What is a Multichannel Contact Center?
As a modern business, you're likely to engage with customers across multiple platforms. A multichannel contact center is a software solution that unifies your customer-facing communication channels into one application. From voice calls and email to web chat, SMS texting, video meetings, and social media, this tool allows your agents to switch between channels according to customer preferences.
Your multichannel contact center dashboard, equipped with AI support, analytics, workflow automations, and collaboration tools, offers a comprehensive view of customer interactions. This ability to have all communication channels and customer information in one place enables seamless customer service, allowing your agents to pick up where their teammates left off.
Advantages of a Multichannel Contact Center
A multichannel contact center can bring numerous benefits to an organization. These platforms unify a company's customer-facing communication channels like voice, email, web chat, SMS texting, video meetings, and social media into a single application, which makes it easier for agents to switch between these channels according to the customer's preference.
This flexibility allows for better customer service, as the agent can continue a conversation even if the channel changes. This might involve flipping from a phone call to a video call, or sending a real-time SMS while on a call. These systems typically store customer profiles and journey histories, enabling agents to share a view of the customer's experience, so teammates can pick up where each other left off.
Multichannel contact centers usually provide agents with a dashboard that offers various support tools. These might include live and historical analytics, workflow automations, software integrations, internal collaboration tools, and other AI-based capabilities that can improve efficiency and the customer experience.
Key Communication Channels in a Multichannel Contact Center
A well-equipped multichannel contact center includes six key communication channels:
- Phone (VoIP Telephony): A fundamental tool for personalized customer interactions, VoIP telephony offers unlimited calling capabilities for both inbound and outbound interactions. Features such as advanced call routing, queueing, and auto dialers enhance the calling experience.
- SMS Text Messaging: Your agents can send and receive SMS and MMS text messages from the dashboard. Integration with CRM applications and automated triggers opens up possibilities for automated chatbots, bulk texts, appointment confirmations, and more.
- Email: By linking a company email to the contact center account, your agents can manage emails directly from the dashboard. Email can also be used for automated tasks like sending out bulk emails or promotions.
- Web Chat and Chatbots: Embed instant messaging into your website or mobile app for real-time customer interaction. Advanced features allow you to build a chatbot that can help solve basic customer queries or route customers to the right agent.
- Social Media: Engage with customers via popular social media channels. Some contact center solutions offer social monitoring capabilities to track and respond to company-related posts and messages on social platforms.
- Video Conferencing: A tool for more personalized and face-to-face interaction with customers.
Essential Features of a Multichannel Contact Center
- Agent Multichannel Dashboard: A dashboard interface where agents can access all their communication channels, call logs, collaboration tools, and reports within a click or two. This central hub helps agents stay up-to-date on their tasks and provides immediate access to customer journey history and other support-related tools9.
- Multichannel Routing and IVR: Built-in automatic call distribution (ACD) technology routes queries across all channels to the best-suited agent. Interactive voice response (IVR) menus and chatbots can guide customers to the appropriate service based on their inputs.
- Call Queueing: This feature groups agents into distinct queues that place callers on waiting lists based on when they called. Agents or supervisors can monitor their queues from the dashboard, gaining insights into customer wait times and expected service times.
How to Set Up a Multichannel Contact Center
Setting up a multichannel contact center involves a few key steps:
- Choose the Right Software: There are various software providers for multichannel contact centers. You should select a solution that offers the communication channels your customers use most, such as voice, email, web chat, SMS texting, video meetings, and social media.
- Integrate with Existing Systems: Most of these software solutions can be integrated with your existing CRM, analytics, and other business systems. Integration ensures that customer data is seamlessly passed between systems for a comprehensive view of customer interactions.
- Configure Communication Channels: Each communication channel needs to be configured correctly. This could include setting up VoIP telephony for voice calls, connecting your business email, integrating your social media accounts, and more.
- Set Up Routing Rules: Set up rules for automatically routing customer queries to the right agent or department. This could be based on the type of query, the customer's preferred communication channel, or the skills of your agents.
- Train Your Team: Your team should be trained on how to use the multichannel contact center software, including how to switch between channels and how to access customer profiles and journey histories.
The Challenges that Multichannel Contact Centers Face
However, setting up and managing a multichannel contact center is not without its challenges. While I wasn't able to pull a quote on this, some common challenges include:
- Data Silos: Without proper integration, data can become siloed within each communication channel, making it difficult to get a comprehensive view of customer interactions.
- Agent Training: Agents need to be comfortable using all the different communication channels and need to be trained on how to switch between them seamlessly.
- Complexity: Managing multiple communication channels can be complex and can require significant resources to ensure all channels are adequately staffed and managed.
- Customer Expectations: Customers expect a seamless experience across all channels, which can be difficult to achieve.
In conclusion, a multichannel contact center is an advanced software solution that unifies a company's customer-facing communication channels, including voice, email, web chat, SMS texting, video meetings, and social media. It allows customer service agents to switch between channels as per the customer's preference and provides a holistic view of the customer's journey.
This system is typically part of a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) platform, which features a user-friendly dashboard, live and historical analytics, workflow automation, software integrations, internal collaboration tools, and other AI-based capabilities. Key features include an agent multichannel dashboard, multichannel routing and IVR, call queueing, auto dialer, AI support and automation, analytics and monitoring, and third-party app integrations.
The five top providers of multichannel contact center software as of 2023 are RingCentral Contact Center, Five9, Genesys Cloud, NICE inContact CXone, and Talkdesk. All of these solutions provide robust feature sets that include most or all of the key features mentioned above.
However, the best choice of software depends on the specific needs and budget of the organization. Therefore, it's essential to conduct thorough research and possibly trial different options before making a final decision.