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Omnichannel – Are You Really Serious About Customer Engagement?

Omnichannel customer contact via contact centers is a key to customer engagement and experience.
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By Evan Kirstel @evankirstel

The future of customer interaction may be omnichannel or multi-channel if you prefer but the end game is still human interaction with another human if the human customer prefers it. Yet companies, contact centers, telephone systems, apps and more all put the enormous amounts of technology in between what the customer really wants. Adding in algorithms in the form or so-called AI-artificial intelligence only puts barriers to customer engagement.

Moreover, all this does is add to what the vendor “thinks” the customer wants and falsely thinking they know or worse, think that all this technology will lower the cost. In reality all it does is add to the cost and more complexity than any software or solution can manage. When I see that the future of the contact center is automated by more technology to reduce the number of agents, I see a falsehood in the “original sin” to begin with.

Companies created call/contact centers to be responsive to customer requests, sales, service, complaints, billing, technical support and more letting customers call, email, Fax or even visit them. Adding in social media and SMS technology to make it more “omnichannel” makes all of this more complicated not less. Yet what do we do with new smartphone apps, location detection, automobiles and other touch points making communication with the customer even more complex. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a new approach to thinking seriously about the customer differently and new ideas on how to provide a better customer experience.

First, learn more about the customer rather than an enmasse approach to communicating with them. Like the old AT&T slogan “reach out and touch someone,” reach out to the customer and find out how their customer contact preferences. By “globing” them together as one mass, you fail to realize that there are distinct audiences that prefer different channels of communications.

Second, proactively engage with outbound collaboration with each one to find out their needs and by seeking to determine what communications media works best for them. My aunt is blind and has a hard time using the large button phones, but she loves talking to Alexa, Siri or any other device she has. Most of you may hate social media but oddly many prefer engaging with their banker, cable provider and others via Twitter. I know people who love to talk on the telephone and really hate going through all the IVR “tree” phone options just to make an appointment with their doctor. They now hate their doctor even more because the want patients to schedule via SMS.

Third, knowing more about the customer is really easy and the reason why it is so complicated is because the provider has made it so. This is no one way to provide customer service but giving people options should be at the option of the customer not the provider. In other words, if you ask customers, they will tell you and some may prefer an omni-channel approach but most in my surveys prefer one primary method with a secondary one – like call to setup an appointment because if the doctor is not available at the time desired then you end up going through other many options that works for both the doctor and the patient followed up by email and a confirmation email. In the end, this will lower costs because instead of building one “size to fit all” you find you have many kinds of often simpler technologies that are easier to manage.

Summary – In other to keep this a one-minute read here’s the bottom-line:Customers want what they want but what makes them really them mad is being treated badly by systems and processes they force them to act or react in ways they don’t want to do. In other words, omnichannel solutions are making customers less satisfied than ever and by adding more technology just costs more and makes customer experience even worse. In the end, the customer may not always but right but they will always be the customer if you really want to keep them as a customer.

The astronomer Carl Sagan said, “It was easy to predict mass car ownership but hard to predict Walmart.”