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The customer journey is omnichannel, and customers expect and demand an exceptional experience through every channel they interact with, so why should the call center be any different? This article will look at the characteristics of a call center that is omnichannel, and will discuss why that should always be the case.

The Omnichannel Call Center Helps To Remove Pain Points

Devin Pickell, growth marketer at Nextiva, a VoIP service and application provider, shared with CMSWire that as the remote and hybrid workplace becomes more relevant in our work culture, the need for an omnichannel call center becomes even more pressing. “People are increasingly reaching businesses on the channels they prefer, like web chat, live chat, phone, email, and even social media. The level of support they expect needs to be quick, accurate, but more importantly for omnichannel, cohesive across all channels,” said Pickell.

For instance, Pickell said, if a customer was to call about a damaged item that was received from your brand, all of the data that is associated with the customer should be accessible across all of the channels in the virtual call center, saving the customer from having to repeat what they have already said. “Customers hate repeating themselves. In fact, it's listed in the top 5 most frustrating things that ruin the customer experience. If you're not providing a cohesive support experience across all channels, you're not actually providing an omnichannel experience.”

The omnichannel customer experience requires that customer support data is accessible across all channels. This minimizes or eliminates the pain points in the customer journey. “It'll lead to more satisfied customers that have their issues resolved the first and only time,” said Pickell.

Customers Want to Use Their Preferred Channel

Virgil Wong, chief digital officer at HGS Digital, an IT service management company, thinks that for many brands, the customer experience begins on one channel and then moves through several others over the course of their journey, “including web, social media, mobile, email, direct mailing, SMS, and other chat apps. The advent of voice recognition technologies and Alexa have also accelerated the interaction of customers with the brand.” Wong said that a Dialogtech study indicated that 88% of patients book appointments via phone, and 75% of customers look for insurance by calling.

A 2020 research report from Statista reiterated that the phone is still the channel that customers preferred for handling customer service, with 61% choosing to handle issues over the phone. 15% preferred online chat, 12% preferred email, and another 12% preferred other digital channels. Clearly with such a divide on preferences, customers must be provided with options that allow them to use their preferred channel for customer service.

Related Article: Is 2021 the Year AI Dominates the Call Center?

The Omnichannel Call Center Adds Value and Convenience

According to Chris Richard, vice president of contact center operations at Agero, a pioneer of the driver assistance industry the omnichannel call center not only boosts efficiency and productivity, but that it can create an outsized impact on customer value. “The best way to create an omnichannel call center is to handle the bulk of the customer inquiries — those that represent the easiest, most straightforward requests — with digital automation, while still providing ‘traditional’ phone call options with agents for certain situations or customer preferences.”

Automation can tighten call center operations and drive efficiency by enabling customers to quickly access self-service support through a digital communication channel such as a mobile app, on-demand app, or a web portal, said Richard. “These channels essentially help customers ‘cut the line,’ rather than waiting in a phone queue,” he said.

Many customers prefer to use mobile apps to communicate with brands today. Consumers use mobile apps to order food, request rides, and even deposit checks. The checkout or purchase process is quickened and simplified because user data is typically held in a user profile within the app. “In cases where location information is needed, a smartphone’s native GPS functionality can also easily pull and upload this data. This same capability can be brought to the call center to offer a more seamless customer experience,” explained Richard.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing are being used in the call center to automate much of the experience — but they will never replace the call center agent, who is there to handle more delicate issues with a human touch. “When slightly more complex events arise — or when a customer would rather speak with a person for that more human connection — leaders in an omnichannel call center can still route customer requests directly to agents for necessary hands-on care,” said Richard. “In an omnichannel environment, balancing automation with a more personal touch, building the appropriate infrastructure, and offering customers various communications options is key to handling any given transaction with the best tools and resources for that situation.”

A December 2020 report from Salesforce on customer service trends indicated growing customer expectations. 76% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels and departments, and 53% indicated that it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information, creating an inconsistent, emotionally unsatisfactory experience.

“Customers remain loyal to brands that are able to resolve their problems quickly and effectively — and expect digital capabilities that help speed these resolutions,” Richard said. “The global health crisis only accelerated consumer adoption and willingness to use digital channels, and leaders that recognize the benefits of these new tools and introduce them into the call center are the ones that will thrive long after the crisis is over.”

The Omnichannel Call Center Improves the Customer Experience

Natalya Bucuy, marketing director at LiveHelpNow, a help desk platform provider, told CMSWire that an omnichannel approach improves the customer journey because it carries over the experience from one channel to the next. “Would you trust your friend if you texted him or her with an issue, but when you got into a conversation over the phone later he or she had no idea what you were talking about? The answer is probably, ‘no.’ You'd be hurt, confused, and frustrated,” said Bucuy. “And that is how customers feel when they interact with companies that do not provide an omnichannel customer experience.”

The experience needs to be consistent across channels in order to be seamless for the customer. In fact, statistics from Zendesk indicated that over 35% of customers expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative on any channel. “A strong omnichannel strategy is one that creates a cohesive experience across all possible channels of customer interaction,” said Bucuy.

The omnichannel experience should provide the same positive emotional connection throughout, and the customer should be confident that the experience will carry over from one channel to the next, whether it is the brand’s app, brick-and-mortar store, website, email marketing, or call center. “Shoppers get a sense of trust and confidence when they see a familiar experience across all channels through which they interact with a business. If any of the channels has a subpar customer experience, it can damage shoppers’ confidence in a business,” said Bucuy. “That, subsequently, can cause them to seek out other options.”

For many brands today, their virtual presence is the only place the customer has an opportunity to interact with them. That interaction may be entirely digital, and they may never communicate with a real human being unless they have a customer service issue. “In the case of contact centers maintaining consistent experience through omnichannel communication is important because a contact center is a front-line representative of a business. In the current business environment, where a lot of businesses operate remotely and within virtual spaces, contact centers might be the only connection between the customer and the business. In short, a contact center might be the only chance the company gets to connect and establish trust with the customers,” Bucuy explained.

Final Thoughts

Customers today have high expectations of a consistent experience across all of a brand’s channels. Brands that provide an omnichannel call center are able to eradicate the pain points in the customer experience, while allowing the customer to communicate through their preferred channels, adding value and convenience to the experience, and improving the customer journey.