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Guest Blogger

by Craig Farley, Head of Consulting at IPI

The new generation of digital natives are increasingly dominating the marketplace; bringing with them a demand for a revitalised approach to customer experience. This is an excellent opportunity for businesses to expand channels of communication to appeal to a demographic that don’t just feel confident using alternative means of contact; they prefer it.

The digital natives’ desire for omnichannel solutions stems from a strong pull away from older technologies, like telephony, and an equally strong push towards more efficient and immediate ways to contact their favourite brand, like chat. These digital natives are typically younger customers who are accustomed to the ease of use of multichannel communication, and expect the same from the brands they interact with. With consumer expectation high, businesses need to accommodate these rising expectations and focus on the provision of omnichannel solutions that drive a great customer experience.

What is an omnichannel?

Omnichannel solutions are communication platforms offering multiple ways to contact a company, without being disconnected from each other. They are increasingly based in the cloud, allowing users to capitalise on more advanced technologies to boost the ease of communication with customers. While it broadens options, a cloud-based omnichannel solution will still host the more standard forms of contact such as telephony. It encapsulates many different options of contact that customers of all ages are accustomed to. Email, chatbots, texts, and video are just some of the most popular channels that encapsulate an omnichannel offering.

Indeed, many of these have been in use for years across multiple industries. In retail, Amazon’s chatbot is used to provide a more human experience to its customers. EasyJet has been increasing its use of text alerts to inform customers of delays and changes. Even the insurance industry is seeing brands capitalise on cloud-based omnichannel solutions, with big modern brands like Lemonade enhancing CX through a chatbot.

Enhancing the customer experience

Adopting an omnichannel approach will enhance the customer experience while maintaining or even exceeding customer expectations. As of 2021, 71% of consumers considered texting their favourite businesses as an effective form of communication and 65% expected it to be an option. The reason for this is obvious, as it’s estimated there are over 6.4 billion smartphone users in the world, which means the vast majority of customers now have the vast power of the internet in the palms of their hands. It’s logical that we expect businesses to capitalise on this and provide us with the same on-the-go communication options.

The ready-whenever mentality drives the tech native generation. As we’ve seen, omnichannel solutions reduce customer dependency on telephony by providing them with options that don’t require speaking to another human. However, this is not a standard customer preference.

Introducing an omnichannel solution gives brands the chance to tailor communications to what customers want. For example, Goldsmiths, the high brand jewellery and watch retailer, realised that many of its customers getting in touch would prefer human interaction, not just via voice but over video too. As such, Goldsmith’s customers can call via its website and expect to have a face-to-face conversation with one of Goldsmiths contact centre agents. Video chats are a great way for agents to “read” its customers and deliver better service, especially in situations requiring greater sensitivity than standard inquiries.

Omnichannel solutions can also help businesses wanting to simplify the customer journey. For example, the major cosmetics company Sephora now has an option for customers to book appointments through messenger, thus eliminating multi-step processes through a website and putting the power directly into the customers’ hands.

 Supporting the employee experience

The Sephora example above demonstrates how introducing self-service functionality – allowing appointments to be booked through messenger – can reduce the burden on contact centre agents to deal with more routine and mundane tasks.  By reducing traffic into the contact centre for such enquiries, agents have more time to address more complicated queries or even test out potential new avenues for business growth. Automated features, like chatbots, also offer a quick and easy way to answer frequently asked questions and can handle simple, repetitive tasks such as updating addresses or contact details.

Beyond this, omnichannel solutions have given agents greater flexibility in the growing world of hybrid working. Cloud-based home-working is the new normal, however, it sometimes can be more challenging to answer the phone as a home-based agent. Offering an omnichannel communication strategy – incorporating non-voice applications like text and messenger – can ensure that organisations can remain connected to their customers and keep operations running smoothly regardless of where the workforce is based.

The correlation between the improvement of customer experience and the employee experience must also be noted here. Agents who don’t have to focus on basic, repetitive tasks, are happier in their roles and can use that energy and time to provide better levels of support to make a customer feel more connected to a brand.

Implementing an omnichannel solution

The first step in integrating a cloud-based omnichannel solution is to analyse what your current systems are. Understanding this is the first step to building a roadmap for integration. Through a roadmap that factors in how many agents your contact centre has and what hurdles you can predict and prepare for, you can design the best migration path for your business.

The most successful migrations to cloud-based omnichannel solutions are based on a comprehensive understanding of what your customers want. As we’ve seen for some brands, some customers expect a personal touch through telephony or video-chats. Perhaps speed is the most important quality to your customers’ experience. Know who your customers are and what they want and this will help shape the end solution that is rolled out.

If this is done in conjunction with a full and effective training plan for your agents (to make sure they get the most out of any omnichannel solution implemented), you can ensure a seamless transition that doesn’t disrupt the quality of customer experience.

Omnichannel – a must for the customer of today

The rise of the digital natives, is a great trigger for businesses looking to upgrade customer experience. Cloud-based omnichannel solutions are an exciting step forward to tailoring the customer journey to support the needs and wants of the modern consumer. Through cloud technology, all of these benefits can be integrated to improve not just your CX but your employee experience and brand reputation.

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