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10 Tips From the Omni-channel Front Lines

Implementing omni-channel service delivery has a unique set of challenges. Having a road map is a good first step.

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Things to Consider
Moving to an omni-channel service model requires new ways of doing business:

  • Gone are the days when a contact center can be open just during business hours.
  • Making the move to omni-channel service requires a true road map of your customer
    experience journey.
  • You need to account for the variable pricing and profitability changes associated with the new channels you’ll implement.
  • The customer experience you mapped out to begin this journey needs to be constantly revisited.

Let’s face it: How we do business is changing. Services that were once thought of as mere enhancements are now a requirement to success. A recent study by British Telecom notes that customers will use approximately six different channels to interact with a company in the space of one year.

Making the move to omni-channel service is necessary. But like any business change, implementing omni-channel service delivery has its own unique set of challenges, particularly for cash and time-strapped companies. To be well positioned for the future, here is a list of considerations as you look to your future omni-channel service.

1. Revise your hiring practices.
Most companies that offer omni-channel services have upgraded their hiring models to include social, text and chat skills requirements. Few, however, test applicants for the ability to recognize customer concerns in these new mediums or how to switch between contact channels to solve a complaint. (“While I may post on Twitter that I am angry with Company X’s product delivery, I do not want Company X to share my order contents on social media within their response.”) The ability to pass between channels and to recognize when it is appropriate to change channels is central to omni-channel success.

2. Informal does not mean casual.
Your representative teams need to be keenly aware that the causal way of chatting or posting that they do on their personal social-media pages is not appropriate for the company’s outlets. This discrepancy is often covered only in initial training and never reinforced. Don’t forget that even for seasoned reps, it is hard to make that mental switch every day from personal social media posts to workplace posts. Encourage supervisors to hold daily stand up meetings with examples for reminders.

3. Hone your internal communication processes.
The basic premise of omni-channel support is to make consistent information available to customers through all channels. It will fail if the customer service operations team, IT, quality assurance, training, marketing and account management teams are not updated seamlessly on new products, new marketing campaigns or internal changes. The traditional communication philosophy of “need to know basis” will no longer suffice. Everyone needs to know.

4. Review your org chart.
Moving to omni-channel requires a fundamental change in organizational structure and processes. Not all channels are owned by the same divisions within a company. For example, the call center traditionally owns the voice channel, but marketing tends to own the digital channels. What this means is that the technology, the integrations, the business processes and the measures of success haven't been standardized across organizations. That is a huge challenge that is overlooked in many cases. To plan for this reorganization requires not only visibility across all organizations, but a true road map of your customer experience journey.

5. Omni-channel equals omni present.
Gone are the days when a contact center can be open just during business hours. Customers now expect web chats to be available 24/7 and emails to be answered within a few hours, even on Sunday. It’s easy enough to think about service delivery expanding to meet those hours, but are you prepared for expanding IT support, reporting, account management and corporate oversight offices to be ever present, too?

6. You need to have each channel.
The majority of consumer pattern studies indicate that smartphone web use is on the rise, but that consumers use the channel only to begin their shopping experience. They then turn to Twitter or web chat for product inquiries. However, British Telecom’s study confirms that customer service phone call volume was down in 2014, but the length of calls was up by nearly 37%. Consumers are still turning to the phone for sensitive or complex issues. To serve the entire range of consumer interactions, you have to have each channel.

7. Coordinate all customer touch-points.
Congratulations! You have successfully implemented consumer support across the channels. Now, what about sales, retention, win-back, loyalty and business-to-business needs? These units are typically located in different organizational divisions, with different back-end systems, different reporting, different service level agreements. Coordination of all customer lifecycle touch-points is necessary to sustain an omni-channel strategy.

8. Explore the impact on profitability.
You have accounted for the advanced technology, the higher rep wage rate and the additional oversight and tracking. But have you accounted for the variable pricing and profitability changes associated with the new channels? With phone agent handling times on the rise, each phone call will be costing you more to service. And traditionally, the other channels have been lower cost channels. But with the higher rep skill sets, investment in technology, internal restructuring costs, etc., have you analyzed the overall impact to your organization to implement and sustain omni-channel services?

9. Don’t be shy.
Once you implement a new channel, you have to let people know. Access to the channel needs to be in every advertisement, every webpage, every catalogue, every communication. Now more than ever, consumers want to select the channel that suits them, and they expect that channel to be easy to access at all times.

10. Don’t leave well enough alone.
Omni-channel is forcing consumers to rethink the way they interact with companies, too. As the generational shifts change, and as more and more of your competitors move to omni-channel services, so the rate of adoption of select channels will change as well. The customer experience you mapped out to begin this journey needs to be constantly revisited, as the future will be far from stagnant.

Cardella_headshotThomas L. Cardella, is the founder and president of TLC Associates (, which is changing the way people think of customer contact centers. A 100% employee-owned company, it focuses on front line employee satisfaction and is able to drastically increase the return on investment of its nearly 25 Fortune 500 clients. Previously Cardella was the founder and president of Access Direct, ranked as one of Inc.’s 500 fastest growing companies.