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The Future of Customer Service: Omnichannel at the Edge

By Al Castle, vice president of engineering and products at Flowroute, now part of Intrado

In recent months, we've seen a spike in the global demand for delivery and drive-up services due to the number of consumers staying home. As a result, companies have pivoted to offer online ordering and curbside pickup to streamline the process and limit face-to-face contact. As businesses are adapting their standard operations, they are laser focused on maintaining strong connections with their customers. Companies that figure out how to adapt and incorporate new technology will experience success now and in the future.

One way to stay connected to customers is by implementing an omnichannel communications strategy. Omnichannel communications refer to creating a singular experience for consumers across all communications channels (i.e. phone, SMS, online, chat, email, etc.) and touchpoints. Each of these channels are connected and integrated into existing services to provide a seamless customer experience, no matter when and where they interact with a business.

Omnichannel communications strategies help companies own the micro-moments that drive today's purchases and customer retention. A survey by Aspect Software indicated that businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91 percent greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses that don't.

Customers may have several experiences with a brand along their journey and before they make a purchase decision. These experiences toggle between online interactions and shopping in-person. These micro-moments are the hallmark of the digitally connected consumer age and it's critical that companies connect each touch point together and offer seamless transitions of service. Integrating agile telephony services within omnichannel customer communications personalize, simplify and connect the points of direct engagement to create a single, consistent conversation.

Delivering omnichannel communications in this way is the essence of omnichannel "at the edge" customer engagement. For background, omnichannel at "the edge" means giving end users the ability to communicate with company employees through every phase of the customer experience and via their preferred channel of communication. For example, calling and messaging options should both be available in a company's mobile app or website. That way, if a customer receives a text from the business with a call to action, they can easily reply to the text or call a number provided to answer the question. Omnichannel at the edge ensures the transitions and transactions throughout the customer journey are smooth and successful.

As we move into the future of customer service at a distance, businesses can take advantage of telecom APIs to power their omnichannel strategies. Telecom APIs operate behind the scenes to add calling and messaging functionality directly to existing apps, tools, or platforms. Telecom APIs also facilitate contextual communication experiences, which are especially useful for contact centers, as contact centers power the success of omnichannel offerings by allowing the customer to contact support at any time or place. Omnichannel contact centers let agents switch between channels from one user interface, without losing context from customer interactions across all other channels. For example, if a customer had been chatting online with a chatbot and then calls in to the call center to talk with a representative, the representative can access the online conversation history. This approach allows consumers to have a personalized brand experience as content is optimized for each channel and device.

Telecom APIs can also support customer service at a distance by delivering reminders and alerts. Reminders are useful in a variety of industries. One familiar use case is grocery pickup. Grocery shoppers can select their groceries online and choose a pickup date that works with their schedule. They can also opt-in to receive text or email alerts as their pickup time approaches, so they know when their order is ready or if there were any complications or delays. Alerts are also useful for medical appointments, prescription refills, insurance policy renewal, car maintenance, hair appointments or a wide variety of other appointments. Real-time updates and alerts play a large role in the success of omnichannel communications strategies because they facilitate the connection end users demand using the channel they prefer. At the same time, text alerts ensure the requested service or product is on time and meeting customer expectations.

As countries and states begin to reopen, businesses need to determine how to shift their strategies to be profitable, but also be safe and keep people healthy. Decision makers can leverage cloud-based communication tools such as telecom APIs to create and maintain omnichannel customer support, and ultimately strengthen and modernize customer relationships and improve revenue opportunities to help them stay in business.

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About the Author

Al Castle 

Al Castle is the vice president of product and engineering at Flowroute, now part of Intrado. He brings more than 15 years of operational experience in software engineering and B2B SaaS platform management.

Published Tuesday, May 26, 2020 7:37 AM by David Marshall
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