About two decades ago, as global networking technology made it possible, it was a no-brainer to cut contact center operations costs by establishing contact centers off-shore in low-cost countries.
The benefits were obvious. Developing countries consumed far lower expenses than North America or Western Europe. It didn’t take long until companies learned that lower expenses are not necessarily the end-all, be-all of customer-service success. There is a price to be paid and it can be crushing to the top line.
BETTER CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
While expense reduction is always pertinent to the profitability of a company—and contact center operation expenses can be considerable—technology and market expectations are influencing companies to bring their contact center operations back on-shore.
Customer expectations are rising rapidly. No longer is it enough to provide a product at a competitive price. In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, the company’s brand is built – or destroyed – on customer experience.
According to Customers 2020, a study by Walker, a US-based customer intelligence consulting firm, by 2020 (a mere 2+ years from now), customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. The study has established that the explosion of the digital lifestyle is having a profound impact on expectations and leading toward customer empowerment.
Customers are expecting more. Much more. The Walker study found that customers expect companies to know their individual needs and to personalize their experience to meet those needs. In fact, the study revealed that 86 percent of consumers are even prepared to pay more for better customer experience!
TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE?
As the speed of digital communications and the take-up of smart digital devices increase, companies turn to technology to improve customer experience while cutting costs. Companies have invested heavily in self-service digital channels hoping that these will reduce the number of interactions of customers with the contact centers. Fewer human interactions means less contact center staff and lower phone bills—reduced expenses.
Read more: Improve Contact Center Profitability
But the high investment in digital channels is not bringing about the desired change, at least not fast enough. Digital take-up is at 50% and is growing only by about 2% per year, reflecting the demographic aging process. While younger people tend to adopt a more digital lifestyle, about half the customer base, mainly customers over 35 (who have money to spend) are not rushing to adopt digital. In fact, most people still prefer calling a human being for customer service.
Here’s why. Today, most digital channels are siloed—a customer’s contact journey must take place, end-to-end, over a specific channel. If a customer wishes to move from one channel to another, the engagement has to be halted and re-started. Customers who prefer digital channels are frustrated with this type of experience because they cannot enjoy a smooth journey that considers all of their channels of choice as they want to employ them.
OMNICHANNEL TIES IT ALL TOGETHER
There is a way to tie all these digital and voice channels together to take advantage of the customer’s interaction preferences. Appealing to the customer this way provides a good customer experience and reduces contact center operations expenses at the same time.
Omni-channel solutions combine all of the company’s customer-engagement channels – voice and digital – to create a unified customer experience (UCX). The ultimate omnichannel environment enables a completely smooth journey with information sharing between channels, transparent to the customer. The customer decides when and how he or she wants to interact and the Omnichannel solution makes it available. Crossing from one medium to another is simple and seamless.
Omnichannel takes advantage of the fact that most customer service engagements begin with a phone call. The journey may start with a voice conversation, but right away the customer is offered an attractive menu of digital methods that are relevant to what she or he is seeking, allowing the customer to complete the journey via their channel of choice.
The elements of Omnichannel are:
- Digital transformation through Visual IVR
- Enhanced customer interaction including real-time co-browsing, interactive screens, files, image-sharing and digital signatures.
- Omni-channel customer experience to allow users to switch between channels without interrupting the engagement.
- New marketing channels to display marketing materials, new offers and a host of call-to-action ads while customers self-serve, are in a queue waiting for an advisor, or even after a call ends.
- Contact Center Optimization by offering users a simple, digital self-serve option that is fully integrated into the call process and significantly improves first-call resolution
- Ease of Implementation by pre-integrating telephony and IVR systems and reusing existing mobile app and web assets to ensure rapid implementation and very fast time-to-market
THE BOTTOM LINE
Today, there are numerous channels for engagement with customers. However, about half of the buying public still prefers to use the traditional channel of phone conversation with an agent. The other half is increasingly using digital channels of varying sorts that tend to be siloed and do not allow users to switch channel while a session is in play.
To provide a smooth, seamless engagement journey to all customers, companies need to allow each and every customer to switch from channel to channel, from device to device, while keeping the engagement in progress. This type of omnichannel environment breeds loyalty. Omni-channel solutions can provide a Unified Customer Experience (UCX), meet high and increasing customer expectations while keeping contact center operations costs to a minimum.