Customers expect the same experience every time they interact with a company — whether it be when researching a product, completing a sales transaction, or getting customer service — over all the communication channels that a company offers. They also expect companies to have an understanding of their past purchase history and prior interactions. Finally, customers further expect that each interaction with a company adds value to their prior interactions so that, for example, they do not have to repeat themselves to a customer service agent when being transferred or when migrating from one communication channel to another during a multistep interaction.

How many companies can deliver a consistent service experience in this scenario?

Three fundamental elements are needed to deliver a consistent customer experience across all communication channels:

  • A unified communications model. Companies need to queue, route, and work on every interaction over all communication channels in the same manner, following the company business processes that uphold its brand.
  • A unified view of the customer. Each agent needs to have a full view of all interactions that a customer has had over all supported communication channels so that the agent can build on the information and experience that has already been communicated to the customer.
  • Unified knowledge and data. Agents need to have access to the same knowledge and the same data across all communication channels so that they can communicate the same story to their customers.

Best-of-breed multichannel vendors such as eGain, RightNow, Moxie Software, and KANA Software have been delivering these three elements in robust solutions for the last decade for electronic channel management (e.g., email, chat, and SMS). Companies have historically managed the voice channel independently from electronic channels. This is because the agents fielding electronic interactions are typically organizationally siloed from voice agents, and the core technology is not integrated. However, to deliver on the promise of consistent customer experiences, this model must now be extended to encompass all communication channels: voice, electronic, and social.

These best-of-breed multichannel vendors are extending their models to encompass voice and social channels; unified communications vendors such as Cisco, Genesys, and Avaya are also  embracing this model and have developed robust chat and email solutions. These solutions use the same routing and queuing model for voice and electronic interactions. In addition, a single agent desktop allows all of these interactions to be managed in a consistent manner, enhancing productivity as agents no longer have to juggle between disconnected systems to find the information they are looking for.

This focus on consistency continues; for example, last week Avaya announced their release of the Aura Contact Center 6.2 which, among other enhancements, allows agents to respond to social media inquiries from Facebook and Twitter directly from the desktop that they use to manage voice and electronic inquiries. It will be an interesting battle to watch as these unified communications players move into the space that has historically been owned by multichannel vendors.