Overcoming digital customer engagement challenges by delivering the omni-channel experience your customers now demand

matt-hooper-headBLOG: Consumers’ love affair with mobile technology has changed their behavior and led to an explosion in digital interactions. Matt Hooper, SVP, from cloud communications digital customer engagement specialist IMImobile looks at why contact centres need to support 9 different channels from 2017, and how they can do this seamlessly.

The omni-channel contact centre is still far from being a reality for the majority of companies. But as almost all consumers now live in a 24/7 digital and mobile world, it has rightly become the standard to which leading companies aspire.

The objective is given additional impetus by the boardroom’s preoccupation with customer experience. They see this as a means of differentiation capable of delivering the added value that protects margins and engages easily distracted customers.

Omni-channel not only requires embracing multi-channel – companies will be supporting an average of 9 channels in 2017 according to Dimension Data’s latest Global Benchmarking Report – but also means allowing customers, data, transactions and – to an extent – agents, to switch between those channels seamlessly. It requires a focus on end-to-end customer journeys which straddle business units and business functions, rather than on individual interactions.

Very few companies can as yet deliver seamless customer journeys across more than a handful of channels. For the vast majority it is a pipe dream.

Let’s look at why orchestrating omni-channel customer experiences has become so strategically important to businesses, not just their contact centres, and how those benefits can be delivered without ripping and replacing whole technology layers.

In the Digital World Customer Experience is King

We live in strange times. The world’s largest taxi company owns no cars. The biggest media company owns no content. The most valuable retailer owns no inventory. And the most popular provider of hotel rooms owns no real-estate.

These household names – Uber, Facebook, Alibaba and Airbnb – remade the long-established industries they now dominate by offering an innovative, slick and yet simplified customer experience anchored around digital and mobile channels.

The lesson to learn from these so-called ‘unicorn’ start-ups is that an innovative, differentiated, and efficient digital customer experience can be a company’s most valuable asset. It can in fact be the entire offering. Even in crowded B2B markets the likes of Salesforce and Slack show that the same thing holds true there.

Today, digital disruptors tend to take an enormous slice of the pie, and laggards lose market share or go the way of Kodak. It is not the traditional ‘heavyweight’ departments like sales, marketing and product development that are being called on to save the day – it is the humble contact centre, its day in the sun come at long last.

What’s Driving these Changes

There will be 8.6 billion mobile connections by 2020 and 5.8 billion smartphones. These immensely powerful devices give rise to more informed and more powerful consumers, who can easily canvass opinion on social networks and review sites, and also spread the word about good or bad service in an instant.

In short, smartphones are changing customer behavior, and have put digital and mobile channels centre stage, at the heart of customer experience. Younger generations are more likely to communicate by SMS, Messenger and WhatsApp than telephone. Even older demographic groups, once they get the hang of the technology, seem to convert rapidly. Which may explain why the average smartphone user has around 20 apps installed just for messaging and communicating.

The result of this mobile explosion is huge disruption in almost all industry sectors. 90% of CEOs believe digital disruption will impact their industry. Technology disruptors are free of traditional ways of doing business and legacy cultures. For example Uber, a multi-billion dollar company, is really ‘just’ a mobile app, not a taxi company in any traditional sense. The company’s value is bound up in the digital platform it has built in order to deliver an innovative customer experience.

Challenges of Omni-channel

The greatest challenges for the contact centre are the integration of all these new channels with existing channels, with one another, and with existing business and back-office processes.

Currently only around 5% of companies offer integrated cross-channel experience, while 27% have no integration of channels at all, according to CCIQ’s Next-Generation Customer Engagement Report.

The Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report says that just a third of contact centres can track customer journeys across multiple channels, while fewer than 50% measure or report on digital channels as they do for phone calls.

In terms of omni-channel there is a huge disconnect between where companies need to be and current capabilities. Many are even struggling to offer effective multi-channel service. The challenges, broadly speaking, fall into three categories:

• The ability to move fast enough given the strategic importance of digital transformation.
• Assessing the best use of different channels in relation to end-to-end customer journeys.
• Accounting for existing technology infrastructure, legacy systems, and business processes.

In the latest Contact Centre Decision Maker’s Guide, from Contact Babel, an overwhelming majority – 61% – of contact centre operators cited technology as the major stumbling block to delivering omni-channel customer engagement:



Research from Gartner found that while many contact centres now incorporate channels like email and web chat as point solutions, the ability to provide a true omni-channel experience is only just emerging as a technical capability.

