When a contact center provides omnichannel customer service, it means they offer multiple support channels - like phone, chat, email, SMS, and social media - and that customers can move seamlessly across them within the same transaction. For example, a customer might initiate an online chat session to get an issue resolved. Midway through, she might decide that she really needs to have a phone conversation to explain the details of the issue. In an omnichannel scenario, the agent would be able to seamlessly elevate the chat interaction to a phone call so the customer doesn’t have to worry about calling back in and starting over with a different agent later.
Contrasting this to a non-omnichannel scenario, in which the customer has to disconnect the chat, manually call in, navigate the IVR, hope they reach the same agent – though let’s be realistic, they more than likely won’t – and then re-explain their issue to the new phone agent, it's easy to see why omnichannel yields a better experience. Customers recognize the value of omnichannel and our recent consumer benchmark survey revealed that 9 out of 10 people expect omnichannel service from companies.
Omnichannel routing enables contact centers to deliver on these expectations by routing contacts from all channels in a holistic and unified way. Omnichannel routing uses complex rules to determine the nature and priority of incoming contacts and then route them to the best available agent or places them in a queue if no agents are available. This results in a better customer experience and more efficient use of agent time and skills.
Contact centers that use omnichannel routing have unique capabilities. Here are some of the most noteworthy ones.
Things contact centers can do when they have omnichannel routing
Omnichannel routing enables many things that contact centers use to elevate customer experience. Additionally, it boosts productivity by ensuring agents are steadily busy. Organizations that want to take their customer service to the next level should consider omnichannel routing.
1. Provide personalized, omnichannel experiences
This one is pretty obvious, but certainly merits discussion. Omnichannel routing is at the foundation of providing customers with seamless omnichannel experiences. This is because omnichannel routing is the engine that matches customers to the right agent (maybe even the same one they spoke to last time they had an issue). This same routing engine uses data collected upfront or from the customer profile to present the agent with the relevant customer information right out of the gate. That way the customer doesn’t have to spend time repeating themselves to identify who they are and why they are calling. This allows agents to provide the personalized, informed experiences consumers expect.
2. Have a universal queue
Omnichannel routing and universal queues go hand-in-hand. Universal queues knock down the silos that often characterize having multiple channels. They do this by putting all incoming contacts in the same basket and then distributing them to agents based on comprehensive rules. This allows, for example, real-time phone and chat contacts to be routed through the same queue as asynchronous ones like social media, while still ensuring they get routed to agents with higher priority. And if the organization determines that social media contacts should receive faster responses than emails, the universal queue will assign them ahead of the emails if they come in at the same time. In addition, a universal queue provides leaders with a comprehensive view of work.
3. Have a unified agent inbox
Agents in omnichannel contact centers are usually trained to handle contacts from multiple channels. And different agents are often assigned a different combination of channels. For example, there may be one agent that is skilled to handle voice, chat, and Facebook posts, and another that is skilled to handle voice, SMS, and chat. These multi-skilled agents can typically receive contacts from multiple channels during a single shift, made possible by omnichannel routing.
A unified agent inbox isn't that useful when organizations only support one channel, but as they add more and more channels it becomes a must have. Unified inboxes put all of an agent's contacts in a single location, making them much easier to manage by eliminating the need to toggle through multiple systems, and using priority rules and agent state to ensure that agents focus their attention on the contact within the universal queue that has the highest urgency. Without true omnichannel routing, having a unified agent inbox would, at best, be very difficult.
4. Increase agent utilization
The ability to multi-skill agents, mentioned above, also gives contact centers flexibility with how they staff, ultimately leading to better agent utilization. For one thing, it helps smooth out the bumps of inconsistent channel volume - if the phones are slow, agents are routed emails or social media contacts to handle rather than sitting idle. Additionally, the asynchronous nature of digital contacts – meaning that there may be a delay between customer responses - makes it possible for agents to have multiple in process at once. An agent could have three active chat sessions they’re currently working on and several social media contacts in their inbox that they will work on when they are done chatting. Smart omnichannel routing, which knows each agent's capacity and current workload, makes better utilization possible.