Omni-channel communications appeal to a lot of companies. And it makes sense that they do. Having that type of power at your disposal allows businesses to meet customers on their turf. While this means there are more channels to manage, when done right, the benefit is that omni-channel communications create a better customer experience.
Omni-Channel vs. Multi-Channel
Now omni-channel is different from multi-channel. Omni-channel centralizes information so that different communications channels same work in concert to create a seamless experience. Omni-channel work flows create a path to task completion that constantly moves forward. This isn’t always the case with multi-channel. Multi-channel is simply the existence of different channels, e.g. phone, web, brick-and-mortar. But in a multi-channel situation these different channels don’t intersect.
How many times have you emailed a company and gotten a response that doesn’t completely answer your question? Then you call the company and talk to an agent, but they have no idea who you are or why you’re calling, so you have to spend five minutes explaining how you got to that point. It’s as though once you picked up the phone the company pressed reset on your issue.
The goal of omni-channel communications is to avoid that reset process.
Start with Voice
Even if you know all about omni-channel and want to utilize it with your company, with so many potential communications channels available it can be challenging to figure out just where to start.
When implementing self-service options, the telephone is a great place to start for a number of reasons. First, virtually everyone has a phone or access to one. That speaks to reach. Second, incorporating interactive voice response (IVR) is cost effective. Your ROI with IVR is about as close to immediate as things get. Third, a number of other channels build off of, or incorporate voice so it’s logical to get that channel up and running first to save time down the line.
Expanding with APIs
Of course, just like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is a gateway album into the world of jazz, so too is IVR a gateway to omni-channel communications. Mobile apps, web, email, chat, social media, and live agents are all areas ripe for expansion once you’ve got your feet wet with IVR.
Getting all of these technologies to play nicely together is achieved using APIs. APIs make it easier to achieve a seamless customer experience using more than one communication channel. Because APIs make the integration process easier, companies don’t need to settle for a product suite that does one or two things really well and several additional things “just ok.” APIs enable you to seek out and utilize best-in-breed technology.
The reality of the situation is that customers don’t just opt for one channel or another. Oscillating between voice, mobile, web, social media, and email, for example, is very realistic depending on a customer’s preferences and the particular situation they want to resolve. APIs allow you to account for all of these possibilities.
Not only do APIs link your various communications channels together, but they also allow those channels to connect with customer data. This helps to keep track of customer preferences and to personalize communications.
A Seamless Experience
All of this is well and good, but it doesn’t explain what–exactly–a seamless customer experience looks like. Let’s put some meat on the bones of what we’re talking about here with a practical example.
Pete keeps his money at Bank of the USA. He calls up the bank because he wants to check his transaction history. The Bank’s IVR picks up the call and he navigates to the right menu option. The phone system recognizes that Pete is calling from his mobile based on his customer profile.
Once Pete makes his choice, the self-service system, knowing that he’s on his mobile phone, asks him if he would rather view his most recent transactions in the Bank of the USA mobile app. Pete decides that that would be preferable, so the system sends him a link via SMS.
Pete hangs up the phone call, opens his text messages, and clicks on the link. This triggers the bank’s mobile app, and after Pete authenticates, he’s taken directly to a page that displays his most recent transactions.
While looking over his account information, Pete notices something unexpected. There’s a link within the app to call customer service so Pete clicks on that link, placing another call to the bank. With access to Pete’s customer profile the bank’s agent sees his recent activity and surmises that he is calling about his recent transactions. Pete explains the issue and they are able to resolve the issue.
In this scenario, Pete started with IVR, shifted to text messaging, which fed into the mobile app, before going back to the voice channel and speaking with an agent. That’s a total of four different communications channels and three transitions between them. By centralizing customer data and providing equal access to that information using APIs each transition in this scenario moved the process further along in a manner that was most convenient for Pete. Forward progress was constant and nowhere along the way did he have to restart from the beginning.
Furthermore, of the four different channel experiences we can identify here, three of them were self-service or driven by automation: IVR, SMS, and the mobile app. Therefore, 75% of Pete’s transaction was contained within Bank of the USA’s self-service workflow.
Not only did this process show Pete that Bank of the USA knew him and catered to his preferences, but it also enabled him to get the information he needed. For Bank of the USA, this transaction was a win because their costliest channel, the live agent, only came into play at the very end. The fact that the agent was prepped to help Pete when he called meant that the agent didn’t need to spend precious time re-hashing the situation. The result is a shorter, more efficient conversation for the agent, which makes the Bank’s agents more cost-effective because they can field more calls.
Why Start with IVR
Let’s return to the suggestion above that voice is a great place to start when creating omni-channel solutions. In our example, a robust voice communications platform had a hand in every step. From the IVR, to the text message notifications, to voice calling integrated into the mobile app, to directing callers to a live agent, the common denominator throughout this example was the prevalence and utility of phone-based channels. This common thread is what makes voice the ideal place to start when implementing omni-channel customer service.
If you have any questions about how to get started with voice as the cornerstone of your omni-channel plans, one of our communications experts can help you out.