Omnichannel – if you’ll excuse a bit of wordplay – is a term that’s become omnipresent in our world of contact centres and customer service in recent years.
You’ll find plenty of different definitions for it online, but in short it’s about reaching customers where they are – and letting them reach you in the way that suits them. All with everything joined up together.
The ‘where’ in this instance refers to their preferred form of communication: it could be on the phone, via email, or a web browser.
Increasingly, customers are turning to newer forms of contact too, like live web chat and more advanced interactive voice response (IVR) channels.
Omnichannel, at its most basic, provides customers with all the options they want to – and the business with a streamlined, strategic means of managing all of these channels.
Recent Twilio research found that more than 90% of organisations are considering expanding into new digital communication channels as COVID restrictions around the world begin to lift.
One in three companies have started using live chat and for the first time as a result of the pandemic.
This is the case for small and medium-sized businesses, just as it is for large enterprises.
Omnichannel means all channels
When a new mode of communication is ushered in, it’s often described in terms of the technology it’ll replace.
Chat platforms like Slack have been hailed as ‘email killers’, while video conferencing has been predicted to strike the death knell for the humble phone call.
Of course, we know these predictions to be untrue. Any mode of communication will persist so long as people still find a use for it.
For what it’s worth, SMS has been used since the mid-nineties, but is still going strong and in our view a really valuable part of the communications stack.
The more significant thing to be mindful of is the array of these forms of communication: most people will use at least two or three different modes or platforms, but few people will use them in exactly the same combination as anyone else.
To add a greater level of complexity, people will use different modes for different purposes.
Functionally, there’s little difference between sending a text message or pinging someone on WhatsApp – but some people will associate texting with their work life and WhatsApp with their personal goings-on, or vice versa.
And while pretty much everyone uses email in some way, both in their personal and professional lives, they use it in different combinations with other means.
Do a quick survey of your colleagues and you’ll find the text-then-callers, the ‘WhatsApp only please’ gang, emailers-over-everything, and people who’d far rather type with a customer service assistant than sit on hold on the phone.
The point is, it’s impossible to map exactly how and where your customers want to be interacted with. Instead, you need to adapt to their preferences.
There are a few other benefits to adopting an omnichannel strategy, in particular the way it provides a complete overview of the customer record (rather than having different interactions siloed off in separate platforms).
At Zing, we use Twilio Studio to standardise workflows across all communication channels – which helps agents to be more productive and responsive to customer needs.
The ability to group all of these different interactions into a single centralised space is vital for being able to share knowledge between employees too.
This applies not only to day-to-day customer interactions, but also to a longer-term picture: when employees move on to different roles inside (or outside) the company, they’re not taking all of that knowledge and experience away in their head with them – the important bits stay behind too.
How should SMEs adopt an omnichannel contact centre?
For a medium-sized business, however, adopting a new communications channel strategy can seem like a lot of upheaval. Shifting wholesale to a new way of working is bound to have its own unforeseen impacts too.
That’s why I always advocate for a ‘build-as-you-go’ approach: start with your particular pain point, and build up from there.
For instance, your agents might have let you know that they’re spending a lot of time on calls helping customers through simple account admin or providing information that’s readily available elsewhere.
Setting up an IVR channel and encouraging customer self-service in this case would be a proactive means of optimising your agents’ call time, as well as setting out onto an omnichannel strategy that could eventually encompass other convenient modes of customer communication.
Start simple, then add layers of functionality.
Want to know more about how you can build your own? I’d be happy to help.
If you are looking at implementing a remote or multi location contact centre and need help or advice on any of the elements described above, get in touch – we’d love to start the conversation with you.