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GUEST COMMENT Only omnichannel can solve customer experience woes

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It’s a problem that we’ve all experienced – trying to get through to a customer services department and being kept on hold for what seems like an eternity, or getting passed around from team to team without your problem being resolved. If it feels you’ve wasted hours of your life on the phone to call centres, that’s probably because you have.

Recent research commissioned by Genesys found that – on average – UK consumers spent 17 minutes on hold to call centres every week. That works out at a shocking five and a half weeks over the course of a lifetime. In an age when consumers have more choice than ever before and brands are competing in a fierce marketplace, why is this still happening? And more importantly, what can brands do to change and improve their customer experience?

With the advent of multichannel and internet retailing and the smartphone revolution about ten years ago, many brands turned to multi-channel customer experience in order to manage the various channels and keep customers happy. Multi-channel systems bring together multiple touchpoints – such as voice, text, social media and the web – into one platform.

However, in a multichannel system, engagement channels, backend processes and customer data aren’t always completely integrated. As a result, customers might have to restate their details when they are getting touch. Similarly, if they are calling up a contact centre they might be kept on hold for long periods, or passed around from department to department while an agent tries to resolve the issue.

An omnichannel customer engagement platform is the answer. Omnichannel CX consolidates all engagement channels, customer data and backend processes into one whole. With an omnichannel platform, agents have all customer information and journey history to hand. They are also able to respond to any customer query on any channel. All of this means that agents can answer any query and will also immediately know the background of the customer query and understand why they are getting in touch, ensuring that the interactions is as seamless and pain-free as possible.

The benefits of an omnichannel system aren’t just restricted to better customer experience, however. A recent Forrester study found many areas where it reduces costs and improves operational efficiency. This included a 50% reduction in customer abandonment, 5% improvement in agent handling time and ROI of around 158%.

The other crucially important aspect of an omnichannel system is that end-users can easily integrate the new and cutting-edge technologies that are currently revolutionising customer experience. Increasingly, this means things like chatbots and artificial intelligence – which many see as futuristic – but that in reality are forming an increasingly important part of brands’ customer service offering.

As an interface, chatbots can be implemented in a variety of different ways—but the most common is through an application of artificial intelligence (AI) in some form, where software can analyse and assess a customer query expressed in human form, whether that be through text or voice. One example is Bank of America’s bot Erica. It is a fully-automated customer service assistant that aims to handle common customer issues that don’t require any human intervention. Systems such as this appear to be popular with the general public. Indeed, research conducted by Forrester concluded that more than 70% of customers prefer to resolve issues by themselves, wherever possible.

An omnichannel system that integrates artificial intelligence allows brands to deal with customer queries efficiently and quickly, which prevents the long wait times and frustrations that are, still, happening all too often. It also means human agents are able to devote the human touch to customers with complex enquires that require more care and attention. Instead of a fragmented journey where various channels fail to integrate and share information, it creates a journey where customers are able to easily and seamlessly interact with every touchpoint – whether powered by AI or not.

Today’s consumers have an unimaginable range of choice. They also have all the information they need to make informed buying decisions at the instant push of a button. In that context, price and product specification have ceased to be differentiating factors. Instead, customers now value customer experience over everything else – which makes the news that they are spending so much time on hold all the more shocking. The way to remedy this is omnichannel customer experience. Omnichannel offers one overarching system that brings together all engagement channels as well as customer data and back end processes, and allows for the easy integration of cutting-edge latest technology like artificial intelligence. Taken together, it means brands are able to offer high-levels of customer experience where queries are dealt with quickly and effortlessly, however and whenever consumers get in touch.

Richard McCrossan is EMEA digital practice lead at Genesys

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