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IVRs Get Set for the Omnichannel Challenge

Enterprises are making progress toward getting different channels to fit together, but a lot more work remains
By Paul Korzeniowski - Posted Jun 14, 2016
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Consumers do not see corporate communication channels and departments as distinct and autonomous entities but rather as pieces in a cohesive whole. More customers expect the company representative to know who they are, their history with the firm, why they are calling, and most importantly how to help them.

In the past few years, businesses have been revamping their organization so they operate in an omnichannel manner. Enterprises have been buying new software apps, integrating different systems, breaking down departmental barriers, and revamping business processes. Some progress has been made; for instance, the buying experience in a store has become similar to online transactions, and customers often have the option of obtaining their merchandize in the store or having it shipped.

Yet a lot more work remains because the to-do list is quite lengthy. Corporations need to bring their interactive voice response (IVR) solutions squarely into the omnichannel experience, revamp other touch points, extend the reach of their system end points, rewrite business processes, and train employees. “With omnichannel deployments, there are no silver bullets,” says Phil Gray, executive vice president of business development at Interactions. “These projects are multiyear endeavors; they are not something that can be put in place in six months.”

Remove Frustration and Create Cohesion

Time is needed because the process involves dramatic and far-reaching restructurings. Currently, consumers interact with a series of autonomous applications and company representatives. For instance, a customer starts with a salesperson at a retail store working with an order entry application; calls a person from the billing department who works with another system; and ends up in the contact center, where a third employee uses a different solution. The consumer sees one entity and expects an integrated experience, but the employees are familiar with only their slice of the pie and have limited (and oftentimes no) visibility into the other systems. As a result, a great deal of frustration arises for both the consumer and employees.

Addressing these limitations requires a cohesive approach. Data from the various channels has to be consolidated. The autonomous applications need to be integrated; for instance, tried-and-true voice channels have to be tied to new customer service avenues, such as chat and social media. The end goal is for all employees in every area of the business to have seamless, consistent access to client information, regardless of which channel generated it.

To make the transformation, companies have to invest significant dollars in applications, integration, and new business processes. So why should they take on all of that heavy lifting?

Once the process is complete, businesses can engage consumers in an intelligent, relevant, timely, and seamless way across all channels. They can deliver the right information to the right place, at the right time, to meet the consumer’s demands. Organizations can provide a real-time response to consumer demand or preference changes based on data analysis. Finally, the new system provides information and guidance to assist the consumer in making the best possible decisions and enables the firm to deliver the best possible service.

Business Benefits

The mobile device revolution has swept the planet, yet organizations are still struggling to best utilize all of the devices’ technologies. Because a customer or prospect can talk, touch, and type on smartphones, they open up new and more valuable ways in which an organization can engage someone. People can surf the Web, select options via their touchscreen, read and respond to emails, watch a video, interact via chat, and talk on the phone. Connecting these communication channels can benefit an organization in myriad ways.

Customer satisfaction improves because companies are not tied to rigid, segmented business processes and can personalize interactions. The business delivers personalized information that most interests the consumer rather than generic material that is hit or miss.

Businesses engage with their customers more effectively. They service their customers via the modalities they feel more comfortable with. This accelerates resolution times and lowers operating costs.

Omnichannel solutions should increase sales. An organization that lowers its customers’ effort and personalizes their interactions can accelerate sales.

Vendors can manage their inventory more effectively. They can order, ship, and deliver out-of-stock products from in store, another store, or a warehouse. They can automate inventory and replenishment and use historical demand to meet seasonal and casual spikes for the entire company or specific locations.

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