Death of Omni-Channel—Don’t Forget Voice

Voice is an important support channelPart 3—Blog Series

By now, you have undoubtedly noted that I am passionate about properly serving customers via the channel of their choice. (Check out my first and second blog in this series.) And that there is significance and true business value in seeing a full customer journey end well, as opposed to irritating customers with silly, disconnected interactions. For these reasons and more, I have come to believe that the term omni-channel can be overly distracting and ultimately prevent us from truly serving customers.

Exhibit A—the telephone

Although I’ve saved this for last, it remains the strongest argument against omni-channel customer service. If you put all of your focus on serving customers across different channels and are hyper-sophisticated about moving customers from one channel to the next, and only keep track of how many channels you can support at one time just to keep up with the Joneses, you end up looking at a lot of trees and missing that magnificent forest.

Let’s face it, the phone is still the channel of choice for most interactions and the primary touch point between contact centers and customers. There is a reason they are still referred to as call centers! But all this talk about omni-channel starts to take away from ensuring that the voice experience is personal and top notch.

There are a number of things that companies do with voice that can hurt far more than help:

  • Push too much automation
  • Make customers wait on hold for too long
  • Forget to ensure the interactions are personal

Self-help hell

It’s just completely irresistible for businesses. All in all, self-service transactions typically cost one tenth the amount of an assisted transaction. This leads companies to lob even more into self-service until they start pushing customers into “self-help” hell, even when it really doesn’t make sense and at the detriment of the customer experience.

And needless to say, it almost never ends well for the company. According to the corporate executive board, customers who can get quick answers to their questions are 94% more likely to re-purchase, but only 4% of customers who find it hard to do business with a company say they will buy from them again. Is that cost really worth it? It used to be that if your IVR was challenging, one might hear something at a party one evening, but with social media that bad experience is magnified and can be shared with thousands of people within a single moment—to the point that some businesses never quite recover (Comcast customer service video) that recently went viral.

A better approach is to keep your IVR simple—provide self-service where it makes sense and understand that some of your customers will always need personalized assistance. Make it easy for customers to get help where it makes sense, but also ensure you are capturing information to make the agent experience as productive and efficient as possible.

Hold please…

We all know that hold times are a major problem for customer satisfaction. That is why many companies measure their contact centers based on hold times. In some cases, companies will take a blind focus on hold to the exclusion of other key metrics. But the instinct is right and the issue is real.

There is nothing wrong with showing the customer you value their time—in fact, in this day and age, you get bonus points in the form of loyalty. How about calling the customer back? What about virtual queuing? With 8x8’s virtual queuing, you can let a customer know that wait times are long and give them the option to be called back. Customers leave a callback number and are placed in a queue to be called when appropriate. This leaves the customer free to spend their time how they choose until an agent is available. Most customers will gladly have significantly longer wait times for a callback since they are not forced to wait on the phone, remain limited in what they can do while holding or listen to bad hold music.

Highly personalized interactions

I’ve re-mortgaged my home four or five times. Each time I do it with a broker named Adam. I have his cell number, he has treated me well, so when I see interest rates drop I know who to call. Building direct relationships between sales people and customers that endure over the years is one of the best ways to maintain loyal and profitable relationships that block out competition and ensure customer success for years to come. In this case, however, the relationship I had was with Adam and not with his company. So the last time I called him, we refinanced my house and I did even not realize he was now working for another brokerage company until I went to sign the final paperwork. As a company, you want to own and control that number and that relationship.

When you are working on a difficult technical problem you often need to go straight to the person you have been working with—getting the guy down the hall does not help very much and sets up that downward customer spiral.

For both of these cases, there is something called Direct Agent Routing that allows you to build long term relationships between your customers and the people who can help them the most. With Personal Agent Connect, you can route customers straight to a specific agent or employee based on the number someone called or information in the CRM system. If that person is not available, you can setup rules for what to do in order to provide the best possible customer experience. Route to a buddy agent, or a specific queue, or send to the original agent’s voicemail if the buddy agent is out as well.

With Direct Agent Routing you can build tighter relationships with your customers than ever before and you can control the interaction and keep them for the full customer lifecycle.

Max Ball


Max is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for 8x8 Virtual Contact Center. [...] Read More >