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MultiChannel Contact Centers Revisited

Multichannel contact center capabilities have been around for well over 10 years, but there still aren't as many real, integrated multichannel contact centers as we'd expect to see. With the growth of mobile devices enabling voice and text-based communications from any device at any time, the need for multichannel contact centers has never been greater.

I recently participated in a three-part webinar with Carousel Industries entitled "Closer to Customer." In the third webinar, Terence Fogarty, Contact Center Solution Consultant-Strategic Accounts at Carousel Industries, and I discussed how a multichannel contact center can create more loyal customer relationships, resulting in greater long-term revenue opportunities for both SMBs and enterprises.

Why is multi-channel customer care important? The days of just offering one or two ways or interacting with a company for customer care are over. It's important to meet your customers where they are--whether that's on Facebook, in a mobile app, or on the Web. Whether they're a millennial, Gen Y-er, or a Baby Boomer, customers' needs, demands, and expectations have changed. New channels like mobile and social create a "wow factor" and can be a differentiator.

By deploying a multichannel contact center platform, providing a single queuing and routing engine for all channels, a single integrated view of the customer, and a single reporting system, organizations can reduce costs while enhancing customer service and support.

Voice or phone interactions are going down, as alternate contact methods are on the rise. Perhaps the biggest driver for multichannel is the smartphone. One survey found that more than 78% of consumers use mobile apps for customer service purposes such as billing and account status/update, and that more than 90% would replace some or all traditional customer service channels with a mobile app if available.

Source: COMMfusion LLC 2014

It's important to recognize that offering multiple channels of contact isn't the same as having a multichannel contact center, which requires universal and integrated routing, queuing, reporting, and more. The key to the success is the ability to integrate all channels and provide a single view of the customer, including any past and ongoing interactions that they may have had with the business across channels. However, only 10-15% of contact centers today have a tightly integrated view of the customer.

Here are some other key points made during the webinar:

• Too many companies have made it too difficult for customers to reach out and connect in the way that's most convenient for them for that particular situation. We need to make it easy for the customer, while making it more cost effective and efficient for the organization.

• Companies need to to track and understand the customer journey from end to end, and to have the same general business rules, FAQs, and knowledge bases, and use them across all channels, providing consistency for the user experience.

• An integrated multichannel platform provides what I call "Interaction continuity," which ensures that when a customer contacts the company about an issue, even if they use three different channels at three different times, it's seen as a single interaction. The agents working with the customer know what happened in the previous interactions and what, if any, action was taken by the other agent. In this way, the customer doesn't have to explain what they're contacting you about each time.

• Multichannel contact centers let organizations better utilize remote agents who can respond to emails or web chats, without having to worry about background noise--enabling companies to hire more qualified staff no matter where they're located.

• When developing a multichannel strategy, it's important to consider which channels to support and for which customers. For example, you may not want to push your high value customers to web self service, and you don't want to waste specialized phone agents on customers that always shop but never buy. An investment firm for high-net-worth clients may want to offer voice and video, while a video game company may want to offer web chat and social media.

Carousel's Terence Fogarty provided information on where to begin, and suggested asking yourself some questions, such as:

• Do I understand my business and the growth strategies of my employer?
• Who are our current and future customers?
• Are all customers treated equal or do we have/need a segmentation strategy?
• What channels do we want to offer clients and why?
• Do we offer Email to some and Chat to others or do we offer all channels and let the customer choose?
• Is there value in incorporating mobile applications into our strategy?
• What skills are going to be required to support a multichannel solution?

You can access the webinar recording here and get insights about how a multichannel contact center can help you deliver a better customer experience.

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