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Digital Engagement Blog

The Fast Track to Omni-channel Customer Care

Omnichannel is Dead.  Omnichannel customer care is mobile first. “I'm not seeing how you're solving the problem. You're talking about the front end, but the contact center's challenges are in their back end, i.e. in how they handle the different channels.”

That was a comment I received from Tobias Goebel, Director of Mobile Strategy at Aspect Software, on my recent Omnichannel is Dead blog post.

Omnichannel is Dead: Background

In my post I argue that the best path to omnichannel is NOT a massive effort to connect silos of interaction data spread across many channels in the contact center. There’s a better way: Focus on the mobile experience.  Consumers are migrating rapidly to a mobile-centric lifestyle, and the smartphone is becoming the preferred and soon dominant channel for customer care.  Build the right kind of mobile experience, and your omnichannel care problem will take care of itself.

Tobias went on to explain that mobile is a platform that supports many channels, and each of these channels has its merits and will be used for different purposes.  (You can read his full comment here.)  He closes with:

“Contact centers STILL need to fix the problem of how to manage all these channels and provide consistency among them, even if all communication originates from a mobile device.”

Tobias is a really smart guy and I’ve followed his writings for years.  I always pay attention to what he says whether I agree with him or not (and you should too.)  The mobile landscape is developing so fast it’s helpful to include many viewpoints as we all try to create a better future for the consumer and the enterprises who serve them.  In this case, Tobias raised a very good question about my post that I suspect a lot of other people may have been wondering about as well.  My Omnichannel is Dead post did focus on the front end, so let’s take a closer look at the back end problem Tobias described.

Mobile Mindset is Critical

Ultimately, this is about mindset.  If an enterprise implements mobile customer care in the context of mobile as a platform that supports many channels, the mobile care solution will continue to feed separate customer interaction silos and it won’t solve the omnichannel problem.  Customers will continue to hop from channel to channel, even if they do all originate on the mobile device. 

Consumers, on the other hand, don’t think about channels.  Consumers have smartphones, and they simply expect those devices to do what smartphones do.  Smartphones are filled with useful apps, they send emails, text messages, and images, and they even let you call someone from time to time.  Consumers don’t expect each “channel” to end up in a different silo within the enterprise.  And even though this silo-ing happens all the time, it frustrates consumers to no end because from their perspective they simply contacted the enterprise and the enterprise should remember the “conversation.”

But if you truly embrace a “mobile first” mindset, the mobile customer care solution looks completely different.  Such a mobile care solution would include:

  • Complete any-modal interaction history that persists indefinitely
  • Interruption-friendly, highly personalized interaction model
  • Seamless in-app transition from self-service to live agent

Why Mobile Solves the Back End Problem Too

Such a solution wouldn’t feed different silos of customer interaction data.  It would keep a complete history all in one place regardless of the mode of communication used by the consumer.  As mobile becomes the preferred and eventually dominant consumer choice for customer care, the mobile interaction data becomes the “one source of truth” not by connecting all the other data silos, but by making them virtually irrelevant. When consumers use mobile care almost all the time, the silo problem goes away.   This shift is already underway.

The mobile lifestyle is full of interruptions. A “mobile first” customer care solution would be designed so interruptions don’t matter. Busy consumers hate to be chained to the phone while they wait on hold or wait for an issue to be resolved.  They expect to be able to start an interaction, stop for any reason, and pick up later right where they left off.  A customer care solution with this capability creates an exceptionally sticky experience. If consumers have little incentive to seek assistance through other channels, they and their interaction data will converge on mobile care… making the silo problem go away.

Most mobile apps today are very clumsy when the consumer needs assistance.  You have to stop what you’re doing, exit the app, and place a phone call to the contact center, only to reach an agent who has no contextual knowledge of what you were trying to do in the app.  This “fractured experience” breaks the magic of the mobile moment, jeopardizes purchases, and creates a disincentive for consumers to self-serve in the future.

A seamless in-app transition from self-service to live agent solves this problem in a way that makes the app far more sticky.  It’s going to give consumers an incentive to converge on mobile for their customer care interactions.  When consumers converge on such a “mobile first” experience, the agents on the other end of the conversation will necessarily converge there as well.   And when consumers and agents converge on a common experience because there’s no longer a need for consumer channel-hopping or agent handling of different channels... that solves the consistency-of-experience problem.

Mobile is Omnichannel

Perhaps in another post I can describe in more detail how the three tenets of a “mobile first” customer care solution create amazing improvements to the customer experience…and the agent’s experience.  But first I think it’s important to consider the possibility (or inevitability) that a convergence on mobile can solve both the data silo problem and the problem of consistency in handling many different channels in the contact center.  Focus on creating the right kind of mobile experience with the right kind of mobile customer care solution, and mobile becomes a much easier, faster, and less expensive path to achieve the objectives of omnichannel.

For more insight on how to design a "mobile first" customer care experience using the Forrester Research IDEA process, watch this webinar with analyst Julie Ask, co-author of The Mobile Mind Shift.

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Topics: Customer Care Mobile Engagement