Serving the Omnichannel Customer

How businesses need to overhaul their customer experience solutions for the digital era

The way businesses interact with customers is changing. In the modern, digital-first environment, consumers expect to be able to get in touch with firms anywhere, at any time, using whatever method they feel is most convenient to them.

The rise of devices such as smartphones has had a major role in this. Consumers now expect to be able to communicate easily via whatever channel they prefer, whether this is through a voice call, an app, on live chat or via social media. As a result, businesses need to respond to these demands with omnichannel communications and customer care solutions that offer all the options users expect.

Serving the omnichannel customer White Paper

The evolving demands of consumers mean that going into the next decade, customer experience needs to be a top priority for every business, no matter what sector they operate in.

One study by Walker found that by the end of 2020, customer experience will be the number one differentiator that separates the best-performing companies from the rest, ahead of price and product offering.

In the Omnichannel Customer White Paper you will learn:

  • How to increase what customers are willing to pay for products and services by 16%.
  • Why customers who have had a positive experience usually spend up to 67% more than new customers.
  • That a bad customer experience on a website often means that customers are 88% less likely to return to a business.
  • How live instant messaging, chatbots, emails, WhatsApp and direct social media messaging all have their role to play in the modern contact centre.
  • 25% of customers utilise one to two channels when seeking customer care

Discover more by downloading our FREE White Paper below: 

Omnichannel White Paper
Person using chat in contact centre

The tools to take a Contact Centre to the next level

At the heart of a Contact Centre will be an effective phone system. Hosted solutions such as Horizon by Gamma and Scala by Arrow can offer a comprehensive range of features to ensure customers are able to get answers as quickly as possible and agents are fully informed.

On a basic level, a contact centre gives businesses the freedom to manage their inbound calls, such as smart call routing, network-based queuing to reduce waiting times and easy redirections are must-haves for improving the customer contact centre experience.

But this should only be the start. With technologies like SIP Trunking, businesses can take full control of their contact centre management. These tools offer much more flexibility and scalability and come with business continuity features to ensure you can keep responding to customers whatever happens. Being able to integrate contact centre solutions with applications such as CRM tools is also essential in offering a personal experience to users and solving issues quickly.

Such technologies are set to be the future of how good customer experience is delivered, but the tools themselves will not be enough. Firms must also ensure they have the right support systems they need, such as consulting with expert providers, to ensure they can successfully integrate the next generation of solutions into their operations.

Contact Us today to ensure your business is ready to meet the expectations of the modern, omnichannel, connected customer:

Contact Us

To be successful, firms will need integrated solutions that encompasses everything your customers need, whether through telephone, chat, e-mail or social media. 

Speak to our technical advisers to receive a tailored proposal to your business.

Serving the omnichannel customer – White Paper

  1. Introduction: The connected customer

The way businesses interact with customers is changing. In the modern, digital-first environment, consumers expect to be able to get in touch with firms anywhere, at any time, using whatever method they feel is most convenient to them.

The rise of devices such as smartphones has had a major role in this. Consumers now expect to be able to communicate easily via whatever channel they prefer, whether this is through a voice call, an app, on live chat or via social media. As a result, businesses need to respond to these demands with omnichannel communications and customer care solutions that offer all the options users expect.

At the same time, expectations for how any queries are dealt with are also on the rise, and tolerance for failures in this regard is low. However, this also presents a huge opportunity for brands to stand out from a crowded marketplace by offering superior customer experiences than their competitors.

Therefore, businesses that invest in the right technology and communications solutions to meet these high expectations can enjoy a wide range of benefits. With the latest technology tools, firms can not only respond more quickly to any issues their customers may have, but can also take a more proactive approach, reaching out and adjusting their strategies to address issues before they even become apparent.

  1. Why strong customer experience matters

The evolving demands of consumers mean that going into the next decade, customer experience needs to be a top priority for every business, no matter what sector they operate in. Indeed, one study by Walker found that by the end of 2020, customer experience will be the number one differentiator that separates the best-performing companies from the rest, ahead of price and product offering.

The benefits for your business

The primary reason for boosting your customer experience efforts is the impact it will have on your bottom line, and there are a range of ways in which this can be achieved. Firstly, it can allow you to place a premium on your offerings. In fact, research by PwC suggests brands that concentrate on providing the best experience can enjoy a 16 per cent increase on what their customers are willing to pay for products and services.

