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Omni-channel Isn’t A Buzzword


Presented By: Sharpen

Murph Krajewski, VP of Marketing, Sharpen   

Think back to the early 2000’s. It was a time where selling a multi-channel communication platform was all the rage for contact center vendors. After all, both businesses and customers had been clamoring for a way to communicate in more ways than just a phone call; and converting multiple hardware-based systems into a single software package was a miracle of technology. Thanks to these shiny new multi-channel systems, agents were handed new forms of communication, ones that included the ability to fax and email their customers. Then, the marketing term “omni-channel” came along. To contact center vendors, it seemed like “more channels than multi-channel.” Vendors pivoted their messaging, and lo-and-behold, the “omni-channel” buzzword (and a false promise) was born.               

The original intention behind omni-channel was to think not about a list of “channels,” but about the customer’s preferences. As time went by, “customer preference” largely became a matter of lip service as vendors pushed forward to sell product and advance their businesses.  

The good news is, actual omni-channel service is finally achievable. Functionality has evolved and is waiting for businesses to ignore the buzz, claim the benefits it has to offer, and eliminate roadblocks to the perfect customer experience.   

The truth about omni-channel  

As mentioned above, omni-channel isn’t actually about channels, it’s about customers. The purpose of omni-channel has always been to create better customer experience. It’s not about what channels agents use to talk to customers, it’s about offering help wherever the customer is looking for it. It doesn’t matter if it is a phone call, text, or email. It matters that there is someone ready to answer a customer’s question when they have one.   

For years, by keeping the focus on selling features, vendors have created a fear around “having all the channels” which is great for their profits, but not great for businesses. This practice is completely out of line with the spirit of omni-channel. Vendors have become so focused on selling features as line-items, they have helped the buzzword stray even further away from its original vision. The only real solution is to use a modern platform with every channel, allowing agents to transition between them as-needed, without ever disconnecting from the customer. Only then can we move on to more important issues.   

Optimizing the use of omni-channel   

In order to reach its full potential, contact centers must redefine their customers’ perfect experience. The challenge is doing this without considering current limitations. Currently, contact centers think “other competitors have SMS, let’s add SMS.” But, omni-channel allows contact centers to think beyond what others are doing, and innovate to create a real, purpose-driven solution for their customers. Contact center technology has advanced to make nearly anything possible. Contact centers need to start with real customer issues and think, “If the impossible was possible, how would we solve this?”   

After identifying the utopian customer experience, the business should pinpoint any procedures, compliance requirements, and business goals they must honor. Imagine those “must haves” as the customer service “machine.” Technology should then flow through that machine like oil, only serving to support and enhance the machine. It must connect agents to customers. It must provide agents with a crystal clear view of the customer, their history, preferences and story. Why? So they can relax and serve the customer. 

The result

When we stop worrying about trivial details like “having channels,” we become free to focus on more impactful issues. Approaching customer service this way will create a better experience for front-line agents, and allow customers to get better service when and how they want it. After all, that’s what the vision of omni-channel is all about.