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Roadmap to true omni-channel customer service solution

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August 16, 2016 - There have been numerous articles about how digital channel proliferation is transforming customer service organizations all stressing a key message about how empowered customers with new channels are demanding friction-less personalized service experience across channels and pushing businesses to grapple with striking the right balance to provide superior service at optimal cost.

Very often these challenges are diluted and wrongly assumed that the need for live agent is getting replaced by fast-growing digital channels such as webchat, mobile apps. In fact, when we use our project experience in this space to look at various market reports more closely, it becomes very clear that while the variety of digital channels (email, chat, apps, social media and others) is getting wider, the older channels aren't simply getting replaced altogether as a result of digital disruption. Live agents still account for more than 60% of interaction types for most businesses.

These changing dynamics pose a much bigger challenge as the simpler customer interactions are moved to digital channels and more complex interactions are pushed to live agents. Human touch is required for complex transactions and is preferred by customers and businesses to ensure faster resolution and provide differential services.

Traditional approaches focus on workforce management techniques such as optimal staffing to meet SLAs, agent training, and strong back-end systems to support complex transactions (e.g., workflow, knowledge base system, escalation process, etc.). These interventions may deliver marginal improvements in operations; but the core ask of the customer—namely, effortless personalized service experience across channels—is unmet due to silo mentality and lack of common unified vision in organizations.

On the other hand, tech-savvy organizations go on to build these digital channels (e.g., webchat, mobile apps, and others) to strengthen their customer service capabilities by introducing new functions and features in the channels, hoping to improve overall customer experience. Most often this “shiny object" approach—i.e., building cools apps in the attempt to woo customers—leads to chaos, as the business processes in each of these channels are disintegrated and do not carry the customer session/interaction history across the channels.

Very few organizations—even among those organizations that are most successful—have adequately understood these challenges—breaking silos, achieving technology readiness, and leveraging data analytics to enable a true omni-channel customer services solution. They start with integrating the disparate channels and its business processes which essentially includes getting alignment and stakeholder buy-in for a unified vision, common goals across different departments such as marketing, customer service, collections, finance, and IT, and then enabling session/interaction history transfers across channels and linking to the back end workflow/CRM systems to provide omni-channel effortless interaction experience for customers. Such a seamless customer journey is sustained by advanced data management and an analytics engine's ability to harness data (both structured and unstructured) that is generated in the contact center to arrive at the insights that ease customer journey across all touch points. By doing so, businesses can run Intelligent OperationsSM and develop solutions and intervention to enable a superior customer service experience by delivering consistent and predictable positive moments of truth to customers.

In summary, the three key factors enabling omni-channel customer service organization are the following

  • Breaking organizational silos among channel owners and departments to get alignment to deliver on the omni-channel objective from all stakeholders
  • Technology readiness to support omni-channel strategies such as individual channel capabilities, and seamless data/interaction history transfers across channels
  • Robust data management, plus an intelligent analytics engine, which helps the business harness the multi-structured data to provide tangible business insights that enable the organization to evolve in the omni-channel customer service journey

Organizational alignment around a common, unified vision to provide the governance and support to drive collaboration and create value is the central gear to deliver Intelligent OperationsSM powered by omni-channel technology capabilities which is constantly rejuvenated by insights from intelligent analytics engine supported by robust data management platform.

One without the other(s) often results in poor ROI on the investment in addition to poor customer service experience—and this, over time, will negatively impact the brand value and eventually lead to a downward spiral for profits.

A “true" omni-channel customer service solution needs all of these: vision and alignment to common goals, right technology capabilities, and an intelligent analytics engine.

Author: Rajkumar Subramanian - Assistant Vice President, Analytics & Research