Johnnie Wilkenschildt, senior director of product management at SAP Digital Interconnect, explains how important it is to be able to engage with customers through their channels of choice.
Providing customers with several avenues to contact a business has never been more important than in the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, where many are going to be unsure about important information such as whether businesses are still open, whether they are delivering, what products are available and what their policies are regarding returns or exchanges.
Alongside having these multiple contact channels, it’s important that you deliver a consistent contact experience for customers, giving them the same level of service on a phone call as you would through an SMS, a chatbot, or over email. This omnichannel experience can have a positive impact on your overall marketing success by increasing customer satisfaction and, in turn, driving sales.
Of course, in order to deliver this omnichannel experience and support marketing and other lines of business, you have to make sure you choose the right contact center solution. So, here’s what you need to consider.
The role of omnichannel communications
Omnichannel contact center solutions offer the ability to blend multiple channels and consistently route these channels to ensure a smooth, seamless experience. This means that businesses are able to provide their customers with the ability to pick the contact channel of their choice. We, as customers, tend to want to communicate with a business the same way that we would contact friends, family, or colleagues. So companies need the ability to offer a wide range of communications, including voice, SMS, email, messaging apps and more, while having the flexibility to add emerging channels in the future – such as RCS (Rich Communications Services), for example.
An omnichannel solution also enables companies to balance their own internal workload. For example, incoming calls can be blended with outbound campaign calls, so that contact center agents can make outbound calls when there is a low volume of incoming calls, or businesses can blend incoming calls and incoming chat requests for those agents who have both great speaking and writing skills.
An omnichannel approach also means that you have a single, integrated solution for your multiple channels. It means that agents are not required to flick between multiple applications, making their jobs easier and enabling them to deal with more customers in an efficient manner.
Cloud vs. on-premise solutions: choosing a CPaaS contact center provider
In the past, many companies invested in infrastructure and on-premise software that have now become difficult to upgrade, or worse, obsolete. Companies using this antiquated equipment have to make a decision to replace their entire system or transition to the cloud.
A cloud service eliminates the need for expensive hardware and upkeep, enabling companies to always have access to the latest end-to-end contact center solution. Companies should be looking at a service that provides the latest communications, analytics, agent productivity and optimization tools, supervisory features – and features in general – as we continue to see new channels pop up.
It’s also important to look for cloud contact center providers that have a CPaaS (Communications-Platform-as-a-Service) offering. With a CPaaS contact center product, you get an out-of-the-box application that handles your omnichannel capabilities and routing, integrates with third-party apps, and includes scalable and programmable APIs, enabling companies to build their own extensions that fit their needs. An example of an extension would be a chat request button on a web page, or the ability for companies to build their own internal or external mobile apps. CPaaS enables you to put the appropriate communication channels on those web pages and in those apps.
Furthermore, products should integrate with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems. Having the ability to integrate with CRM and ERP systems is key. It means, for example, that agents have the ability to automatically look up the account the customer is calling or chatting about, saving time and delivering a better, more personalized customer experience.
Whichever provider you choose, it’s important to make sure the customer experience delivered is a consistent one. For instance, companies can make use of routing to ensure that Spanish language communications are directed to an agent who speaks Spanish, or that sales enquiries go to the correct department.
Omnichannel solutions enable you to apply rules, across channels, to direct an interaction in order to provide that unified experience. It means that the right agent with the right skills, who’s available right now, can deal with a customer enquiry.
It’s also important that products provide templates for companies to create guiding scripts and offer FAQs, ensuring that agents provide consistent answers and service to queries.
Offering FAQs or a chatbot on a webpage are other ways to improve customers’ experiences by providing them with the option to not actually communicate with another human. Often self-service is the best option for customers, who sometimes don’t need or want to talk to an agent when the question requires a simple or short answer. Nonetheless, a robust CPaaS contact center solution will enable a seamless fallback from a chatbot conversation to a live agent when necessary.
The ability for supervisors and team leaders to monitor performance and customer satisfaction must be included in the solution. Solutions should provide real-time reporting, so those in charge know what’s happening up to the minute, and can use this information to change routing rules, for example.
Customers want to choose the channel when contacting a company, and offering that choice is part of delivering a great experience. All companies should want to provide their customers with that level of experience, because great customer experiences result in happy and loyal customers who return for more business.
Omnichannel solutions ensure satisfying customer experiences, no matter how or with whom the customer connects. With a complete, 360-degree customer view, an agent can immediately see profile details, account history and other data in real-time, whether on a phone call or a live chat. It allows agents to skip many of the usual introductory questions and get straight to the reason for the call or chat. This way, more quality time is spent focusing on value-adding tasks, resolving issues during the first contact, and building profitable relationships which are good for customers and for the business.
It’s important to have the right contact center solution to build on in the first place. Making it easier for customers to interact with you on their preferred channel and creating satisfying experiences on the first contact has never been more important. To learn more about contact centers and omnichannel experiences, read "SAP Contact Center 365 Delivers Enhanced Customer Service,” visit SAP.com and join the SAP Digital Interconnect community.