There is also the boosted loyalty this provides, and this manifests in a number of ways. For starters, there’s the increased direct revenue that good experiences bring with them. Consumers who’ve had a positive experience are not only more likely to return to your brand again – thereby reducing customer churn and the associated expenses of attracting new customers – but also spend up to 67 per cent more than new customers.

Finally, of course, happy customers are also much more likely to recommend your brand to friends and family, boosting your reach and reputation by word of mouth without you having to spend an extra penny on marketing.

Offering a more personal experience

Conversely, companies that fail to meet the high expectations of today’s consumers will quickly start to see poor results, regardless of how customers choose to interact with a business. This can be seen from the earliest stages, as those people who have an unpleasant experience when using a brand’s website – which is often the first port of call for potential customers – are 88 per cent less likely to return to a business.

However, much of the customer experience will revolve around providing a more personal interaction, and this is where direct, live communications between customers and agents are so important. It’s therefore essential that businesses have the right technology solutions in place to ensure these interactions are as streamlined and easy-to-use as possible.

This means ensuring customers are not kept waiting on hold, directed through overly-complex automated branches, or passed on to agents who don’t have the resources or ability to answer their queries. Instead, employees must have the information on hand immediately to ensure the service they’re providing is relevant and personalised to the individual customer.

  1. The need to connect people, devices and data

Although efforts to improve customer experience need to take place throughout the business, from improving web UX design to streamlining checkout processes, the contact centre should always be a top priority, as the experiences customers have here can make or break their impression of a business.

This is because the contact centre will be the primary method by which interactions take place, whether they are contacting you with a problem or if you’re using outbound marketing or follow-ups. As a result, the experience your customers receive from these services will have a major impact on their overall impression of the company.

Why you need an omnichannel contact centre

In this environment, there’s no one single channel on which businesses should be focusing their attention in order to deliver this kind of experience. In fact, research from Hubspot reveals that, while email is the most popular channel, a good contact centre needs to take an omnichannel approach and offer users a range of options. This differs from previous multi channel efforts by ensuring all the channels are fully integrated and connected to deliver the same experience across all contact points.

It’s clear that the days when contact centres consisted primarily of a phone system are long gone. Today’s tech-savvy consumers expect to be able to get in touch with businesses in a way that’s most convenient to them, and this is often not a telephone call. Instead, live instant messaging, emails and even direct social media messaging all have their role to play in the modern contact centre.

To be successful, an omnichannel contact centre needs to allow customers to shift between channels seamlessly without any change in experience or the quality of service. So for example, a customer that starts their journey via web chat should be able to easily move to a voice call and pick up exactly where they left off, before any followup emails complete the process.

However, this in itself can create problems for businesses, especially when the time comes to hand over from one channel to the other. This is often the trickiest part of the process for businesses to get right, but it’s one no firm can afford to get wrong.

Delivering a seamless experience

Because of the range of options available to today’s customers, many will use multiple channels to get in touch with a business. According to research from Ovum, a quarter of consumers (25 per cent) utilise one to two channels when seeking customer care, while 52% use three or four.

What’s more, the majority of customers (62 per cent) believe it will take five or more interactions to resolve an issue, so it will be vital that the experience is made as easy and stress-free as possible, as well as making efforts to exceed these expectations and resolve matters on the first point of contact.

A key part of this is ensuring that when customers are moving between channels, agents have a complete record of their progress so far in front of them. This means that, when an employee picks up an issue, they will be able to see at a glance who the customer is, what they are trying to achieve and what steps have been undertaken so far.

This is vital in minimising repetition, which is often the most frustrating part of the process for customers. Individuals who have to explain their issue to multiple different agents, or even confirm their identity again and again, will walk away with a highly negative impression of the company and are unlikely to offer repeat business.

Ovum noted 82 per cent of people have abandoned a firm because of a single bad encounter, while figures from American Express suggest people will tell 15 other people about a negative experience, compared with spreading positive experiences to 11 people.

Therefore, it will be essential for effective contact centres to not only connect consumers to the right agent, but give employees access to all the data they need to quickly understand the customer’s issue. They should then have the tools at their fingertips to resolve any problems and answer questions without further interactions.

  1. A more proactive approach to customer experience

An effective contact centre is about more than simply being able to respond to customer queries quickly and effectively. If firms really want to stand out from their competitors and offer a service that exceeds the expectations of today’s demanding consumers, they will need to be proactive rather than reactive.

It’s all very well being able to resolve a customer’s issue on the first interaction with the contact centre, but what if firms are able instead to step in to fix a problem before a customer is even aware of it? This could well be the next stage for the most forward-thinking businesses, and with the right technology it can be closer than you may think.

