Yes, just over a decade or so ago, providing world-class customer service meant running a world-class call center.  Then the evolution began.  Voice was no longer the only accessible channel for your customer.  It became email, then chat and then messaging.  As these new channels of communication came about, CALL CENTERS became CONTACT CENTERS.

Fast forward to today.  Your customer wants to interact with you through multiple different channels – email, chat, IM, Twitter, Facebook, text, SMS, video chat, in addition to a call.  And they want to do so from a variety of mobile devices –including different types of phones, tablets or laptops.

They don’t only want to communicate with you using multiple devices through multiple channels.  They are DEMANDING a seamless experience across channels and across devices.

These are the things driving the CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT CENTER that businesses are building today.

Three Critical Steps to Seamless Customer Experiences

As customers begin to embrace the evolving concepts of omni-channel experiences in a Customer Engagement center, it really does go back to the basics. From my experience, these are the primary components driving a seamless customer experience:

1.  UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMER

It does indeed begin with the customer and end with the customer.  Businesses have to recognize the voice of their customer. This means getting to the core of how customers want to interact with you.

Start with understanding the composition of your customer base and its preferred way of communication. This process should typically include an analysis of your current customer base and your target customer base in 5 years.

Next, layer in external and internal data around your customer to help create meaningful customer profiles. This will help to predict how your customers might evolve in the next 2/3/5 years.

For example, according to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2013, over 70 percent of students today in the U.S. choose a mobile device as their preferred device for communication.  Students prefer chat, text or email over voice for a communication channel.  An education-based business should take their customer base information and consider the above as they begin to create an omni-channel strategy

Other current trends are insurance companies gearing toward more mobile interactions, while online retailers expect more social interactions than most other industries.  The manufacturing industry still has a need for customers to have deep technical conversations, so voice is still king in these highly detailed technical areas in the engagement center.

2.  UNDERSTAND YOUR BUSINESS AGILITY

Meeting customer expectations for an Engagement Center means analyzing and considering a combination of several business drivers:

Create one-source-of-truth solutions – To provide homogenous experiences across business units, across regions and across channels, agents in the Customer Engagement Center must have the ability to share customer data and record customer transactions across channels.  For a lot of businesses, this is step one in the journey toward a Customer Engagement Center.

People investments – As contact center solutions evolve, the workforce behind the new engagement center is the force driving this change.  Agents, supervisors, managers and directors now need to learn and understand new customer expectations as they handle emails and social collaboration sessions.  Responses that are acceptable in one channel may not be acceptable in the other.  Preparation of the workforce is a key driver of success when it comes to customer engagement centers.  Do not discount it as you work on our omni-channel strategy.

Find your pace of adoption – Understanding how your business will adopt to newer technologies is key.  Some organizations are fairly nimble and may be able to support three new channels – i.e. adding chat, email and social collaboration to voice – while others might not.  Businesses have limits and bounds to how quickly they can adapt to newer channels, and how intact the customer experience stays as we layer on new channels.  As part of creating a strategy for omni-channel, the optimal pace of adoption should be analyzed.  There must be a clearly defined approach around adoption strategies.

3.  THE STRATEGY

Armed with all the information, here we have arrived at that final step: THE OMNI-CHANNEL STRATEGY. The strategy must include the following:

Long-term roadmap – Aligning with the vision of the company, this long-term roadmap should include an end state customer experience statement.  This should typically span 1-3 years.  It should contain a high level prioritized list of business objectives/channels/devices/collaboration and CRM technology solutions based on the analysis above.  It should be optimized based on the trends and evolution of technologies in the customer collaboration space.

Short-term roadmap – This should cover a period of 3-12 months.  The short-term roadmap should typically include the addition of the channels with the most impact on the customer experience.  It should also be succinct and achievable.

With our business consultants and deep domain expertise across customer collaboration areas, CDW can assist with the creation of your roadmap to an omni-channel experience.

Layering our technical expertise around the Cisco Collaboration Suite of products and eGain suite of products, we can take your roadmap and make it a reality for your business.

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