Omnichannel capabilities are driving the next level of business transformation, turning contact centers into customer experience hubs. With this change comes new opportunities to exceed customer expectations and maximize efficiency, driving down average handle time and cost per contact.
With over 15 years in the business communications industry, Mitel contact center sales expert, Shameem Smillie, delves into how you can leverage omnichannel most effectively, what role AI can play and more.
We’ve been hearing about omnichannel for years. Why is omnichannel so important today?
The capabilities of omnichannel and what it can provide to businesses and the customers they serve has changed dramatically over the years. From talking to our customers about the challenges they face, we’ve learned that omnichannel provides a way to get as close to – and even solve, in a lot of cases – the ultimate challenge of first contact resolution.
Today, Mitel’s omnichannel capabilities allow a business to see and understand the full 360° view and journey of a customer. In addition, agents fulfilling those interactions can now pivot seamlessly from one media to another. With omnichannel, if a customer is engaged on chat with an agent and they want additional information sent via SMS, this can be done while the customer is on chat. If the agent believes the conversation requires a voice interaction, the agent can call the customer with one click and still have all the customer details at their fingertips.
Ultimately, omnichannel is important because it allows a business to differentiate its brand by enabling a seamless experience across physical and digital environments, devices and channels.
Where does AI fit into this?
Omnichannel with AI capabilities is a win-win for agents and for customers. With AI tackling basic tasks, agents are free to focus on the more complex interactions. In addition, Mitel’s CX surveyfound that cloud communications combined with IoT, AI, chatbots and natural language understanding (NLU) facilitate a better customer experience, creating new ways for companies to nurture and build relationships with customers.
Managing the customer relationship through a traditional contact center – rows of technical advisers in headsets grouped together – is no longer sufficient to remain relevant and compete. Unlike contact centers, omnichannel customer experience hubs bring together customer interactions across multiple platforms, from traditional calls to social media. These hubs use the power of AI and machine learning to see emerging customer problems and identify the best solutions. This is transformational for the customer experience, as well as employee efficiency and productivity.
How should companies get started with omnichannel?
To deploy omnichannel, businesses need to understand how and when their customers want to interact. What are the different channels customers can use, and which channels do they prefer the most? Do your business processes consider the user experience for both customers and agents? Answering those questions will help you identify the omnichannel strategy best for your customers, and this customer-first mentality will enable your business to provide the level of service and experience your customers expect today.
What are some common pitfalls to be aware of when deploying omnichannel?
I know a lot of customers who are actively trying to shift interactions away from phone calls and toward chat, SMS and email. However, some customers have said they’ve almost become too successful. Interactions on the phone can be addressed quickly, versus having to type everything and wait for a customer to respond. Productivity can often decrease in these situations and customers can end up waiting much longer than they would have ordinarily, so that’s something to be cautious of.
What are the cost benefits of deploying an omnichannel solution?
When omnichannel capabilities are deployed with a focus on digital transformation, businesses inevitably drive down average handle time (AHT) and the cost per contact. Obviously, the more time an agent is talking or in a transaction, the more it costs a business. Analysts have said the average cost per contact is £4 (sterling) for the UK. One Mitel customer said that by moving to chat alone, their business saved more than £250k (about $317k USD) a year. And of course, there are the “soft” savings achieved by better productivity, efficiency and customer satisfaction.
How do you think omnichannel will evolve over the next year?
The desire to self-serve will continue to drive technology advancements. Use cases will evolve, adding more relevance and value as businesses integrate and enable AI, machine learning and NLU.
Digital Darwinism is still a top concern for a lot of businesses, and it should be. Who can really predict what the next great application will be? Watch the below to hear me elaborate on this subject at the 2019 UC Expo in London.
Given these continuous technology shifts, businesses should focus on ensuring they remain agile, delivering on their customers’ expectations at all times. The first-class customer journey is never going to stand still, and it’s the businesses with the right technology – omnichannel, AI and more – that will attract and retain customers. Everyone else will simply be left behind.