Taking advantage of AI and IoT

An intelligent contact centre should offer much more than smart call routing. It should also be able to offer predictive solutions, utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies that can take advantage of data from a wide variety of sources to make businesses and contact centre agents better informed.

In addition to being able to better predict customer intent and recommend the most appropriate course of action faster, the use of these tools can offer other benefits. For instance, businesses can integrate them with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors incorporated into the products they offer to customers in order to better monitor performance and react more quickly.

Say for instance, an IoT sensor detects an issue within a customer’s system. It could then send an automated alert to the customer via SMS, or trigger a workflow within a firm’s system that results in an engineer visit, all before the customer has to get in touch to report a problem. This type of system, integrating IoT devices, AI monitoring tools and customer care processes, can be the difference between a proactive business and a reactive one that may be left behind by more technologically-advanced competitors.

Rethinking the chatbot

Another area in which tools such as AI can transform the contact centre is in overhauling chatbot solutions. These systems have been in place in many businesses for a while now, and offer a convenient way for customers to get quick answers to basic queries, while freeing up contact centre agents to deal with more complex issues.

However, these often fail to meet expectations. From the businesses’ perspective, they must be tediously programmed and scripted to ensure they are able to answer the right questions, while they can often be a source of frustration to consumers if they end up being too limited. But these issues can be avoided if users are able to harness the right technology.

Improving chatbots with advanced AI tools such as natural language processing (NLP) helps ensure the programs better understand what is being asked of them, regardless of how questions are phrased. This ensures customers are not frustrated by having to hunt for specific wording and enables businesses to add a wide range of potential outcomes to the solution.

Of course, there will always be times when even the most advanced chatbot runs out of options, so in these circumstances, the ability for a human agent to seamlessly step in and carry on the conversation without the customer having to start again on a new channel will be vital.

  1. The right tools to make sure reality meets expectations

In order to deliver the highest level of customer experience, however, a rethink of the tools your business has in place may well be required. Whether you’ve got a dedicated contact centre with dozens of lines or just one or two agents, having a unified communications and collaboration system can be a major strategic advantage.

The key features you need

At the heart of this will be an effective phone system. Hosted solutions such as Horizon by Gamma and Scala by Arrow can offer a comprehensive range of features to ensure customers are able to get answers as quickly as possible and agents are fully informed.

Meanwhile, when it comes to smart AI services to support chatbots or predictive solutions, turning to the cloud is likely to be essential. Services such as Mitel’s MiCloud Flex offer businesses access to the most powerful technologies to help accelerate and automate processes and workflows within the contact centre, as well as ensure agents can answer any questions as quickly as possible, and even before they are asked, thanks to the use of predictive tools and machine learning.

Looking to the future

Many of the most advanced features, such as AI and ML tools, are still relatively new and in the process of development. For example, when it comes to integrating IoT devices into your workflows, there are numerous challenges that need to be addressed, such as how you connect these to existing CRM applications and what connectivity and data protection issues must be overcome.

Systems such as advanced AIs also require a significant investment, even if firms are taking advantage of the range of services offered by cloud-based providers. However, companies that take the time now to look into solutions such as AI, NLP and ML will be able to get a head start on many of their peers.

Not every customer will use every channel today, but in the coming years, they will build up the number of technologies they use as they become more comfortable and confident with emerging innovations.

So for example, a consumer who only uses voice calls at the moment may start simply with the introduction of email and then SMS, then move to social media and web chat, before turning to tools such as AI and chatbots. But they will only progress down this path if they feel they are getting the same seamless experience at every touchpoint.

  1. The next steps to ready your business for the future

Such technologies are set to be the future of how good customer experience is delivered, but the tools themselves will not be enough. Firms must also ensure they have the right support systems they need, such as consulting with expert providers, to ensure they can successfully integrate the next generation of solutions into their operations.

Having the support of the right partner will be vital in many ways. As well as helping you assess your needs and ensuring you choose the right technologies for your business, the right technology provider should be able to help guide you through the implementation and ongoing management processes that will be vital in readying your customer experience for the coming years.

With strong experiences being a top priority for today’s customers, the importance of having the right digital tools to respond quickly can’t be overlooked. And having the right partner to ensure you can stay up to speed with the latest emerging trends and meet the ever-evolving expectations of young, mobile-enabled consumers is the key to success in this area.

To learn more about how Arrow Communications can help ensure your business is ready to meet the expectations of the modern, connected customer, get in touch today on 0330 440 4444 or email enquiries@arrowcommunications.co.uk