Omnichannel: Building successful customer relationships
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By Kelvin Brown, Director of AnD Communications, a company owned by Telviva
As organisations around the world and in KZN come to terms with the disruption from the pandemic, the fundamentals of a successful business remain intact, and one of the most important of these pillars is relationships.
A customer’s journey with a business is built on relationships. As businesses scale and adapt to hybrid working environments, they need to ensure that the relationships they build with increasingly savvy customers don’t suffer, and this requires responsiveness and agility. Businesses must use tools that provide a seamless, simple, and effective customer experience. In a contact centre, which is often the primary interface with customers, journeys need to be designed to meet a need as swiftly and logically as possible.
A customer journey is complicated and has numerous touchpoints in a business. It starts with the customer seeing or hearing an advertisement and researching a business on the web. After that, the first engagement is with a sales representative. If this goes well, the customer deals with credit vetting and accounts, for example, after which the process moves to project planning where the customer encounters project teams. Typically, this would lead to operations and implementation and then the service and support department.
Relationships are built with the customer along every one of these stages. As much as everything could go smoothly, a hiccup could occur during any one or more of those interactions. A smooth and accurate flow of information is key for the business to be agile and responsive.
Smaller businesses would, by their very nature, find this easier. A customer could call in and whoever answers the phone could deal with a query and shout across the office to sales or support and make sure an issue is resolved. There is a constant flow of inclusive communication between the front end and back end of the business.
However, as the business grows, it becomes more and more difficult to keep a tight grip on the different touchpoints. Managing the customer journey is paramount, because everyone in the various departments of a business needs to be on the same page when dealing with a particular issue, with real-time context about the customer.
This is a strategic business investment because companies that can do this and remain agile and responsive will have an obvious advantage over their competitors who may be lagging.
The effective business would need to be available on any communication channel that suits the customer. If, for example, a customer is speaking live to a sales representative on an e-commerce page, it could result in a sale closing quicker.
Enter the omnichannel
Omnichannel ensures that customer relationships and communication lines are maintained, by providing context and insight into all previous engagements with a customer, across all agents in a business, in real time. It is important that omnichannel is not confused with multichannel, as there is an important difference between the two. In a multichannel environment one may find an agent that deals with voice queries, another with email, another with chat, and so forth. An omnichannel approach, on the other hand, is premised on synchronicity across all the channels that are being used.
In this world, the agent sees all the interactions that a customer has had, irrespective on which channel it occurred, and with whom. With all this information on a single dashboard, a well-trained agent can pre-empt the customer’s needs and make for a better experience for the customer and the agent.
Certainly, this capability has immensely powerful uses, not only for the contact centre user, precisely because of synchronicity between the omnichannel and business back-end, such as CRM systems.
An analysis in 2020 of 105 South African contact centres by the Africa Analysis Contact Centre Market Study, shows that currently all contact centres use email, and 99% use voice, making these the two most popular channels to engage a business. These are also traditionally the preferred channels to address more complex interactions. Between 50 to 60% use WhatsApp and web chat, and 41% use various other social channels.
For those not there yet, WhatsApp is the most popular channel that contact centres would like to add, according to 49% of the respondents, followed by webchat at 39% and social media at 35%. In terms of features to be added, these include two-way video calls at 30% and the recording of agent and customer interactions ensuring compliance with the Protection of Personal Information Act.
Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation, and as the digitisation strategies of businesses unfold to keep pace with hybrid working environments, there is likely to be an increased investment in automation, which will include omnichannel. This will be accompanied by cost saving initiatives where businesses move to a pay-per-use consumption model and away from traditional legacy infrastructure.
However, as with any business transformation initiative, it is important to recognise that technology is the enabler, and the staff behind the channel are crucial to building relationships with customers. This makes training and change management fundamental to the success of any deployment – integration must happen at all levels and with all processes.
Three key ways for successful deployment
The three keys to any successful omnichannel deployment are synchronisation between the omnichannel and the back end, staff training, and advanced analytics. The advanced analytics provided by omnichannel, such as customer sentiment and issues analysis, empowers managers to pick up on problems quicker, which improves quality control. There is no such thing as a technology panacea, but omnichannel, when deployed and managed properly, empowers a business to gain control of one of the fundamentals of success: relationships with its customers, staff and suppliers.
Telviva customer Lesley Murphy, head of customer experience at IUA Business Solutions, summarises the use of omnichannel succinctly: “Customers today compare each experience that they have with an organisation, no matter how different each organisation is.
“Nothing is king like providing an experience that makes what the customer is trying to achieve simple, efficient, and satisfying. Omnichannel provides one point of contact across all channels so that a journey becomes seamless.”