In our experience, by taking the 2 steps outlined below, any contact centre can add itself to that select group offering genuine omni-channel experiences within as little as 6 months.

1. Add a Best of Breed Approach to Get All Your Digital Customer Interactions in One Place

If new digital and mobile channels are thrown one-by-one into the contact centre’s existing mix of telephony infrastructure, routing hardware, CTI software, CRM and back office systems, and agent desktop environment, they can be difficult to manage and inefficient.

Even if it’s possible to get each new channel to ‘talk’ to the legacy systems, share data, and provide agents access without lots of ‘Alt-Tabbing’ between multiple applications, it’s doubtful that it can be managed, or its metrics measured, in a consistent, integrated way.

What we’re looking for instead is a single place where all digital and mobile interaction channels can be managed alongside voice; an application that can unify the contact centre’s existing infrastructure and processes and provide the basis of an omni-channel customer experience.

Personalisation and cross-channel consistency are keys to offering each individual, and each customer segment, the best customer experience. Currently only 34.2% of contact centres are using analytics to personalise solutions and services, while even fewer – just 23% – have the capability to provide a customised customer experience based on the relevant data.

A best-of-breed interactive digital channel application uses light integration through APIs in order to fit in with a contact centre’s existing telephony infrastructure, CRM and back office layers. It means digital and mobile interactions can be routed in the same way as phone calls, enabling personalisation and consistency of service by agents.

2. Re-organise Everything Around Customer Journeys

Here are some eye-opening statistics from consulting firm McKinsey: Companies which focus on optimising customer journeys enjoy 10% to 15% greater revenue growth, 20% increases in customer satisfaction, and 15% to 20% reductions in cost to serve.

The key is to ensure customer journeys work across multiple channels, and are optimised to account for the needs of different customer segments. With such a 360° view of customers you can:

• Predict customer needs to lower costs and improve service.
• Segment customers according to value and provide service and products accordingly.
• Build customer experiences (journeys) that enable customers to complete complex, multi-stage transactions quickly and painlessly.
• Identify the highest value, or most business critical journeys – on-boarding, applying for a loan, filing a claim – and orchestrate service delivery to optimise these.
• Provide consistent service and proactive communication that backs up your brand values across all channels.

When designing customer journeys, it is important to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each channel and try at critical points to funnel customers (and prospects) to whatever channel is most appropriate at that time.

There can be some surprising results. For example, we helped a high street bank achieve 50% better first contact response rate for collections calls, simply by sending an SMS to the customer beforehand to schedule the call and enabling the customer to respond to that SMS.

It is in the innovative combination of channels to achieve specific objectives, or improve specific processes, that the greatest efficiency savings and CX improvement opportunities are to be found.

Use of quantitative metrics like Sales per Hour, Contacts per Hour, Average Talk Time, Average Handling Time, Hold Time, and Pick-up Time are still important for measuring cost reduction, first contact resolution rates, and agent productivity. But they shouldn’t be the sole focus.

Qualitative measurements – including Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction and ‘Voice of the Customer’ – give us the means to measure less tangible goals like ‘improve customer experience / customer service’.

In an omni-channel environment, whatever KPIs are put in place should be measured consistently across all channels to build up a picture of customers’ satisfaction with their end-to-end customer journeys.

No matter how innovative or how traditional they are, facilitating customer journeys is the primary business objective of the omni-channel contact centre. As Netflix and Blockbuster will tell you, getting the digital and mobile customer experience right can be the difference between a billion-dollar valuation and not existing at all.

IMImobile will be publishing a white paper in November that looks at how contact centres are coping with the challenges of delivering an omni-channel experience utilising digital and mobile engagement channels and best practises in digital customer interaction.

To register for a free copy please click here

Matt Hooper is an experienced senior enterprise software marketer and general manager, with over 20 years in international marketing, customer experience, product management and business development. He joined IMImobile in 2015 from cloud compliance SaaS provider Cognia. Prior to that he worked with Boston-based Lavastorm Analytics, MDS, Colibria and as a founding executive of service delivery platform pioneer Elata. Matt has also held senior roles at Qualcomm, HP, BT Global, Orange and Parametric Technology. He is a chartered marketer and a certified RFU rugby coach.