys begin on the web (30%) or on the telephone (30%), followed by email (14%), mobile apps (13%) and chat (11%). Of the 30% of people who choose to ‘self-serve’ and go to the website first of all, 41% will then make a phone call afterwards if they can’t find what they are looking for. With customers showing this kind of behaviour, only an omnichannel strategy will suffice.
Setting the foundations
Your ability to offer a consistent omnichannel experience will only reach the heights that your operational foundation will support. Without the right people, processes, and tools, you’ll never be able to provide a truly seamless experience. With this in mind, let’s explore what you’ll need to do to secure a solid foundation that will support the growth of the contact centre towards providing an omnichannel customer experience.
First, you’ll need the right tools for the job. With customers using various channels you’ll want an application that offers a single point of contact so that agents can manage all interactions from one place. To achieve ‘true’ omnichannel capability the application you choose must support all channels including voice and SMS as well as digital channels like chat, messenger etc. It should also include intelligence to support the synchronisation of agent activity. In a recent article[vi], James Wilson, an expert in omnichannel customer experience suggests the use of an intelligent workflow system to achieve these criteria. The intelligent workflow system helps the business to create simple to complex workflows and easily displays information to agents in a structured and systematic manner helping to standardise service levels.
If the business uses a CRM system, it should be integrated with the contact centre solution to provide a holistic view of client relationships. This will save agents time and means customers won’t have the repeat themselves as calls would be transferred to the contact centre with full customer context.
In short, what we’ve outlined above are the characteristics of an omnichannel customer experience platform. It’s worth noting that some suppliers position themselves as omnichannel service providers when in fact, research would show that they offer a multichannel solution. We’ve summarised the key criteria to look for in a solution to help support businesses in their hunt for a ‘true’ omnichannel platform.
Always ensure a platform has the following functionality:
- Supports all communication channels from a single user interface.
- Supports CRM integration.
- Has intelligent capabilities – i.e. workflow tools.
The above assumes that you’re looking for a new solution, but depending on your infrastructure you might just need to scale up rather than replace your current system. If this is the case, you’ll want to look for a contact centre systems integrator who will advise you on the best method.
Change can be scary, particularly for departments that are customer facing so if you’re looking to upscale to meet the changing needs of your customers but are worried about the risks associated with it download our eBook.
People and processes
Once up and running agents should find the omnichannel platform much easier to use as there’s no need to log in and out of multiple systems or switch between screens. That being said, they’ll still need support during the transition period and should be offered training. It would be helpful to choose a solution that’s ‘agent-friendly’ and a provider that offers support.
If you’re looking to really differentiate yourself from the competition and deliver the ultimate in customer experience, then you’ll want to think bigger than just platform usage training. Train agents on service delivery standards and communicate the businesses brand values to encourage a consistent tone, call recording and analytics tools are invaluable in this process.
A shift in strategy will no doubt create a change in processes, so it’s important to remember to adapt them and ensure that people and processes are in line.
The bottom line
Maintaining consistency across all channels is a foundational component for establishing yourself competitively in the marketplace. Applying an omnichannel strategy and implementing an appropriate environmental structure as highlighted in this blog, is the most effective way to achieve service goals and meet the changing demands of customers.
WRITTEN BY: CHARLOTTE HOUSTON,
CONTENT MARKETING MANAGER,