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In never ceases to amaze me, the number of new terms and acronymsvr_inin_types_of_interactions_in_contact_center the contact center market generates. Just as everyone is getting used to the fact that customers interact with companies through multiple communication channels (multichannel for short), someone invents the term omnichannel and we all have to get our heads around what this means. My research into the contact center in the cloud shows that companies now support on average nearly five communication channels, and although the traditional channels are still the most common, as the chart shows, there are signs that new channels such as chat (used by 37%), social media (29%), text messaging (22%) and video (5%) are on the increase.

The term omnichannel connotes “all in one,” and in this context it implies that companies need to integrate all these channels to give customers the same experience regardless of the channel they use. But I can think of three reasons why this is almost impossible today. The first is that each of these channels uses different devices, and try as companies might, they can’t achieve the same experience on a small mobile device, a laptop, in a text message, in 140 characters, face-to-face, or during a video call. Second, many companies still operate legacy communication systems, especially on-premises, proprietary ACDs, and integrating these with new channels is too costly in today’s economic climate. Emerging contact-center-in-the-cloud vendors such as EchopassEnghouse Interactive, Five9Interactive IntelligenceLiveOps and NewVoiceMedia offer a solution as their services typically include integrated multiple channels of communication. Even so, companies are often faced with deciding how to integrate these with their existing systems. Third, my research also shows that interactions are increasing handled by people in the lines of business, which are spread across the organization and typically have their own processes, systems and customers; therefore customers are likely to get different information depending on the line of business they interact with.

Another important factor is that many companies don’t truly know their customers. My research into customer relationship maturity shows that fewer than one in three (31%) companies produce a single report and analysis of their customers that is shared across the organization. This means that the lines of business are acting on different information, another reason why it is almost impossible to provide a single, consistent experience at all touch points. As companies add more channels of communication this challenge becomes greater, especially when they need to integrate more and more unstructured data into their customer analysis – the big data effect. Adding more channels of communication introduces yet another challenge. Typically each channel uses a unique identifier, and business applications have additional keys; these include, for example, a phone number, an email address, a Twitter handle, an account number or an order number. To truly know a customer companies therefore must link all these identifiers so they can, for example, identify that a current caller is the same person who posted a tweet and sent an email.

To deal with these challenges, I recommend that companies take the following steps:

  • Improve the quality and consistency of their customer data so they have one up-to-date master customer record.
  • Apply customer analytics to every possible source of customer data, including transaction, interaction and event data, structured and unstructured data, and historic, real-time and predictive analysis.
  • Use this analysis first at every touch point to know the customer.
  • Use this analysis also to put the current interaction into the context of previous interactions and the overall relationship with the customer.
  • Use this analysis in combination with rules-based logic to make the response personal to the customer and relevant to the issue raised, and therefore likely to result in the desired business outcome.
  • Above all else, companies need to ensure that they provide consistent information across channels and lines of business. Otherwise they face the prospect that customers will channel-hop until they get the information or outcome that suits them best. Such a process is likely to cost companies customers and sales.

I am not sure such an approach will produce an omnichannel customer experience, but it provides a practical, achievable process that is likely to improve the customer experience and outcomes. I would welcome comments on how others view the concept of omnichannel customer experience and how they intend to achieve it, so please come and collaborate with me.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

My recent research into the contact center in the cloud shows the typicalvr_inin_types_of_interactions_in_contact_center agent’s life is not an easy one. Agents are expected to handle more types of interactions that arrive through more communication channels as found in our research with inbound, email and outbound in use by more than 74 percent of organizations, meet an increasing number of performance metrics, and leave each caller feeling happy with the interaction. And they have to do this with a desktop that my research shows can only be described as “a mess.” It typically has on it multiple business applications (such as CRM, ERP and knowledge management), multiple systems to access communication channels (phone, email, IM, social media), message boards and performance dashboards.

LiveOps is best known for its cloud-based systems that support the management of multiple communication channels, and for applications to manage agent performance. Using the experience it has gained supporting organizations with these services, and drawing from its own pool of agents, LiveOps recently announced a new desktop system, LiveOps Engage, that is designed to make agents’ lives easier, especially in the handling of multiple channels of communication. The software’s customization tools allow companies to design a desktop that best suits the needs and preferences of their agents, including everything from the layout to the color palettes. It is browser-based, so it can be accessed by agents or other employees handling interactions at any location.

The key feature of the new desktop is a series of icons that represent interaction queues – phone, SMS, email, social media, chat. Each icon displays the number of interactions in each queue. An agent can look at each queue and decide which interaction to handle, or companies can push interactions to agents based on a predetermined set of rules. This de-clutters the agent desktop by removing the systems needed to manage different types of queues and makes it simpler to manage which interactions an agent handles.

The rest of the desktop can be configured to make the handling of interactions simpler. The system can be set up to use CTI to prepopulate a mini-window with the customer’s profile, using available APIs to draw information from common business systems. Mini-windows can also include a complete multichannel view of previous interactions, a window to search for customer or other data, icons to enable responses to be pushed through different channels, and other windows built to specific company requirements. During my demonstration, I found the layout pleasing to the eye and could see how a company could create a desktop that would make agents’ lives easier and allow them to be more effective at handling customer interactions.

My research into the agent desktop shows that two of these features – simplifying vr_db_benefits_realized_from_unified_desktopaccess to multiple channels of interaction and accessing a complete view of customer information – are seen as essential in helping agents provide customers with a better experience and realizing better outcomes from interactions. Furthermore, it shows that companies that provide such a desktop see a balanced set of benefits, such as improving overall operations, enabling more employees to become involved in resolving interactions, and better agent performance (quality scores). I believe the current version of Engage will help companies take the first steps in making their agents’ lives easier and making agents more efficient and effective in handling interactions which was found to be highest benefit as found in 57 percent of organizations. As LiveOps adds more features to support wider collaboration in handling interactions and easier access to a wider range of business applications, its desktop will allow companies to make handling interactions more effective, which will impact agent satisfaction, reduce agent turnover, enable improved customer experiences and thus deliver improved key agent and customer-related performance metrics.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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