Optichannel: the future of the contact centre?

First there was multichannel. Then came omnichannel. Now, businesses are realising the best results come when you offer the right contact option at the right time. It’s all about optichannel…

In 2010, the Harvard Business Review published an article with a headline that stopped marketers in their tracks: Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.

Wait. What? This flew against all the prevailing wisdom. Aren’t businesses supposed to be going the extra mile to stand out against the competition?


No, said the HBR. If you want to build loyalty, don’t focus on delighting customers. Focus instead on making their lives easier.


The authors came to this conclusion after running a study with the Customer Contact Council. It questioned more than 75,000 people who had interacted with contact centre agents or through self-service channels such as the web, voice, chat, and e-mail.


The research revealed that the best way to make customers loyal was not to ‘go the extra mile’ but to help them solve their problems quickly and easily.


Although this article was published eleven years ago, many businesses have not heeded its message. In fact, it’s likely the problem has got worse.


Why? Because today, we live in an ‘omnichannel’ world. Contact Centre tech is now within reach of mid-sized businesses. Everyone can have a contact centre and offer customers a choice of web chat, voice, SMS bot, social, e-mail and more. But this array of options makes it too tempting for businesses to roll out the full range of channels and say to customers: go on, take your pick.


That does not help them solve their problems quickly. The opposite, in fact.


That’s why we need to stop obsessing over omnichannel.


Instead, we should be thinking about optichannel.


What is optichannel? It’s the practice of configuring your customer service around the channels that do the best job of serving your customers’ disparate needs – then nudging them towards the routes that solve their problems fastest. In other words, the optimal channel.


Let’s take a simple example. Say the majority of your customer queries are based around technical questions. In most cases, people could get to the answer quickest with a web FAQ. However, your system routes these queries to human agents. This is an ineffective and costly set up. You need a re-think.


Clearly, different channels have different strengths. For example, a text works well when a message is short and urgent. SMS has a 98 per cent open rate. Email can’t compare with this, but it’s far better for information that needs to be referenced later (receipts etc). Neither can offer the nuanced interaction of a call.


You should consider all these strengths and weaknesses when you configure your contact centre strategy. It’s what the giants do. Look at Amazon. The world’s biggest online retailer doesn’t offer web chat in all territories. It has strategised that most customers want to order via self-service or email when there is a problem.


You should do the same. Apart from anything else, it will teach you important lessons about your business.

To answer these questions resources takes data, task analysis and research. This is where Formation can help. We have the tools and the experience to investigate your business. We can then show how best to allocate resources and build in ‘nudges’ that will solve your customers’ problems fastest.


And because we offer ‘contact centre in the cloud’ solutions, you won’t have to re-configure your comms from scratch to put these changes into practice. Our cloud platform lets you simply turn on and off the various channel options. No tin to install or rip out.


Needless to say, this adjusting and fine-tuning process needs to be on-going. You should look constantly at how your customers engage with your contact centre. And you should use this insight to shape your business decisions on an ongoing basis.


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