What Is an Omnichannel Contact Center? A Guide for Small Businesses
This article is part of a larger series on VoIP.
An omnichannel contact center is a software solution that allows businesses to handle all customer communications from different channels on the cloud within a central platform. Communication channels include email, SMS, live chat, and social media. A contact center system uses voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) technology, which allows for accepting calls and hosting features similar to the typical business phone system.
How Does an Omnichannel Contact Center Work?
Hosted in the cloud, an omnichannel contact center enables automatic syncing of interactions across channels (e.g., email, SMS, live chat, and social media networks) and devices (e.g., desktop and mobile). With this, an agent has a complete historical view of customer activities, letting them deliver excellent service regardless of the stage they come to assist in the customer journey.
Let’s illustrate how an omnichannel contact center works for businesses through this step-by-step example:
- A prospective customer uses Facebook to order a product they like.
- A customer service agent sees the inquiry from the cloud-based omnichannel contact center and responds with the delivery schedule.
- The buyer receives a defective product and decides to call the business hotline to return the item.
- Another agent picks up the call and asks the customer to send a picture of the item for verification.
- Without leaving the platform, the agent is also able to access the email sent by the customer and prepares the logistics for the replacement.
- In the same omnichannel contact center, the agent checks the customer’s address from the first delivery, confirms it with the customer, and facilitates the delivery.
With a seamless transaction, including the return and replacement of the item, a business is able to provide excellent customer service, establishing and maintaining customer trust.
Benefits of an Omnichannel Contact Center
Now that we’ve covered what an omnichannel contact center is and how it works, it’s time to explore the value it adds to your business. Ultimately, an omnichannel contact center increases customer satisfaction and establishes brand credibility. This is because it helps you in these specific areas:
Improved Customer Experience
Since an omnichannel contact center supports multiple communication channels, you’ll be able to accommodate customer concerns on their preferred platforms. What’s more, the data from customer interactions on different channels is automatically synced in real time. Thus, agents better understand the nature and context of an issue, regardless of the channel.
Improved customer experience is also made possible with the contact center, helping you track where customers are in their sales journey. With a historical view of all the customer touchpoints, you’ll be able to deliver the right messages that appeal to what customers need at the time. You help customers move along the sales funnel, ultimately closing the sale and making a brand advocate out of a happy, satisfied client.
Faster Resolution Times
One of the biggest customer service challenges in a tech-saturated era is the data silos created by different communication channels. In a multichannel setup, the customer information from social media is separate from the customer information collected via phone calls. This significantly delays the resolution of issues, spoiling the customer experience since customers will have to repeat their concerns to different agents handling different platforms.
In contrast, when you have an omnichannel contact center, agents simply look up the customer’s name in the system, and all their interactions with your business will appear. Clients don’t have to keep relaying information, and your team will be able to move immediately to what matters: addressing issues.
Better Team Collaboration for a Remote Workforce
A cloud-based omnichannel contact center’s built-in features and integrations support remote work arrangements. Remote call forwarding, for instance, sends inbound calls from your agent’s desk phone to their mobile phone to their voicemail.
When an omnichannel contact center is integrated with a collaboration software solution, your agents working from anywhere are able to monitor the status of projects, send messages to teammates, and share important documents.
Some omnichannel customer service platforms like RingCentral have mobile app versions, allowing your team to collaborate with ease and access customer data from anywhere in the world at any time.
Empowered Customer Service Agents
Omnichannel contact centers are also geared toward helping agents perform well and reach their full potential. For one, it reduces the number of screens that need to be checked, eliminating confusion and information overload.
The built-in features on the platform are designed to maximize and enhance the skills of agents. For instance, the call routing options direct customers to the next available agent within the correct department or the most skilled to handle a specific concern.
The workforce management tools, meanwhile, allow managers to track agent performance, organize schedules, guide behaviors, and incentivize good work. Overall, this results in an empowered customer service team.
Must-have Features for an Omnichannel Experience
The features of the omnichannel contact center spell the difference in how effective the tool will be in your customer service operations. Most of these capabilities are similar to the typical call center platform. If you’re ready to adopt an omnichannel customer service platform, look for these specific tech features:
In a multichannel set-up, agents are typically assigned to one communication channel only. However, with omnichannel routing, agents are automatically reassigned to another channel with more pending customers. This feature is powered by the artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled automatic call distributor.
The platform automatically assigns contacts, taking into account the agent’s skills and workload, the customer’s needs, and the duration of waiting time. This feature helps reduce average wait times and abandon rates while maximizing agent productivity.
