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Market Service 9857 segment 58: Omni-Channel Customer Care

  • August 2013
  • 17 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 1604725


Table of Contents

New customer interaction channels are accelerating the adoption of multi-channel contact center routing. But the contact center industry is moving to create an omni-channel experience where cross channel customer engagement is seamless. This Market Insight examines the extent to which new channels are changing the contact center and the Customer Experience, and proposes a set of recommendations to consider for building an omni-channel strategy.


Multi-channel adoption is on a steep trajectory, driven by the growing use of social and mobile as channels. In the process, more traditional channels, such as IVR, chat, and the Web are getting facelifts. Functionality is increasing within all channels, and critical developments are emerging to support a seamless Customer Experience where customers can enter and move between channels, and have context and history move with them. Moreover, information silos are being integrated through cross-channel analytics. Frost & Sullivan calls this an omni-channel experience.

This Market Insight examines the drivers and developments behind this change; it looks at the market challenges that have held adoption back, that still pose problems for businesses developing multi and omni-channel strategies. It also explores the future of seamless Customer Experience and the impact data generated from customer interactions have on the contact center and beyond. Lastly, it provides an analysis of the technology trends and best practices enterprises should consider in developing omni-channel strategies.

Market Challenges for Multi-Channel Adoption

Although multi-channel routing has been a trending topic for a decade, until recently adoption was lukewarm. Now the landscape has changed. Consumers are demanding service on the channels they prefer, such as social media sites or mobile devices. However, despite the demand, those in charge of the Customer Experience have encountered myriad roadblocks to change. For instance, adding new channels can require significant IT involvement. Vying for IT resources has always been an issue with contact center management, but worsens when channel development initiates outside the contact center. Web self-service, social media engagement, and chat, for instance, may originate in entirely different departments than the contact center, creating competition for resources. Additional roadblocks to multi-channel adoption include:

Lack of cross organizational support. The addition of channels such as mobile and social require support across the organization. The aforementioned social media, Web, and chat still require integration, analytics, and reporting to get a true picture of the customer journey. Companies are still grappling with how to create cross-organizational customer contact strategies.
Disconnect between technology and consumer interest. Social, mobile, and chat are three channels in which adoption has been pushed by consumers, but until recently technology hadn't kept pace. For instance, while mobile apps have been adopted by the millions, until 2012 true customer service mobile apps remained unrefined.
Application silos. Supporting multiple channels becomes complex if the supervisor has to administer, monitor, and run reports from multiple platforms. Getting a single view of the Customer Experience in this scenario is not feasible.
Cost. It is difficult and costly to add channels. New channels such as chat require a different level of IT involvement that may not be available or budgeted for. Similarly, upgrading older channels, such as DTMF-driven IVR with speech-enabled IVR can be costly as well.

Barriers to getting to an omni-channel experience are even greater, and include:

• Integration complexity. Too often contact channels are either built in isolation or acquired over time, creating silos of customer data, allowing for no smooth transition between channels. This has led to increased IT complexity. In turn, organizations are looking at staying ahead of their competition through multichannel, multi-application integration, but face numerous challenges including:
– The requirement to incorporate applications from different vendors
– Owning legacy platforms that don't support newer applications
– The need for a unified desktop to support multiple channels
– Lack of unified queue management
– Lack of unified analytics and reporting dashboard
– Lack of integrated quality monitoring
• Lack of tools for multi-channel agent forecasting and scheduling. Each new channel addition increases the complexity of forecasting and scheduling agents to support them.
• Combining digital and non-digital assets. Creating a true omni-channel experience involves all touch-points, including the in-person experience. Kiosks and ATM machines, with remote agent access, enables a hybrid approach. Incorporating print and in-person experience with technology touch-points can improve the experience for the customer.

