Chatbots And The OmniChannel Contact Center

Chatbots Are Everywhere

It feels like business owners everywhere are talking about chatbots. Contact centers are incorporating more technology and tools designed to improve the efficiency and quality of the customer experience. Whether driven by robots or humans, our interactions with contact centers are moving from telephone calls to web-based rich-text chat sessions.

An omnichannel contact center strategy is based on the premise that clients need to interact with companies via multiple unique platforms. Some may prefer telephone calls, others might be more prone to chat online, and a few may also use email. But what happens when the same customer uses different ways of accessing the company? A prospect could find what they’re searching for on a company’s website, initiate a discussion using chat, and complete their purchase by means of a telephone call.

The Omnichannel Contact Center World

The most common form of text is SMS. In the business context, it’s also referred to as A2P SMS, or “application to person SMS,” in which a contact center sends an SMS message to a client telling them about a sale or the status of their latest call.

Even though SMS is everywhere, it may not be the ideal option. SMS can be costly and restricted. It limits characters used to deliver a message and can only use text. There are less opportunities for branding.

Chat Widgets and Mobile Apps

We have seen websites adding chat widgets within the last ten years or so. These allow website visitors to have a dialogue with the company. Oftentimes, businesses use chat widgets for both sales and support functions. Application developers have enhanced chat widgets as time went on, allowing smarter interactions via machine learning, images, and links, in addition to the integration of video and voice calling via WebRTC or callback systems.

There are additional trends we’re seeing with chat including marketing automation, segmenting website traffic, and automatically launching conversations. The contact center is moving from solely a sales and support function toward sales and marketing.

Some businesses have taken this a step further by allowing direct conversations using self-service applications. This works somewhat like a chat bot on an internet website. On websites, businesses may also add video and voice calling in addition to rich text messages.

Multiple messaging platforms currently offer APIs to connect with chatbots. And these APIs are designed and constructed to allow companies to connect with their clients in their platform or social network of choice.  Examples include Facebook Messenger, We Chat, Skype and Slack.  This is a win from the perspective of client service.  Clients are more comfortable using their current messaging apps and tend to be there anyway, so by connecting where they are, companies make it easier for clients to communicate with them.  And when it comes to social networks, taking advantage of platforms that already have billions of users simply makes sense.

Apple and Google haven’t quite yet caught up with this trend, although Apple is closer with its Apple Business Chat.

How Can Your Business Take Advantage Of These Omnichannel Contact Center Trends?

There is really one simple consideration and that is to communicate with your customers where they are: by telephone, on your website, in your apps, on social networks, and anywhere else they will go next.

Each one of these channels has APIs which firms will need to utilize. A number of these channels are easy to connect with, while some are more complex.

When companies undertake a plan for becoming omnichannel, each of these channels will continue to change and your integrations must keep up.  This includes maintaining your code and tools.

Implementing CPaaS

Another consideration in creating an omnichannel communication platform would be to utilize communication platform as a service, also referred to as CPaaS.  Previously this focused on SMS, voice and video, potentially with IP messaging but CPaaS is now a key component of an omnichannel contact center strategy.   We’re seeing the rise of declarative APIs which focus the platform to take very specific actions.  The platform determines the optimal communication channel depending on the desired outcome.

Social networks are also opening up their APIs more which presents greater opportunities for seamless communication where customers are most comfortable communicating.  This can take advantage of built in features such as notifications.  Since most contact center software doesn’t connect out-of-the-box with messaging services, some work is typically required to set this up, but the result is worth it.

Customers expect to communicate with your business at a time and place that is most convenient to them.  They also expect a seamless experience with you regardless of whether they pick up the phone, text or email with you.  As such, moving to an omnichannel contact center strategy is a key component to not only achieving your business growth, but to customer retention.

Confused about where to start?  Contact us today for a no obligation business review.

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