4 Things to Avoid When Crafting Omnichannel Experiences
By Kolby Harvey, PhD, Chief of Content
First impressions matter, especially in customer service interactions. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about front ends, specifically what makes for a good front-end experience with contact centers. In the digital age, the phrase “front end” takes on new meaning. What once referred to face-to-face interactions at a physical location (i.e. a store), now encompasses an array of communication methods—long-distance conversations between customers and agents (both human and digital) across multiple channels (email, chat windows, phones, etc.). In a way, what we think of today as the front end of contact centers is really a collection of different front ends, ideally all working together to craft a complete customer service experience. A messy, unintegrated front end, one that does not allow for contact across its different channels, can sour users on your brand by confusing them, overwhelming them, or, worst of all, forcing them to repeat questions (or entire conversations!) to different agents. Today’s user both needs and demands integrated service experiences that spans multiple channels. In the words of Stephen Drees (in a recent article for The Financial Brand), “If your brand cannot engage consumers when and where they want, you don’t even have a chance.”
A successful front end comes down to whether or not you’ve implemented a true omnichannel system. If you’re not familiar with the term, it might bring to mind some kind of all-encompassing digital morass, with old and new channels of communication grafted onto one another to form a confusing, labyrinthine whole. The reality of what a true omnichannel system is and does proves much more pleasant. Essentially, what makes a system omnichannel is the ways in which different communication methods work together to create a consistent, unified customer experience. Here, the barriers between channels are rendered permeable, so that both customer and contact center are able to track interactions across channels to save time, prevent repetition, and better address customer needs. We’ve all experienced the frustration of explaining the same problem to three different people on the phone and feeling no closer to a solution. Think of omnichannel systems as a front end to the multiple front ends I described earlier, a framework that binds these disparate elements together and helps them communicate with one another.
An essential part of the omnichannel front end described above involves using AI deliberately and, pardon the pun, intelligently. Here are few things we recommend avoiding when crafting an omnichannel experience for your customers:
Few things are more frustrating than a bot that can’t keep up with your conversation. Make sure your chatbots guide users from one question to the next, rather than having them drop dead-end answers like bird scat.
Bots as Contact Pages
Customers expect omnichannel services and all the perks that come with them. Basically, people like choosing when to engage brands and how. Having a bot as one way of getting in touch with your organization is a great idea. Having that be the only choice and ignoring more traditional methods of getting in touch? Not so much.
Now that Siri, Alexa, and other bots are household names, you can’t afford to put a clunky bot in front of your customers. Go the extra mile to ensure that its utterances feel natural and human. The effort will pay off, we promise.
Robotic-sounding Voice Solutions
Again, you have to assume that the vast majority of your customers interact with conversational AI entities on a (near) daily basis. Recall that Siri was technically in beta for years after its release and benefitted from millions of users providing, more or less, 24/7 feedback. This is the game your voice services have to play up to, so make sure they are of sufficient quality.
The core ideas of the omnichannel approach—removing boundaries, streamlining processes, recognizing the needs of both agents and customers—are also at the heart of what we do at InfinitAI. We believe in using AI smartly, not because it’s “the next big thing,” but because it has the potential to, when deployed carefully, revolutionize customer service interactions. Many companies have successfully utilized AI and chatbots in their customer service platforms (e.g. automated shopping assistants), but what we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. Really, setting up an decent front end with omnichannel capabilities, is a great first step, but it’s also the bare minimum. We hope the information in this piece will be helpful to organizations thinking about omnichannel systems, but we don’t want you to stop there. Earlier this week, Google claimed to have achieved quantum supremacy in a recent experiment.1 While this technology won’t make its way into our day-to-day lives for some time, it does herald big changes (even bigger ones than we’ve been used to!) on the horizon. Now is a time to remember there’s always room for improvement. Instead of resting on your laurels, refine your systems and your ideas about what those systems can be. We’re always here to help out along the way.
Kolby Harvey, PhD
Chief of Conversation
Kolby is a writer, designer, and artist living in Washington state. In 2018, he earned the University of Colorado’s first creative doctorate in Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance.