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What is Omnichannel Customer Service?

We’re all aware that customers can use a broad range of channels to connect with companies and brands. Consumer behavior has changed radically over the past two decades, so companies must meet customers on their terms wherever and whenever they choose to engage. Omnichannel customer service refers to ensuring seamless and inviting customer workflows to deliver excellent outcomes with minimal effort. Customer workflows are integrated into BOTH front-end experience and back-end data and infrastructure. 

The Changing CX Landscape

Historically, contact centers have been at the center of customer experience. Customers were encouraged to call a toll-free number for answers when they had issues or questions. But over time, companies have tried to divert or deflect calls to self-service channels because of the following:

  • High costs per minute and average call length
  • Changing customer preferences for how they want to resolve issues
  • Contact center recruitment and employee retention challenges
  • Reduced agent productivity because of the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Development of more effective methods of resolving customer concerns

Simultaneously, customers have increased access to more devices and channels to communicate with brands. Digital has also helped raise customer expectations for good customer experience. Today, customers want to be able to resolve issues as quickly and efficiently as possible, using whatever device or channel they choose.

Omnichannel Customer Service Challenges

While having more ways to interact with customers has many advantages, it also imposes new challenges. To please customers, all customer touchpoints must be seamlessly integrated to maximize customer satisfaction. Companies must create truly omnichannel customer experiences:

  • Offer customer experience gateways that deliver a great experience in person, by phone, via a PC, or on a mobile device
  • Deliver a seamless experience across digital media types, including websites, customer portals, mobile apps, SMS, conversational AI chatbots, and social media
  • Fully integrate digital experiences with live agent options, including live chat, customer service agent phone calls, and even video interactions
  • Enable customers to migrate across multiple channels while receiving a consistent and integrated customer support workflow

Delivering an omnichannel customer experience is not the same as creating distinct customer workflows in multiple channels. Integration takes work. Omnichannel differs from multichannel customer service, in which a brand creates multiple disconnected paths to the desired outcome. But the good news is that when a company delivers an omnichannel customer service and sales experience, they usually see increased transactions, sales, brand loyalty, and lifetime value. Net: omnichannel customer support is worth the investment for any company seeking to provide an outstanding customer experience.

Technologies for Omnichannel Customer Service

Companies are leveraging a variety of digital approaches to deliver omnichannel support. Some of the most common include:

AI-Powered Chatbots

Chatbots can be powerful tools for omnichannel customer service because they are not channel-dependent. They can be leveraged on any screen or communication channel. When executed well, they provide a virtually effortless customer interaction — people can submit their questions and information needs in their own words, and the chatbot app uses conversational AI and natural language processing to provide the desired information. Further, the chatbot customer experience is familiar to many people so there is little or no learning curve to using one. Again, when executed well, they can be incorporated into virtually any step in the customer journey — even multiple steps across the customer experience.

Omnichannel customer service chatbots can also be programmed to enable customers to escalate to live chat or contact center phone calls if the software cannot adequately address concerns. While companies should work to deliver chatbots that answer most needs independently, escalation options can help provide that integrated omnichannel customer experience that people value so highly.

As we mentioned above, the key challenge with chatbots is ensuring that they are powerful enough to answer a broad range of customer needs without escalation. Most of us have our own customer stories in which bots had such limited capabilities that they were useless for typical use cases. The quality of chatbot development and AI determine whether they can be part of a robust omnichannel experience model. Every time customers try a bot and then have to abandon or escalate to a live person, it creates unpleasant friction in the customer journey, diminishing the appeal of overall digital adoption.

Digital Self-Service Micro-Apps

A micro-app is another powerful alternative for an omnichannel customer service strategy. Micro-apps are simple applications developed to meet a single need or use case. Micro-apps can be designed for a comprehensive range of customer needs.

  • Customer onboarding
  • Checking account balance
  • Making a payment
  • Contract e-signature
  • Checking the status of an account or insurance claim
  • Updating personal information/customer data
  • Simple applications and sign-up 
  • Digital forms like insurance first notice of loss
  • Change of account ownership

Micro-apps are typically delivered using a short link. The customer clicks the link and is redirected to the digital application. This method of omnichannel distribution enables them to be leveraged across all screens and connected media channels. Additionally, micro-=apps can be incorporated into IVR menus to deflect inbound contact center phone calls when the customer needs are relatively simple and don’t require live agent assistance. Micro-apps can also be incorporated into conversational AI chatbots and live chat engagements. The link is delivered within the customer service chat. Clicking or tapping it drives the redirection.

For some channels like websites and customer portals, micro-app short links are embedded into the content. In social media, they can be embedded or delivered in DMs. Omnichannel customer service micro-apps can also be delivered via SMS or private messaging platforms like WhatsApp. For Visual IVR, the typical method is to send the link via SMS. 

Because micro-apps strip away all extraneous elements, they simplify the customer service experience. The user submits the minimum required information and gets the customer service outcome. Through technology like auto-fill and dynamic forms, micro-apps can deliver personalized experiences. Many customer feedback studies show that personalized experiences positively impact customer loyalty and retention.

One additional advantage of micro-apps is that they can be incorporated into CCaaS system workflows in addition to self-service use cases. Agents can use micro-apps to complete processes for callers or send links to customers’ smartphones to accelerate FCR and time-to-resolution. Integrating micro-apps into contact center platforms provides another powerful way to deliver omnichannel customer engagement.

Growing Popularity

Micro-apps and chatbots are rapidly gaining popularity across financial services, insurance, telecom, retail, and healthcare organizations. They leverage the digital channel in ways to support virtual touchpoints and phone call/in-person support interactions. Both chatbots and micro-apps have been shown to reduce call volumes and pressure on your customer service team members.

Another reason these approaches are growing more popular is that third-party solutions providers have reduced the time and effort it takes to create, integrate and implement them. This is important because most companies have limited development resources. There are a variety of companies that have created AI-powered chatbot solutions platforms. Similarly, multiple solutions providers, including Callvu, are now competing to help companies simplify micro-app development. These make delivering a seamless customer experience faster and easier than custom app development.

Get More Information

Many CX leaders are aggressively pursuing omnichannel customer service initiatives. For more information on omnichannel strategy and customer engagement solutions, visit the Callvu home page or explore some of the other great content we offer on the topic in the links below. 

Callvu offers a Low-Code CX Platform to accelerate digital self-service micro-apps than can deliver outstanding omnichannel communication experiences. Our omnichannel customer support solutions are used by leading companies worldwide who report that they drive 10X faster development timelines and 90+% lower costs than custom software development. To see the Callvu Platform in action, request a demo now. 

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