2014-02-July-Fortune.jpgOrganizations have been gearing up over the past few years to support the needs of today’s omnichannel customer service enterprise, with the goal of offering a seamless consumer experience through available shopping channels.

Excellent work.

Now it’s time to change. Again.

The customer service game has leveled up with the advent of multimodal service. Where in the past a customer would engage in a linear progression of channel usage and escalation (engaging via a single channel and another separate channel, if needed, to resolve an issue or gain information), today’s multimodal customers have a very different engagement pattern.

Now, they use multiple customer service channels simultaneously (e.g., live chatting while Web browsing). And with multimodal customer service soon to be the new norm, it’s important to understand the implications, challenges and opportunities in servicing today’s consumer.

Multimodal Contact Center Implications

Mobile devices have been a great facilitator of the multimodal era. As they become more advanced and can support multiple channels at the same time (text and voice, Internet access and voice, app and chat, etc.), consumers adept at multitasking have begun to expect the same in their customer service experience. 

In the hands of the contact center agent, the ability to add channels when needed can greatly enhance the explanation, illustration and expedition of customer service processes – to provide relevant context to make the process faster, easier and more rewarding for the customer. For example, a customer dealing with a flight cancellation on the phone with a customer service agent can have a list of available flights emailed or presented in a browser or app for a quick overview of all available options.

But, with the shocking number of channel combinations possible for each and every customer interaction, one might be led to believe that multimodal opens up a whole new level of complexity -- something the contact center can ill afford. 

Context is Key

As with any multiple channel approach, it’s up to the contact center to pull everything together to ensure that interactions are complete, consistent and coherent. In the multimodal scenario, it’s context that helps contact centers discern exactly what combination of channels best meets the needs of each customer and his or her concerns. Organizations must understand -- in what situation is a channel most appropriate?