Improving customer service involves enhancing the team’s performance and competence. Most omnichannel contact center platforms have workforce management tools that enable you to review call transcripts, as well as each agent’s daily performance and history.
As you use these tools, decide what key performance indicators to measure to make evaluations more strategic. Whether it’s customer satisfaction score or first call resolution you’re tracking though, with an omnichannel contact center, you can easily monitor through the transaction logs.
Other omnichannel contact platforms with workforce management features provide automated agent scheduling and forecasting. These tools ensure that you’re properly staffed and equipped to accommodate the demand from customers.
An omnichannel contact center with CRM integrations help your agents pull up key customer information without switching between different platforms. It will be easy for them to categorize leads, know the background of the person they’re talking to, and craft the right messages—in just a few clicks.
At the very least, your tool must display these important pieces of customer data:
- Demographics: name, company, contact information
- Interaction and transaction overview: list of conversations across all channels, open and closed tickets, a summary of outcomes
- Customer value insights: customer satisfaction and customer sentiment (agents must be immediately alerted if they’re catering to a high-value account)
Your omnichannel platform of choice should support the most popular messaging apps, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, and WeChat. Customers use these apps when communicating with businesses since they are readily available on smartphones. By having a contact center with messaging app integrations, you easily accommodate this modern consumer behavior.
With messaging app integrations, you’re able to increase customer engagement—adding a personal touch to your messages and soliciting feedback from customers effectively.
Omnichannel Contact Center Best Practices
Other than considering the features of the omnichannel contact center, the way to get the most out of this tool is to follow best practices. The overarching principle in these strategies is anticipating the needs of customers and letting that inform the use of the technology.
Here are the best practices for adopting an omnichannel contact center in your operations:
Include Self-service Options
More customers prefer using self-service options over talking to a company representative for their concerns. Part of the reason is that most people think they resolve issues quickly when they do it themselves. They would rather address problems at their own convenient time than pick up the phone and wait on hold for long periods.
Consider incorporating self-service options in your customer service by taking advantage of the interactive voice response (IVR) feature. This automated business phone technology allows customers to get the information they need through pre-recorded messages without any help from live agents. They simply have to select a number on their keypad to choose a menu option.
Another self-service option is to create a frequently asked questions page or a knowledge base section on your website. In case your customers can’t find answers themselves, direct them to these sections using the screenshare and video call center feature in your omnichannel contact platform.
Simplify Contacting a Live Agent
Despite having an abundance of tools and information online, there are still customers who want the human touch in customer service. The benefit of adopting an omnichannel contact center is that you’re able to offer live support across different channels without the extra cost involved in adding more agents.
To further improve live support and provide the best service to specific customer concerns, take advantage of the intelligent routing feature. Set routing rules based on the skills of your agent, taking into account their product knowledge, language proficiency, skills, and certifications. With this, the AI-powered contact center is able to match incoming tasks to the most qualified agents, thereby improving customer service overall.
Take Actions Based on the Buyer’s Journey
The omnichannel contact center logs customer touchpoints from different platforms. Take note of these data points to map out where the customer is in the buyer’s journey and provide the most suitable service for customers’ unique needs.
An agent who knows that a customer was browsing through products after receiving an inquiry on social media talks about the discounts and promos available for specific items when that customer calls or chats. With the right information delivered at the right time, you increase the likelihood of closing a sale.
As you look at customer data and map out the buyer’s journey, look for patterns in the communication channels customers use for specific concerns. You may be able to draw automated solutions for such scenarios.
Be Consistent in Your Customer Service Across Channels
One of the most pressing business challenges omnichannel contact centers address is unifying customer communications across channels. Since it’s easy to track messages with just one single platform, aim to be more consistent in your responsiveness to customers. Ideally, your team should provide the same speed of customer service, regardless of the communication channel.
In cases where customer requests are a bit more complex and would need more time, the consistency should be reflected nonetheless in other aspects of customer service, including the brand tone and voice. This not only increases trust among customers, but also reinforces brand identity.
Integrate Tools & Communications
An omnichannel customer service approach is made possible through integrations of technologies that make all historical information visible to agents in every customer touchpoint. Take advantage of this capability by adding all the relevant channels to your platform, including CRM solutions.
Gain useful insights when you have an overview of your customer’s previously viewed pages, abandoned carts, customer value, and upcoming renewals. Remember, the integration should happen the same time you launch a channel, not after, to make sure that you capture all customer service communications.
Best Providers for an Omnichannel Contact Center Experience
Now that we covered the must-have features of an omnichannel contact center, it’s time to dive into the specific providers. Not surprisingly, the most popular in the market are the ones offering business phone systems.
