The concept of omnichannel customer experience (CX) has been simplified over time. Many brands and customer support teams believe that omnichannel support is simply communicating with customers on every channel, but it’s much more than that. True omnichannel support ensures seamless transitions and consistent experiences from one channel to the next. Companies providing effective omnichannel support are collecting and harnessing the information gained through every interaction.
But the companies achieving this successful, relationship-building omnichannel customer experience are not doing it empty-handed. They’re utilizing the most impactful technology solutions to steer customer service and support with customer relationship management (CRM). The CRM is the heart of the omnichannel CX strategy by providing a centralized location in which to collect and access data from every customer interaction across every channel and with every agent. Without CRM to act as the data hub, customer service agents don’t have the essential context and history to provide optimal customer experience that doesn’t frustrate the customer by making them repeat themselves in different platforms to different representatives.
Let’s explore what is truly meant by omnichannel support, how to begin the transition to omnichannel support, obstacles to expect, and how to harness customer service and support in CRM.
What Is Omnichannel Customer Support?
Omnichannel support is providing consistent service across communication channels that allows one conversation to start where the other ends, no matter what channel a customer or agent is on. This customer service approach is mostly focused on integrating a collaborative and seamless transition of communication and brand consistency from one channel to the next. Having a customer support system whose channels speak to each other benefits both the customer, by creating a consistently great customer experience, and the support agent by streamlining the methods and interconnectedness of communication.
At the present, customer-to-brand communication, even through an organized CRM, is often disjointed and taxing on both sides. Omnichannel support helps resolve these issues, driving stronger, more meaningful customer relationships, increasing revenue streams, and improving operational performance. Omnichannel support is the future of customer service in CRM.
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Making the Transition to Omnichannel Support
Many brands may look at the benefits of an omnichannel support strategy and say, “OK, it’s time to make the move to omnichannel support.” But what comes next? Knowing where to start when making the transition to omnichannel support can be challenging and complicated.
Frequent and thorough training is arguably one of the most important steps toward making the transition to omnichannel support. Training all customer support agents to collect, access, and store information from every channel in a centralized location within your CRM is the key to providing an experience that is consistent, streamlined, and personalized for your customers.
Customer support under the omnichannel method is not only about being available — it’s about having every piece of information from every customer interaction on every channel available in the hub of your CRM. Without this core element in place, representatives from different silos are tasked with helping customers in different ways, only leading to confusion, repetition and frustration for both your team and your customers.
For example, if a customer calls about an issue with an order and later tweets the company about a delay and that information isn’t stored in a common location, it can cause agent collision — when different agents from different teams are unaware they’re fielding the same issue and offering different resolutions. As a result, the customer ends up confused and likely has to contact the company more often, repeating the same information to each new customer service agent and explaining the issue again and again.
Another important benefit of storing all channel information and customer engagement within the CRM is that it empowers representatives to solve issues with the essential context of the larger conversation. Communication methods can jump from social media to website live chat to email — it won’t hinder your representatives from being fully informed of the history of conversations. Training your team to access the omnichannel data for customer support in the CRM is crucial to ensuring that they can streamline the resolution process without making the customer explain their issue for a second and third time.
According to Kustomer research, 87% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact customer service on the channel they prefer. By training your team in omnichannel methods and customer service in the CRM, they can transform a simple customer service transaction into an ongoing conversation, therefore turning a problem into a relationship with the customer.
Balancing AI and Human Support
While the idea of omnichannel customer service and support through CRM is great, the execution requires a strategic balance of technological power and human know-how. Automation and AI are essential pieces of the puzzle, automating tedious and repetitive tasks such as data collection and organization and survey administration.
Intelligent automation can auto-populate useful data like contact information or tag conversations based on key factors like issue type or location. Allowing AI to automate tasks that don’t require a human touch, gives more time back to your agents for compassionately helping customers and providing the authentic and personalized customer experience that is essential to building customer relationships.
