Dave Michels
Dave Michels is a Principal Analyst at TalkingPointz. His unique perspective on unified communications comes from a career involving telecommunications...
Read Full Bio >>

Dave Michels | July 18, 2017 |


Omnichannel: The Next Big Thing... Again

Omnichannel: The Next Big Thing... Again Exploring why today's omnichannel contact centers need to include support for messaging and video

Exploring why today's omnichannel contact centers need to include support for messaging and video

Remember when we called them call centers? Call centers were all about human-to-human voice interactions. The call center solution stack had the most sophisticated call queuing, routing, and related services that the telephony industry offered.

VoIP enabled fax, email, social interactions, and other new types of conversations to flow into the call center. Call center became too narrow a term, so "contact center" emerged. Despite the name change, the contact center remained predominantly voice-oriented.

Omnichannel has emerged as a popular contact center initiative. Typically, omnichannel begins by adding browser-based chat to an organization's website. This enables the customer or prospect to interact with the contact center agent without installing special software or obtaining access credentials. Without a doubt, Web chat is a powerful tool.

In the UC Spirit
It's a great start, but voice plus Web chat is not omnichannel. "I'm seeing omnichannel used often to describe voice plus a few digital channels. Usually chat comes first," said Ian Jacobs, a contact center analyst with Forrester Research. "Integrations with social networks are far from dead, but messaging is rapidly becoming the next channel."

Omni, derived from Latin, expresses every or all, and channel refers to multiple conversational modalities. It's really the same spirit as unified communications, but with a contact center twist.

Actually it's not that simple. There are several interpretations of omnichannel, and I won't include every or all of them here. While some focus more on the conversational modalities, other interpretations focus on conversational or transactional histories, or the ability to move conversations (and associated data) across modalities. Whatever, the case, omnichannel is more than Web chat.

Unfortunately, I consistently find two things missing from most omnichannel conversations: modern channels and context. This post addresses channels, specifically messaging and video. Context is a post of a different color.

The problem with omnichannel is the continuous change component of every or all. For example, fax was certainly an important channel at one time (and still is in some sectors). Modalities come and go, but omnichannel doesn't expire. Instead, it's necessary to reevaluate its scope regularly.

Omnichannel initiatives must now include messaging and video. These are the two most significant emerging modalities in enterprise communications. Both are already popular in consumer services.

Everyone loves messaging, be that via an app like Facebook Messenger, Line, WeChat, and Viber, or whatever the preference might be. A big benefit of Web chat is that it doesn't require an app or credentials, yet these requirements haven't dampened the popularity of conversational apps.

There's little debate that texting is often preferred over voice. While using text instead of voice is a little more cumbersome, it offers numerous benefits. For example, messaging systems provide a persistent record of the conversation. Interactions can transition from text to voice or video. Messaging apps work as well in noisy environments as they do in quiet workplaces, and can be more tolerant of distractions and interruptions.

Cellular SMS is a form of messaging that shares many of the same benefits as text messaging. Both are less anonymous and ephemeral than Web chat. Twilio, Genband's Kandy, Vonage's Nexmo, and other communications platform as a services have made easier work of integrating SMS into contact centers.

Web chat doesn't offer an ideal experience on smartphones, so without messaging or text options smartphone users are left with calling. With that comes stifling expectations associated with attendant trees, recorded sales pitches, repetitive music, and risk of disconnection.

Video offers even more potential for rich interactions. I know this because I keep coming across success stories that are exceptions not rules.

I've seen several big wins in the banking industry. Nationwide Building Society, a U.K. company, has implemented a Cisco-powered service to supplement branch office staff with virtual agents who can conduct face-to-face video consultations. The pilot resulted in a 62% gain in mortgages, so Nationwide has opted to expand the service to each of its 400 locations.

At a recent Genesys event, Consumers Credit Union presented how video banking and video-only branches facilitated double-digit growth and increased satisfaction among both customers and employees. And Barclays attributes a 40-point increase in its Net Promoter Score to video banking, with its deployment now reaching more than one million customers. Both institutions use technology from Vidyo.

Video is often narrowly associated with traditional video conferencing, but the technology includes general access to the camera and provides for screen sharing and co-browsing. Here are some examples:

  • Dreamforce 2016 featured a demonstration of how Coke uses a retailer's cell phone camera to troubleshoot problems and even upsell the customer. You can see the presentation in this video.
  • Netherlands-based DEKRA Claims and Expert Services International allows its customers to use their smartphone cameras to share and document damages when filing claims.
  • In an emerging video category known as see-what-I-see, field staff can get remote assistance when they share what they see via camera-equipped glasses or helmets. Last year, Vidyo announced see-what-I-see capabilities with ServiceNow.
  • Intuit, the personal finance and tax software company, offers SmartLook, a one-way video service that enables a tax advisor to assist and review tax preparation. SmartLook, powered by Nvidia, provided a 50% drop in support time and increased customer satisfaction scores.
  • Online consultations don't have to be limited to software products. Pella Windows and Doors last year launched in-home consultations over video.
  • Embedding video capabilities into a product can provide competitive advantage. Devices with a screen can often be configured to receive one-way video. That's what Amazon did to give its entry-level tablet competitive differentiation through support. Solutions can also be created with just a camera, such as integration of surveillance or drone video. Clearly, a camera and screen can offer a full experience, but in nontraditional ways. For example, NCR recently partnered with Vidyo to enable video support on its ATMs and Interactive Tellers.

Messaging apps can be walled gardens, but many now offer integration into applications such as contact centers. Video is often overlooked because it's thought to be hard, low quality, and expensive, but embedded high-quality video has never been simpler or easier.

Omnichannel contact centers are really about driving customer engagement. As organizations adopt self-service and digital solutions, establishing a personal relationship with customer is becoming increasingly difficult. Customer service provides one of those few opportunities to differentiate and build rapport, but too many organizations rely on obsolete tools and technologies.

Omnichannel will continue to evolve, but today's initiatives need to include messaging and video.

Dave Michels is a contributing editor and analyst at TalkingPointz.

Follow Dave Michels on Twitter!


September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

August 29, 2018

Moving your voice services to the cloud introduces new challenges for 9-1-1 services. These include the need to serve multiple locations, and the increased mobility that comes with having a phone t

August 8, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a reality for your contact center. But to turn the promise of AI into practical reality, there are a couple of prerequisites: Moving to the cloud and integr

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.