COVID-19: The Crisis Has Underlined the Need for Omnichannel Contact Centers

G. Barton
G. Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • Omnichannel delivers an enhanced and consistent customer experience.
  • Omnichannel should include social media, mobile apps, and video.

The COVID-19 crisis has set the contact center at the epicenter of the customer contact process. While the trend has been slowly moving away from interactions between businesses and clients at brick-and-mortar branches, the COVID crisis lockdown took away the in-person option for almost all circumstances in one move. The result is a widely varied mix of experiences, but for most organizations, it has been a disjointed one. This is understandable, as the first priority in the early stages of COVID-19 was just to make sure a minimum viable level of customer contact was achieved. But we are now moving gradually out of lockdown and GlobalData’s research makes clear that companies are now reassessing their IT strategies. For the contact center, this means that many organizations are looking to move away from legacy platforms. As they do so, the question becomes: What next?

As some contact centers struggled in the early days of COVID-19, social media became a short-term stopgap for organizations because platforms such as Twitter and Facebook were available and provided a clear link. But this also highlighted that social media was, in most cases, isolated from the normal customer contact platforms. The people answering questions online were inevitably limited by practicalities (privacy, compliance, authentication etc.), but they were also limited by not being connected to the normal customer contact processes. Enterprises should therefore be considering how social media can be brought within the wider remit of the contact center. Capturing social media interactions provides valuable customer insight that may otherwise be lost. Furthermore, a customer who has tweeted a company about a problem may also feel that they have already ‘contacted’ that organization if they subsequently choose to follow up on that problem through more conventional media (e.g., calling the contact center). Capturing that initial social media contact within the omnichannel platform will lead to an enhanced customer experience.

Similarly, the mobile app had already become the default purchase and contact route for many customers before COVID-19. This trend will be increased as more technophobic customers who have been forced to use apps in lieu of the in-person route become accustomed to the new way of doing things. Enterprises need to ensure that the app offers the customer a pathway into the contact center. The deployment of communication platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) technology can provide the click-to-chat/call links. The omnichannel experience will capture the customer’s behavior prior to calling/chatting and provide the agent with insight (possibly AI assisted) into why that customer is calling and likely ways to help them.

The final piece is video. GlobalData has spoken with a number of organizations in the finance and healthcare industries. Both of these tech-conservative industries are waking up more quickly to the power of video. Telehealth is likely to become a feature of the modern medical landscape, while financial companies are realizing that products such as mortgages, insurance, and investments can be sold over video. Furthermore, for high-value customers, video offers a way to maintain a personal touch while not being able to meet in person.

A true omnichannel platform will capture all these elements and give agents the ability to deliver an informed and consistent customer experience.

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