Market Drivers to Technology Adoption

The good news is that the restraints to multi-channel adoption are lifting. Two drivers are behind this ascent. The first is changing consumer behavior. Consumer's personal use of social networking, mobile devices, and chat applications are driving customer support organizations to engage with consumers on those channels. Frost & Sullivan research shows a healthy increase in the number of enterprises requesting briefings on multi-channel or asking for information in requests for proposals (RFPs). In many cases the trigger is a desire to unify "digital" relationships with customers through social and mobile engagement.

Second, a number of technological advancements have been achieved that support the creation of customer contact channels that map to these consumer preferences. These include:

Cloud adoption. Enterprises that lack the internal IT expertise to support new channels can opt to launch new customer channels in the cloud, without investing in equipment and personnel. Additionally, the cloud provides more flexibility in handling traffic spikes. If something happens that suddenly increases activity on one channel, capacity can be instantly increased without provisioning for traffic peaks.
All-in-one, software-based systems. All-in-one platforms allow vendors to provision applications on a customer's system, and let customers license them as needs change. These platforms also provide common administration and reporting, simplifying the addition of new interaction channels and providing a more integrated picture of the Customer Experience.
Big Data integration. Solution providers are incorporating Hadoop-based analytics and reporting environments to deliver information on specific channels or across channels. This is enabling companies to gain more insight into consumer preferences and improve and personalize interactions.
Extending mobile and social attributes to in-person experiences. Mobile devices enable users to carry communication and the Internet with them. Using attributes of the device, such as geolocation, scanning, or picture taking, enables enterprises to develop applications that can change an in-person experience. For instance, a retail chain might allow a customer to scan QR codes to get information while in a store or a branch location, or allow them to launch a web browser to get to a company site that helps them while in the store.

Application integration on legacy systems. Long-established contact center solution providers have invested heavily in integrating different customer contact channels. Enhancements include:

• Single data repository for disparate systems and applications
• Unified agent desktop
• Centralized administration
• Web services that enable linkage between technologies.

Technology Trends Supporting the Move from Accidental Multi- Channel to Omni-Channel

All too often customer interaction channels are added without an overarching multi-channel strategy, let alone an omni-channel one. Channels may have originated in different departments without a plan on how they should work together. Context and history aren't shared. This increases customer effort when customer issues aren't resolved and the customer "channel hops" in an effort to get resolution. When channels are siloed, the context and history of the customer's contacts aren't linked, and activity on one channel remains hidden from others, fracturing the Customer Experience.

The goal for every business should be how to present an omni-channel experience to the customer where all channels work in concert as customers move through them. This includes improving the Customer Experience by blending in customer channels outside the contact center, such as postal mail and in-store/business contact. Best practices to convert "accidental" multi-channel to omni-channel require that information flow freely across channels and can be adequately stored, reported, and acted on. Efficiency also means being able to present the right media at the right time on the desired channel, and having the appropriately- skilled agent available if the customer needs live support.

The following represents what Frost & Sullivan views as positive recent technology developments in support of an omni-channel Customer Experience.

Social Media

While on a slower growth curve than mobile, social media is gaining a foothold as a viable channel of customer interaction. Frost & Sullivan defines social media as a catchall expression to describe any and all user-created digital multimedia that is published and shared in a social environment. Digital multimedia (or 'content') comes in several forms, including videos, pictures, personal messages, audio clips, and more. Social environments are diverse and include, but are not limited to:

• Blogs/microblog platforms
• Specific content-sharing communities
• Social networking sites
• Wikis and Internet forums

Social media engagement allows companies to do promotion and brand management, as well as provide customer support. Solution providers have created applications that facilitate the listening, capturing, sorting, and dissemination of social media interactions to provide that support to customers.

The implementation of social media as a customer contact channel is a good example of how lack of planning can create lost opportunities for operational improvement and increased customer satisfaction. Too often social media initiatives start in areas other than the contact center, such as marketing, without a plan as to how to handle customer support issues posed in social media interactions. Exhibit 1 shows Frost & Sullivan's Social Media Maturity Model. This model is a map of how using social media as a customer channel typically develops over time. In our mind, it would behoove businesses to execute on all stages of this model within their multi-channel strategy.

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