Omnichannel contact centers are revolutionizing customer support

Many of us have a negative perception of customer support calls, even if you’ve never experienced it yourself. You can imagine the feeling of being on hold for hours, continually explaining the same problem to different support agents. Then eventually hanging up without a resolution from the sheer frustration and time wasted.

Before COVID-19, customer support centers began to adopt alternative communication tools offering 24/7 support, such as automated chatbots and SMS Gateway Two-way SMS. As Millennials prefer forms of live chat over any other channel, expanding customer support beyond phone calls has become vital.

Currently, many businesses are flooded with customer support queries related to COVID-19. Companies in the travel, telecom, and utility industries are experiencing an unprecedented influx of inbound requests for updates, cancellations, and refunds. Customers need help navigating changes related to the pandemic and expect immediate responses. To alleviate the pressure, support centers have had to diversify their communication channels.

Related: 'Why your business is doomed without Omnichannel Marketing'

The shift from call center to contact center

Traditional call centers have become all but redundant with the high demand for businesses to offer multiple communication channels.

Now, contact centers are the name of the game. Providing a range of touchpoints gives customers the ability to choose according to their preferences and circumstance. Some people might want step by step guidance over the phone, while others might prefer less human interaction. The choice is theirs.

Contact centers offer several contact mediums to accommodate their customers, including:

  • SMS
  • OTT messaging
  • Email
  • Phone calls
  • Video chat
  • Website chatbots and LiveChat

Streamlining communication tools is essential when implementing an omnichannel experience. The harmonious functionality between systems allows omnichannel customer support to flow seamlessly between channels. It lets customers transition from talking to an online chatbot and then continues the conversation with a live agent in the same chatbox—all without repeating themselves.

What is omnichannel support, and why is it important?

Omnichannel support also offers customers several ways to interact with a company. The support channels are connected to create a seamless and coherent experience, with up-to-date, consistent information. Customers can easily navigate between channels without discrepancies or disruptions. Support agents can also refer to previous interactions with other agents and communication platforms to speed up the resolution process.

The difference between multichannel and omnichannel support

Multichannel customer support offers a range of support channels. With multichannel offerings, customers can choose their preferred method of interacting with brands, including social media, phone calls, SMS, and live chat. While multichannel provides choice and accessibility, the channels do not share historical customer interactions, unlike omnichannel. The range of multichannel offerings is convenient but creates an overall fragmented experience as customers move between channels—especially when compared to omnichannel services.

Implementing omnichannel strategies

Omnichannel approaches to customer support can significantly benefit all types of businesses. Mainly adopted by dedicated contact centers, omnichannel support can also be easily implemented into existing systems and support software. SMS functionality, OTT messaging, and chatbots seamlessly integrate with CRM software and CMS.

Businesses can consolidate established customer support systems by expanding communication channels. With a robust integration or plugin, you can facilitate customer support and software capabilities, all in one place. Add-on services and integrations make it effortless for customer support teams to quickly access relevant customer data and history.

Effective omnichannel support; a step-by-step example

  1. Ben, a customer, opens an eCommerce app to contact customer support about the headphones he ordered because they were damaged on delivery.
  2. He utilizes the pop-up chat function in the app to enquire about his options.
  3. A chatbot confirms Ben’s request and offers to refund him on the spot or to organize a replacement with a support agent.
  4. Ben requests to be transferred via phone call and the chatbot connects him to a support agent.
  5. The support agent can see the chat history and continues the conversation, talking Ben through the options.
  6. After talking, Ben decides to get an exact replacement, and the support agent enters the request through the system.
  7. A confirmation of the replacement is sent to Ben as an SMS with an approximate delivery date. Ben also requests the conversation transcript, which is then sent directly to his email.

How does omnichannel affect customers?

Consumer expectations continue to grow. While price and product are significant considerations, companies must also provide an overall positive customer experience (CX).

The demand for omnichannel experiences tailored to individual customer needs, past interactions, and consumer behavior has increased. 72% of consumers expect customer support agents to know who they are, what they have purchased, and insights into their previous engagements.

Minimizing phone support backlogs

Phone calls are still a necessary part of customer support, especially for more complicated matters. 64% of customers expect businesses to respond to calls and interact with them in real-time. But they are often left on hold when call volumes are high. Considering two-thirds of customers are only willing to wait on hold for two minutes or less before hanging up, long wait times can be detrimental.

Optimize resources and time by implementing other methods for common customer requests. With alternative support channels for less urgent matters, companies can experience greater efficiency and customer satisfaction with automation. Two-way SMS support, automated keyword triggers, chatbots, and live chat options can decrease the influx of inbound support calls.

Related: 'Why Customer Experience (CX) is vital to your Marketing Strategy in 2020'

Live chat and automated messaging options simplify customer support:

  • Filter service requests and categorization
  • Query priority and escalation
  • Answering minor requests
  • Real-time chat support
  • Call-back messages to organize a convenient time

Automated customer support

Support centers are presented with common questions every day. Businesses supply various website resources to assist customers, but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to look. Automated communication can free up support agents by acting as a digital help desk. Directing customers to FAQS, tutorials, and landing pages that will provide them with the information they need.

Automation plays a crucial role in providing instant, round the clock support. Automating workflows in customer support improves efficiency and allows live agents to focus on urgent or more complex customer issues. With automated communications, a customer could quickly resolve a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question instantly.

Automated communication strategies for customer support

SMS keywords and trigger responses

Automated triggers can be set up to respond to specific keywords. With pre-written responses to keywords, customers are promptly informed of relevant information and the next steps to escalate their query further.

Chatbots

Chatbots are especially useful in categorizing customer queries and routing interactions to the appropriate team if escalation is required. With the ability to provide 24/7 customer support with little human intervention, it’s expected that around 95% of customer interactions will be facilitated by AI technology by 2025.

Integrating chat support services within an existing application is easy with an HTTP API. Chatbots use advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques to respond to customer service requests accurately. Using machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), chatbots can interpret human language and provide customers with intuitive and relevant solutions.

Related: ‘The Undeniable Evolution of AI and Machine Learning

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

IVR systems such as voice assistants and voice menus can act as the first point of contact for customer calls. Voice menus streamline call flows, prompting customers to select from a set of options. Prompts like “press 1 for billing issues” accurately direct customers to the appropriate live agent. The menus can ease the on-hold process, informing customers of their place in the queue, estimated wait times, and alternative contact channels.

Voice assistants rely on NLP to conduct conversations with human-like dialogue. They’re an efficient tool for categorizing customer requests, ensuring a seamless transition to the appropriate live agent.

IVR systems also help avoid delayed response times during periods of high call volumes by quickly resolving common support requests. A report stated that 49% of consumers prefer interacting with voice assistants in shops and call centers. Appreciating the speed of voice assistants, 38% of consumers also stated they like that they can avoid interacting with a sales/service representative.

Why omnichannel is the only way forward

As customer expectations continue to evolve, contact centers and customer support must diversify and advance their approach. Providing an omnichannel customer support experience is the most effective way to cater to a variety of customer needs while optimizing communication and resources.

Companies with good CX are nine times more likely to engage customers through their preferred channels. Integrating data and analyzing interactions across multiple channels creates better oversight. An omnichannel approach benefits both the customer and the support team, providing unified information and experience.

Diverse support options allow businesses to provide valuable support even after business hours. With the convenience of omnichannel support, consumers can choose the communication medium most accessible to them and then follow up through a different channel. All with peace of mind that they can pick up where they left off without disruption.