Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Contact Center Anchors Omni-Channel Customer Experience

January 11, 2017

CES, the global consumer electronics show that happens this time every year, is now concluded, and attendees have seen a small glimpse of the future in the form of new technologies to do everything from locating your pets to pumping breast milk to running your electric car for longer. One of the overwhelming themes for CES this, however, is a “connected world.” It’s not hard to see what’s in store for customer support technology when everyone and everything is connected.

In a recent blog post for CustomerThink, Chris Petersen made observations from CES. He wrote that customers now have the tools to shop anytime and everywhere.

“The reality for the sales success of the tech products on display at CES will be far less about the technology inside, and much more about how to engage consumers in the experience of using new technology in their lifestyle,” he wrote. “With the rapid growth of e-commerce, neither products nor technology are unique differentiators. Retailers are rapidly transforming beyond selling gadgets to creating a differentiated experience.”

That “differentiated experience” comes in the form of omni-channel customer engagement in which customers can dictate how and when they want to be sold to. The “point of sale,” once considered the checkout spot in a retail store, is longer a place: it’s the customers themselves. Sales can be closed with customers on mass transit, from their beds in the middle of the night or from a ski lift. Customers now determine when and where they will purchase; how and where they will take delivery and where they will return based on service. Retail stores remain part of the equation, particularly for high-tech product, but there is evidence today that about 80 percent of customer journeys begin online.

Without a “clearinghouse” for the customer experience, however, omni-channel customer engagement is going to be too complex to manage. While many departments have input into customer journey, it’s the contact center where the customer’s experience should be anchored. Are companies prepared for the coming complexities of omni-channel? Depends who you ask.

“Over 90 percent of retailers responded that they were well prepared or actively engaged in omni-channel transformation in order to adapt to the changing behaviors of consumers,” wrote Petersen. “Clearly, retailers are also seeing omni-channel as their new normal. But, saying you are omni-channel and becoming “omnipresent” are two different things. Omni-channel is not cheap! It requires significant investments in technology, systems, logistics and people.”

For most companies, there will need to be broad changes in their contact center solutions. Agents will need to work from one platform for all communications, including phone, email, chat, mobile app, social media and even support for in-store shopping from kiosks, for example. While every department, including sales, marketing, advertising, shipping and third-party retailers, will need to have a hand in the omni-channel customer experience, there is only one department where a truly great customer experience can be managed from: the contact center. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle