If there's one universal truth in business today, it's that companies have to be a little more creative when it comes to giving customers what they want.
No business can say for sure what every customer wants, but consumers have made it abundantly clear that they want multiple means to connect with their companies of choice. They expect that a conversation that begins on one interaction channel can be continued on another, with all the relevant contextual data preserved across channels.
"Omnichannel service is absolutely what customers want," says Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting. "Customers do not understand organizations not having one standardized view of all their interactions."
Joe Staples, chief marketing officer at Interactive Intelligence, a provider of contact center systems and software, agrees. "Customers have some level of tolerance, but they're baffled and driven crazy when they start on the Web and then connect to the contact center and the agent has no clue what they've done so far, and they have to start over," he says.
Delivering the kind of omnichannel service that today's customers expect is no simple task, but, luckily, it's not impossible. "Omnichannel [customer service] is absolutely a viable concept," Fluss says. "We have the technology. We have the people. We have the know-how."
Furthermore, current technologies make it possible for companies to be able to see customers as they flip from channel to channel and provide personalized service on each one. It is possible as well for companies to mine those channels and piece them together for one view.
This can be done with the wide variety of contact center analytics products available today, including speech, text, desktop, phone, voice of the customer, and social media analytics. These solutions can log, track, and mine every interaction for the relevant customer information that can—and should—be available to every agent, regardless of the channel.
The Value Proposition
Companies that connect all their customer service channels have much to gain. Those that have already done so report 89 percent customer retention, compared to 33 percent for those that haven't, according to Aberdeen Group. These organizations also enjoy superior financial results in key measures, such as customer profitability and lifetime value.
The Aberdeen report, titled "Omnichannel Customer Care," indicated that companies with omnichannel customer service capabilities achieve an 8.5 percent average year-over-year improvement in first contact resolution, a 7.5 percent average year-over-year decrease in average cost per customer contact, and a 9.5 percent increase in year-over-year revenue.
That was the case at online dating site eHarmony, which incorporated a number of CRM tools from Oracle's RightNow subsidiary to monitor and track customer contacts across channels. After the implementation, contact center agents could see the last time customers contacted an agent, searched online, or sent an email. They could see what was discussed, what information was being sought, or if there were special circumstances that needed to be addressed in the future. This level of insight enabled them to provide better customer support which, in turn, helped eHarmony double its customer satisfaction ratings. Customer satisfaction with phone interactions, for example, jumped several points to 92 percent. The company also benefited from a 30 percent reduction in email workloads. Plus, conversions from trial memberships to paid subscriptions tripled.
Scott Ackerman, eHarmony's vice president of customer care, says the use of RightNow has enabled his company to provide "a consistently excellent experience" for customers across all communication channels. This, he adds, "is helping us grow our customer base, maintain our brand dominance, and optimize our operating margins."
Not all firms are as advanced in their omnichannel journey as eHarmony is. According to Aberdeen, just 20 percent of companies could be considered top performers in omnichannel customer service, and several traits are common among them. For starters, 85