The concept of remote work is one that could effectively revolutionize the experience of customer service and support in CRM. Rather than subjecting customer service agents to near-overnight shifts that yield sloppy support, the shift to remote work provides essential comfort and flexibility that empower agents to perform their best work.
According to Kustomer research during COVID-19, 39% of CX professionals reported difficulty working remotely, and 23% reported that they did not have the correct tools in place to successfully work in a remote environment. Many organizations were not prepared to make the major transition to remote work, and this lack of preparedness has shown in the lack of resources for customer service employees working remotely.
It’s clear that even in a post-pandemic world, remote work is here to stay. According to PWC, 82% of office workers would prefer to continue working remotely, at least part of the time, even after COVID-19 has subsided. A whopping 73% of executives also say working remotely has been a success. That means it’s time to do away with quick fixes and transition to a long-term technology solution for your customer service agents in remote work environments.
Providing remote work opportunities for customer support teams not only benefits the agents but benefits the company, as well. There are more evident benefits, such as the reduced costs of office spaces and in-office perks. But a more prevalent benefit when it comes to customer service and support through CRM is that such a technical role requires a keen eye watching over the process and protocols. Remote work provides greater accessibility and a view into how your agents are performing and opportunities to optimize your omnichannel support workflows.
Hurdles to Overcome
Inevitably, as with any workflow or process transition, there are obstacles that will present themselves while perfecting your omnichannel support in CRM.
Fear of AI Takeover
Thanks to movies and media, there is a misconception of AI as the boogeyman taking over customer service jobs. In reality, brands will need to help customer service agents make the shift in their mindset about what their roles are as agents working alongside AI and automation.
The future of customer service in CRM allows agents to spend less time responding to inquiries and answering simple questions. Instead, they can spend more time tackling complex or consultative conversations that require the compassion and authenticity of the human touch.
Current customer support teams are not the only employees impacted by this mental shift. In order to ensure you are attracting the right talent to join the customer service team, brands will want to adjust the hiring process as well. Simple questions and answers and data entry will no longer be enough — you need agents with the problem-solving skills to work through the tough questions and the amiable personality to empathize with customers at every step of the customer journey.
Of course, the other side of the human-and-AI balancing act is having the right technology in place. In order to achieve an effective transition into omnichannel customer service and support in CRM, integrating the right technology to help agents solve difficult problems with the least amount of friction is essential.
The earlier customer service culture was ticket-centric; it was one that had simpler goals of issue resolution and green smiley faces. While resolving issues and collecting surveys with green smiles are all important parts of customer service, the omnichannel support culture is different. In the future, the brands that stand out are going to be the ones who treat customers like people, not tickets, using a more conversational approach to their interactions.
It’s important to help the overall customer service culture shift from a ticket-centric one to a customer-centric one. The process is no longer only about fixing a problem — it is about initiating and fostering a relationship with the customer. As we discussed earlier, omnichannel customer service and support through CRM may provide the tools to turn a one-off chat into a lasting relationship; but the tools can only take your brand so far without the culture and attitude to execute strategic relationship-building customer service.
For a true omnichannel support strategy, you need an omnichannel solution. The future of customer service in CRM exists within a unified, centralized hub to house all your customer data from every communication source, not only the data generated from customer conversations. It needs to be easily accessed by all customer service agents, regardless of any pre-existing silos that may separate them hierarchically. Very importantly, it needs to integrate seamlessly with your existing marketing technology stack, collecting and storing customer service data as it connects to every piece of the larger support puzzle.
CRM Benefits to Omnichannel Support
Customer service in CRM provides a central location for all customer data. As mentioned when discussing the culture shift, your CRM is essential to your omnichannel support strategy because it places the customer — not the brand — at the center of every interaction. By refocusing existing applications, business processes and performance on how they impact the experience of the customer, brands can deliver more personalized interactions, being aware of the full context and history of that customer and how they’ve interacted with the brand in the past.
The most effective customer service in CRM will leverage the most powerful and strategic technology. By harnessing AI and machine learning, customer service teams don’t have to choose between efficiency and impact but rather can save time and money while simultaneously providing exceptional experiences for their customers.
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