As customer expectations grow, customer service must too evolve to match the demands, from beyond simple call center software solutions. At this point, many are aware of how crucial the customer experience is to their business – many will be quick to switch providers or brands simply because of a negative experience. This extends beyond just customer service, and includes the customer’s experience from start to finish.

To best deliver this omni-channel experience, it is first important to understand what omni-channel means, take a look at successful examples and understand what tools or practices to utilize.

Meeting the Customer’s Needs

When browsing mobile apps, or websites, customers are now expecting a seamless experience, and with the technology available it is incredibly possible to supply that experience. But a recent study conducted by Chief Marketing Officer council, 49% of marketers stated that alignment between physical and digital customer experiences is selective at best. Essentially, companies are unable to deliver a true omni-channel experience to their users.

Digital engagement continues to grow, and even dominate the customer experience – just about every business has a website or app, and users will prefer to utilize those resources before a phone call. Some businesses have even jumped on to include in app support, text based support, or have even been adding in chat bots to their arsenal. So, if you have the digital channels, how does this lead to an omni-channel experience?

But What Exactly is Omni-Channel?

Before we can dive in, we need to establish what an omni-channel experience would even encompass. I was first introduced to the concept during my phone call with Vonage CEO Alan Masarek.

Alan explained a vision of a direction of customer service – an omni-channel experience is one in which all methods of contact, and all the platforms and tools a customer uses, are seamless connected. The gaps between existing tools and platforms will be bridged and a customer will be able to jump from one step to the next without a hassle.

The specific Example Alan provided was one of an airline, if he were browsing the website to book a flight, and stumbled across a problem, he would have to pick up the phone and dial in to an 800 number. He would then be matched with an agent, and have to repeat all of the information already provided online, explain all the steps he took to get where he was, and turn a 5-minute solution into a 25-minute phone call with story time. But we can change that!

“There’s no context as to why I’m calling,” Alan said. “The future will be: when I’m on that website and I have a problem, I’ll hit click to call on that website – because that website will incorporate communications functionally which will be integrated in via the [existing] IVR’s in the UCaaS solution – so it then goes to the appropriate call center agent. Then [the information] will dump directly into the CRM solution. In my view, that’s the value chain of UCaaS – that’s the promise of UCaaS.”

We can utilize UCaaS, CRM solutions and contact center software to bridge all of our existing channels together so that users will never have to jump through hoops to receive the assistance they require.

Examples of Omni-Channel

Alan’s airline example is a great one to get the message across and illustrate the possibilities. But what about omni-channel experiences that already exist? Well they come in all shapes and sizes, and the best platforms take advantage of everything they have to offer. Omni-channel experience will also differ in operations implementations and hands-on customer experience.

The Customer Side

Disney is an innovator in a lot of different fields, and experience is one of their strong suits. The company goes to great lengths to ensure the experience at their theme parks is the best they can provide, which ranges from ensuring the essence of Magic is never broken, all the way down to an omni-channel guest experience. Users start out planning their trips online, with an incredible website that works both on desktops and mobile platforms to the same function.

Once users book a trip, then can use the My Disney Experience Tool, integrated on the same website, to plan out their entire trip – once in the park users can use the same app on their phone to look it all up, discover new or relevant attractions, check wait times and much more.

Beyond this, Disney added in a piece of hardware – the Magic Band program, a wrist band that guests wear to act as their park ticket, fast pass, it can be used to purchase food at the parks – and of course this can all be tracked online.

Disney took apps, websites and even hardware to create an experience that is seamless no matter where you are in the park – creating a great hands-on experience for the customers.

The Operations Side

Apple is another innovator that has been creating an omni-channel experience for years now. If you’ve ever been to an Apple store, you’re fully aware of employees armed with an iPad. This allows employees to search on the spot and in-depth product information, store stock and availability, schedule and look up support appointments, and can even act as a Point of Sale to allow customers to do everything at once with one representative.

All information of their accounts, order history, service requests is all available directly on that iPad at the moment of shopping. A slightly different example as it’s not directly accessed by the customers, but a solid one none-the-less. Apple is using technology and different channels to improve the customer experience in person.

This omni-channel platform would be an example of how to utilize this experience on the operations side to ultimately improve the customer’s experience.

How to Improve and Deliver?

Based on the same study, 2017 should signal a year of change for the omni-channel experience. We are in a time when we have all the tools and resources necessary to deliver, but it seems many companies are falling short. So how can we improve and deliver a true omni-channel experience?

  • Take Advantage of the massive API database
    APIs, or Application Program Interfaces, are one of the major driving forces behind omni-channel and are what allow developers to create these seamless experiences. An API is a piece of coding put out by one provider, that allows developers to integrate and string together multiple programs.So, for example, Disney might have an API that connects the mobile band to their app, so it always knows how to find relevant information, like how much money is left loaded on the band for purchases.With so many companies already providing APIs, and even the ability to develop your own, teams will need to understand how to take advantage of this standard to integrate new apps and platforms. By 2020, predictions also expect there to be 50+ billion connecting “things” that will make up the Internet of Things. APIs are what will drive these connections.
  • Arm Yourself with The Knowledge and Expertise
    Companies will need to understand what an omni-channel is, how it can improve both their operations and customer’s experience, and bring in the necessary knowledge to establish this new method as a standard. When constructing support for your service or platform, it is no longer enough to simply have a Twitter account and a phone line – customers expect more, and the technology to create these in-depth experiences exists.Marketers need to familiarize themselves with the tools at their disposal, and invest in more technologies to help manage data – and even the talent necessary to over-see and optimize these new technologies.
  • Set the Standard and Deliver the Entire Journey
    Liz Miller, Senior Vice President of marketing for the CMO Council explained in the report, “Savvy CMOs don’t see digital as a destination for transformation but instead see the digital experience as a constantly moving evolution for both engagements and operations.”She continued, “the year ahead will represent a real turning point in the customer experience as marketer’s plan to turn their sights toward connecting, streamlining and measuring the entire journey.”

Essentially, marketers will need to shift their focus to building an entire journey, not just focus on the end results of marketing and customer experience. How do we deliver a positive experience? Start by developing a plan that will allow your customers to journey through support, one with islands bridged via API’s and the technology we have at our disposal.