Serve Them Any Way They Want It

Service quality is an essential element of the overall omnichannel customer experience and critical to what customers and prospects think of organizations. We can talk about quality circles, quality management, quality assurance, the customer experience, and many other phrases, but regardless of the terminology, the bottom line is that customers and prospects expect high-quality and consistent experiences when they interact with any organization, in any channel.

Consumers and business partners expect to receive the correct information, shared in a pleasant and positive manner by a service representative who appears to care about the customer as well as the company or organization that they support. And when it comes to self-service applications—Web sites and interactive voice response (IVR) technology—consumers and partners expect an easy, pleasant, and logically organized experience.

When customers interact with organizations for any reason, their primary concern is getting the answers they need. Customers greatly dislike being told "My department cannot help you," or "This matter is not the responsibility of my department." In the minds of customers, whomever they reach via call, text, email, SMS, chat, etc., is speaking for the entity, and it is up to that person to get their issue corrected or resolved. This is where the concept of the customer journey comes into play.

For most of the past 35 years (and probably longer), organizations have viewed customer service as an entity or function unto itself. Think about customer service as an island. Executives, sales, marketing, Web sites, back offices, credit processing departments, etc., did whatever they wanted and then left it up to the customer service department (or contact center) to handle the service aspects of the relationship.

There was and still is a major disconnect in enterprises between most departments and functions and the concept of customer service. While there are always exceptions, many departments do not feel responsible for customer service and don't realize that service is not a department, but rather a mindset and culture that needs to permeate every customer touch.

Enterprises need to take every opportunity that they are given by the customer (or prospect) to optimize each contact and deliver an outstanding experience. This means that it's not just the customer service department's responsibility for delivering great service. It is the obligation of every single person in the company or organization.

Organizations that want to implement a new journey-centric customer strategy are going to have to break down organizational empires and silos that, in many cases, have taken decades to build. All departments need to operate according to a standard set of shared goals. The overarching goal is to make it easy for customers to do business with the organization.

The Omnichannel Contact Center

An omnichannel contact center is a servicing organization that can receive, address and respond to inquiries and transactions in a variety of communications channels. Inan omnichannel environment, it is best practice to centrally queue, route, handle, andrecord all interactions, regardless of the channel in which they arrive. See the figure below.

The number-one mistake that many companies make when adding channels is setting up a different group or team to handle each new interaction channel, which leads to siloed support.

Companies need to deliver value-based service (also referred to as personalized service) and allow customers to interact in their channels of choice. Delivering a true omnichannel contact center experience is very different from having separate groups of agents handle various non-integrated media. The ideal approach is to use multiskilled agents who can handle any type of inquiry or interaction. The interactions should be delivered on a first come/first served basis, or whatever routing criteria are established by the organization.

The unique characteristics of each channel should be taken into consideration when setting up routing and handling rules. Agents should record their actions in a central servicing or customer relationship management (CRM) solution that supports all channels. The CRM solution should be used to track all sales, marketing, and servicing interactions, transactions, and activities throughout all channels and touch points, including calls, IVR, email, chat sessions, SMS, social media, as well as the Web, storefronts, branches, back offices, partners, etc.

Companies that want to be considered preferred service providers, ones who deliver an outstanding customer experience, need to proactively identify their customers' and prospects' ways of doing business and make it easy for them to communicate and interact with the company. It's important for organizations to ensure their customers have a consistent experience, regardless of their channel of choice. It's also essential for data to be shared between channels.

In 2015, many companies started to transition from siloed servicing environments to omnichannel support. DMG encourages companies to continue these investments during 2016, as they will result in a significant payback and numerous benefits.

Donna Fluss is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center and analytics research and consulting.