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Jul 29, 2015 | 3 minute read

The Importance of Omnichannel Customer Service

written by Linda Bustos

cust-servThere's much ado about integrated, omnichannel shopping experiences, from responsive design to integrated inventory, buy online pick up in store services to in-store digital.

But not to be overlooked is omnichannel customer service, where customers can communicate seamlessly across service touchpoints, with consistent quality of service and persisted context throughout the service journey.

Omnichannel service expectations are high

Traditional customer service channels of store, telephone and email are today supplemented with online self-serve tools, live chat, social networks and even SMS alerts pushed to smartphones and wearables.

Research by Zendesk cites:

  • 64% expect to receive real-time assistance regardless of the customer service channel they
  • 37% expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative regardless of which channel they use
  • 87% think brands need to work harder to create a seamless experience for customers
  • 73% think brands pay more attention to generating sales across multiple channels than they do to providing an integrated customer service experience
  • 78% say a company’s reputation for customer service is important to them when choosing to buy from a particular brand

Omnichallenges and opportunities

Like many omnichannel efforts, siloed people and technology are a barrier to integrated experiences, leaving an experience gap for the consumer, and inefficiencies for the business.

Service optimization

For example, un-coordinated service channels can result in multiple CSRs responding to the same email. Unanswered email that prompts a customer to use the phone channel results in the customer explaining the situation over again.

Some customer service needs are best served by specific or multiple channels, such as a social or live chat agent referring to a telephone representative in another department, with the phone represenative emailing a confirmation or transcript to the customer after the call. Or, any agent sending a quick link to an online self-serve page or process.

Integrated channels allow tracking of the journey to ensure the customer's issue is resolved, and supports triggered events such as how-did-we-do surveys and post-resolution content and offers.

It also enables process optimization. What about the social-to-CSR transition could be improved? Which channels have the longest response-lag? How can you send customers to the best resolution channel as quickly as possible? Which self-serve queries most often lead to phone calls? How can you streamline these processes?


Integration also supports personalization, both within the service context and in future shopping experiences. For example, integration with account history and personalization tools can assist CSRs with appropriate cross-sell and upsell recommendations, or which resolution to offer. For example, a telecom may offer certain solutions to pay-as-you-go customers with higher churn risk than those with 2 years left on their contracts, or to high-value customers with bundled services.

Mining text and voice logs for sentiment may also be useful for segmentation and churn-reduction programs.

Context gleaned from the support call may be incorporated into a master customer profile for future targeting, cross-sell/upsell and segmentation. The pay-as-you-go customer complaining about high long-distance airtime charges may be targeted with a contract package via email with attractive long-distance rates at a later date, and future Web visits for this customer can be merchandised accordingly on the home page.

Closing the service gaps

Some customer service software vendors offer a degree of omnichannel integration, and depending on a business' size and requirements this may suffice. For example, a single view of the customer on the back-end or the ability for a CSR to perform a keyword search to pull up all instances of a customer's inquiry across touchpoints.

For larger, more complex enterprises that want advanced capabilities including incorporating unstructured data like Live Chat logs and social interactions, cross-channel integration can't be done with traditional customer service or even CRM software alone.

Advanced CEM (customer experience management) platforms exist to monitor channels, analyze and persist context across interactions, but integration with other systems such as big data analytics and personalization tools may still be significant and expensive, especially if various divisions and departments are not using unified solutions.

Organizational structure may also be a roadblock, as true integration may require CSRs to man multiple channels or learn new systems and processes.

Regardless of how simple or complex the requirements to deliver a better experience across customer support channels, no business should treat onminchannel customer service gaps as an afterthought.