Nextiva is a top omnichannel contact center solution, integrating voice, email, SMS, webchat, video, and social media. It’s connected to the Nextiva business phone service, allowing businesses to handle inbound and outbound calls.
Nextiva has four customized plans, but the most basic, which is Core, only includes voice. The other three, Premium, Optimum, and Ultimate offer omnichannel customer support. Nextiva’s website doesn’t provide exact pricing on each plan since it depends on the number of users and add-ons.
- Skills-based routing: ensures that customer inquiries are placed to the right agents.
- Speech-enabled IVR: customers are able to facilitate self-service and resolve issues without speaking directly with an agent.
- Intelligent virtual agents: manages routine tasks so live agents are made available for calls that require a human touch.
- Workforce management: includes staffing forecasts, scheduling, and coaching tools.
- Prebuilt and custom integrations: these cover CRM solutions, namely Salesforce, Pega, and Zendesk.
To know more about the provider, check out this comprehensive Nextiva review.
RingCentral Contact Center provides a robust customer service platform that integrates voice, chat, email, and 30+ digital channels. The 2022 RingCentral Customer Success Metrics Survey showed that businesses had a 48% increase in customer satisfaction and a 53% increase in employee satisfaction as they used the platform.
Its omnichannel contact center plans include Standard, Premium, and Ultimate. The exact pricing is not listed on the RingCentral website, as businesses should get customized quotes from the provider.
- Intelligent routing: involves omnichannel routing, skills-based routing, and AI digital routing. The last one mentioned uses machine learning to understand customers’ message intent.
- Automation: RingCentral’s automation features include IVR, chatbots, and virtual hold. The virtual hold is a feature that allows businesses to offer the option of calling customers back instead of having them wait in a queue.
- Workforce management: use this tool to optimize agent schedules and monitor team performance.
- Integrations: prebuilt CRM integrations include Salesforce, Zendesk, Microsoft, and Sugar.
- Agent tools: features under this category assist agents in facilitating better customer experiences. For example, co-browse allows your team to view what customers see on the website, helping agents direct customers to the right web pages for specific needs. The dynamic reply assistance, meanwhile, provides autosuggestions to facilitate prompt replies to customer concerns.
Read our review on RingCentral Contact Center if you’re keen on adopting this omnichannel contact center solution for your business.
NICE CXone is an omnichannel customer service platform that allows businesses to choose among 30+ native digital channels, including chat, messaging, and social media. Request customized pricing information by reaching out to NICE CXone directly.
- Smart routing: covers automatic contact distributor, which links customers to the most skilled agents for their concerns, predictive dialer, and AI-powered call routing.
- Digital self-service: incorporate your chatbots into the platform to facilitate better self-service for customers. NICE CXone also allows building your own bot.
- Workforce management: like the other two platforms, you’ll be able to create smarter forecasts and schedules to measure agent performance with NICE’s workforce management feature.
- Integrations: includes Salesforce, Oracle Service Cloud, Microsoft Dynamics, ServiceNow, Zendesk, and SAP Cloud for Customer. Find more at the CXexchange Marketplace.
- Enlighten AI: this special feature from NICE provides an objective measurement of customer sentiment and agent behaviors. With this data, you’ll be able to recalibrate strategies for improving customer engagement and satisfaction.
If you’re interested in adopting this omnichannel contact center in your customer service operations, read this review on NICE CXone.
Make the most of your omnichannel platform by following these unified communications and collaboration tips.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel customer service?
The main difference lies in data integration. With omnichannel customer service, all customer interactions across different channels are visible on one platform. A multichannel solution allows businesses to provide customer service in several channels. Agents assigned for each channel operate in isolation.
What are the trends in omnichannel customer service?
The most popular trends in omnichannel customer service are automation and the use of AI in self-service options. These two trends facilitate the growing demand for fast resolution of customer concerns. The tools equally benefit businesses, as they streamline work processes and allow teams to focus on more complex tasks.
What are the key challenges in an omnichannel solution?
The key challenge in an omnichannel solution is point-to-point integration. The practice of businesses connecting each app or chatbot to the contact center is difficult to scale up and not flexible in terms of adapting to new technologies and processes. It’s time-consuming as you need to keep integrating each time a new channel is added. To address this, look for omnichannel contact center platforms that offer Application Programming Interface (APIs).
Investing in an omnichannel contact center phone system elevates your customer service by putting all your customer communications on one platform. Even in the abundance of queries and communication channels, you’re able to stay on top of your business and keep your eyes fixed on the goal—creating a smooth, hassle-free customer experience.