Optichannel – Omni-channel’s sensible big brother
I’m one of those sad Technology Journalists that gets excited when a new term pops up in the industry. So, when Mike Wheadon, Business Development Director at Formation Tech, suggested we had a chat around OptiChannel contact centres, I bit his hand off. My first question was the obvious one.
What IS an OptiChannel contact centre?
The premise of OptiChannel is optimal channels. Multichannel and omni-channel have been around for several years now and multiple channels can be filtered through to a contact centre. Mike told me about some stats that Avaya had produced with IDC that ultimately resulted in opening up all channels to a business doesn’t mean all customers will use them.
“The idea of optichannel is asking what is the task that you are trying to achieve with your customer?” Mike gave me the example where he is a customer of a business that implemented email and web chat into their contact centre – and removed their telephone number. When you’re on the move or in a hurry, the voice channel is still important. They may have utilised omni-channel but it’s certainly not optimal.
“Optichannel is finding the optimal channel for the task at hand”
Mike also referenced Amazon’s lack of web chat. They’ve clearly strategised that most customers want to order via self-service or email when there is a problem. Amazon are no longer dictating the channels available to the customer. They have worked out what their customers want and been flexible to provide a better customer experience.
“Self-service is king, and people will do what they can themselves. When they need help, it needs to be the optimal channel, not just what’s available”.
Voice is still the most active channel
Mike told me that querying bills is split across voice, email and web chat. However, service queries still favour voice as it needs that personal and human touch.
I asked Mike if it was just customer perception that voice is better because the technology doesn’t work as well as it should? He said it was definitely an assumption.
“Naturally, you assume this as a consumer. I think certain things you accept will be slower. Phoning utility companies comes with the stigma of waiting forever so I’d opt for web chat. I can wait on a web chat whilst doing something else instead of waiting on hold with the phone in my hand”.
Delivering optichannel contact centres
I asked Mike how prescriptive you can get when delivering an optichannel contact centre. Mike explained its more around the way you design the contact centre.
“Just because you heard the term omni-channel doesn’t mean you have to use everything. What are you doing as a business? Do you provide customer care? Are you a transactional business?”
Analysing web traffic, for example, is a starting block for designing an optimal channel contact centre. Finding out why customers are contacting you and where is crucial when designing a businesses next contact centre. Based on data, task analysis and research, Formation Tech is designing what type of contact centre is required on a case by case basis.
I asked Mike what sort of tasks were involved with finding the optimal channels in a new contact centre solution. “It goes down to a granular level. If you have a website but nobody can find your information, you need to sort your website out and maybe move your web chat to the top or get it to proactively pop up so people can find you”.
I referenced my consultancy background where requirements gathering took almost forever. The process of capturing and validating requirements is long and laborious, but ultimately, nobody could tell you why they needed certain functionality.
Mike referenced mystery-shopping style insights leveraged from spending some time getting to know a customer’s business before recommending what is required. This was refreshing to hear so I dug deeper and mentioned other contact centre providers advertising how many channels they could provide and how often people take all the channels – rather than the process they took to get there.
Mike said “Almost anyone can provide the technical functionality. Compare any market leading contact centre vendors and they can generally do the same thing. But the real question should be what are you getting the tech to do?”
Ultimately, anybody can provide the technology but how you manipulate it to serve a business best is where you introduce the optichannel element. Unless you implement the contact centre correctly, you could go and buy any product.
Add value to your contact centre
Taking the Genesys vs Avaya comparison, I asked Mike about the case of Avaya vs Avaya.
“We see it time and time again. With all sorts of solutions, people say that have loads of issues.”
“You can go in and amend the customers call flow or IVR, but if you don’t step back and ask why you are building this call flow – and what are you trying to achieve from it – there’s no value in your contact centre”
I asked Mike what happens after Q1 of deployment to see what happens as things change. “It’s important at implementation to establish 5-10 top objectives. In 6 months or so, review the objectives and see if you’ve ticked them all off. Once you’ve understood why these things haven’t happened, and remedied or parked, you can start to plan the next step”.
Adjusting and fine tuning needs to be constant when managing a contact centre. Businesses need to keep themselves honest when it comes to what they plan to and succeed in deploying. Mike said you can literally go in and look at what’s being used in the contact centre. This data and analytics should be used to drive business decisions. Once used, the remit falls outside of the IT Manager role as the conversation becomes about upselling, increasing ROI or improving customer experience.
The gaping hole where IT and “the business” cross over in – enterprises and small businesses alike – is where Formation Tech can plug the gap. This is where vendors can truly differentiate themselves by either proving an omni-channel contact centre or an optichannel contact centre. One of Formations business strap lines is ‘in a world of technology people make the difference’. This core to everything they do, and it is in fact also true for the user of the technology, both the agent and customer alike.
To kickstart your optichannel contact centre journey, assuming you don’t want to settle for just procuring omni-channel, visit the Formation Tech website.
Originally published in UC Today on 15th March 2019.