As the role of digital communications grows, true omnichannel capabilities become more crucial to provide a satisfying, unified customer experience. The goal of omnichannel sounds simple — maintain customer engagement across channels to meet customer expectations — but it's among the most complex challenges businesses face today. But does an omnichannel approach truly contribute to business drivers loyalty, improved customer experience and reduced operational costs? What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel? This blog pulls apart and outlines some of the nuances of the terms to clarify the general principles of omnichannel in a practical setting, and is intended to educate readers on what they should look for when qualifying solutions and strategies.
Omnichannel of the Past
“Omnichannel” is a term that’s been touted by the software industry, but has been defined in the past in fields like retail or banking as the handoff between people who shopped or banked online, and then transitioned back to in person or live call interactions; or vice versa.
The information inherent to the handoff as people transitioned from live interaction to digital was key to identifying consumer behavior patterns, and so the advent of omnichannel marketing became a gold mine for customer data. It was because of “omnichannel” marketing’s inherent utility that it became an experience laden with value that other companies strove to achieve. The principle of easy handoff between channels of engagement is a key component that persists into the digital communications space as digital channels continue to expand.
Omnichannel in today’s digital world
What makes digital engagement solutions truly part of the omnichannel landscape is a design principle that guarantees a policy of open-door acceptance of customer traffic. Similar to the easy transition between live and digital experiences was the advent of “omnichannel” as a recognized term, omnichannel in digital communications requires that they support easy transitions from one digital channel to the next, across all relevant lines of communication - as well as seamless transitions to live and even offline channels.That means that whenever a customer wants to contact a company, the company can receive that contact whether it’s via text message, phone call, email, or any other digital channel. But where are the limitations?
Multi-channel is not Omnichannel
Many digital engagement companies have built solutions that let people text their contact center, call into a support line, or even chat with a live agent, but the experiences are vastly different between them - and there aren’t smooth data transitions when customers hop between these channels. That’s a part of the reason why customers still leave channels intended to support call avoidance or deflection and call into contact centers, leaving companies still struggling to manage overstrained and under-staffed support lines.
Simply offering multiple channels with differing experiences is not the same thing as building omnichannel solutions. While an omnichannel solution is multi-channel, a multi-channel offering is not necessarily omnichannel. This is an important distinction that will leave digital engagement customers disappointed with an omnichannel implementation if not met. The experience between calls, chats, text, and emails needs to be of comparable ease and value - and data collected in one channel needs to be transitioned to the next one to enable the customer to not have to repeat information they just shared. With true omnichannel communications, enabling customers to start their conversation in one channel like email, then move to another channel for digital self service is a smoother, easier and frictionless process.
Easy transition between digital and live channels
Besides the open-door policy of receiving any communication from any channel, omnichannel offerings are also those where businesses “maintain state” in communication with their customers as they transition between channels. The idea of maintaining state is not as complex as it sounds. It implies that when customers are interacting digitally, then call into a contact center, the customer support center they reach should both be able to pick up where they left off, and have access to any information they shared before they switched channels.
Ushur Supports True Omnichannel Experiences
Omnichannel capabilities in Customer Experience Automation™ (CXA) solutions are a key differentiator for a platform like Ushur where users can build a workflow to handle a specific Micro-Engagement™ once and then deploy it to other digital channels with a single click. For example, when users text their support line with “#applicationstatus”, they get the same walk-through for checking their application status as they would if they were to go through Ushur’s IVR-deflection to digital self service experience when they call into a support center (e.g. calling a support center and choosing option x to receive application status digitally).
Ushur is also a seamless channel and data bridge between on and even off-line channels into digital channels, as well as a seamless bridge back to live channels as shown in the illustration below.
Ushur makes the deployment easy, but also the process for building flows and setting up data integrations. The Ushur no-code, drag-and-drop builder has pre-built modules to support interactive more effective digital communications with customers that alert, educate, influence, survey, push and pull information and even files and images in a convenient way. Ushur integrations and secure FTP file transfer capabilities make it easier to push and pull information to front and back-end systems. Pre-trained machine learning models also make interacting with AI easier
In addition to helping insurers, healthcare companies and financial service companies to route, classify, and answer any question their customers have - even those depending on data in core systems - Ushur also tracks the status of each Micro-Engagement across any channel. Customers can start their conversation on one channel and begin a new conversation on another, and Ushur connects the dots for the company, so customer service agents don’t have to. Once all the essential information is in one place, it’s much easier to resolve the query or even provide the relevant information proactively.
The Ushur Silent Listener allows companies to capture and respond to SMS text responses based on business rules or even via conversational AI rather than letting those responses result in a dead end of non responsiveness.
An example of an Ushur-optimized omnichannel experience is when an HR Benefits Administrator receives an Ushur automated email related to group benefits enrollment, and clicks through to an Ushur secure digital channel to answer a few questions in a micro engagement. They get interrupted by a meeting while they are on screen 2 of 4 of the engagement. When they come back to finish the engagement, they are able to pick up where they left off and none of the information they provided previously is lost.
Finally, Ushur is dedicated to handling the responsibility to build capabilities for new digital channels as they arise and companies need them. Ushur’s modular and flexible architecture future-proofs a company’s investment in customer experience by relieving it from having to build a pathway for every channel as it becomes more popular. From Email and Web, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, to SMS, Ushur’s CXA platform delivers the scalability companies need to engage on those channels.
With a more specific definition of what goes into omnichannel solutions, we hope readers will feel empowered to dissect what each capability means and strive to get to true omnichannel status. We also hope that everyone now has the language to ask for the functionality they deserve to support their customer experience improvement goals, and future-proof their communication investments.
If you want to see what a true omnichannel digital engagement platform looks like, and how to build a roadmap for an immersive, modern customer experience journey, please reach out to ushur.com/request-demo/.