Multi-channel contact centre or Multichannel (jury is out on that one) technology in a contact centre environment simply means the contact centre can handle customer enquiries over different communication channels on the same technology platform.
Communication channels can be phone, email, SMS, live chat, Facebook etc – essentially all the different ways customers can interact with your business.
Think of it like opening a block of Cadbury Snack chocolate – there are lots of options to choose from and we all have our preferences.
From strawberry, pineapple, caramel and even that disgusting Turkish Delight, there are lots of flavours to choose from.
Swap up out the yummy fillings for phone, email, live chat, video, Social Media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter etc) SMS etc and that’s essentially what multi-channel is – the vast majority of communication channels that customers can interact with your business on.
They just pick their preferred method.
Continuing on with the Snack chocolate analogy (I know, I have issues…) true multichannel contact centre technology means even though there are different flavours, you only buy the one block of chocolate. As you’ll read below, many contact centres may offer different channels but they are all managed from different technology platforms. In other words, a separate block of caramel chocolate a separate block of pineapple chocolate and so on.
How to Manage Multi-Channel in a call centre
So we’ve established that a customer can contact you via multiple channels. Awesome.
But how do you actually manage that?
When you don’t really have a ‘Multi-Channel’ contact centre
For a lot of contact centres, they are mostly pretty good with managing phone calls.
The contact centre technology enables them to queue calls, allocate them to the right agents, perhaps record calls etc.
But for the other channels…
Emails are handled through Outlook, Facebook enquiries are managed directly on Facebook, Live Chat has its own technology software program, Twitter is managed on the Twitter company page etc.
You essentially have all these different technology programs that agents need to log in and out of depending on what channel they are working on.
That is NOT a multi-channel contact centre.
That is a modern-day mess! Reporting is disparate, agents are unproductive and its not good for your customers.
The real multi-channel contact centre
You may have guessed it already, a real multi-channel contact centre is when a call centre agent can manage ALL the channels from the same software.
The contact centre technology will allocate a call, email, tweet, Live chat conversation directly to an agent and ideally not all at the same time!
Of course, you can set all of those things up in your settings.
Which agents can receive what types enquiries, when to route live chat to them over emails, which channel gets priority, how many live chats can one agent concurrently manage and so on.
What’s the difference between Omnichannel and multi-channel technology?
Think of multi-channel as very discrete channels.
If a customer comes in via Live Chat, they get allocated to an agent until a resolution is achieved.
But what if the conversation becomes quite complex and eventually, the conversation needs to move to the telephone?
In a multi-channel environment those channels aren’t integrated, so in this example, the agent would need to end the live chat and then manually call the customer to continue the conversation.
Or worse, the customer will have to call back in and then most likely get a different agent (the one that handles calls, not Live Chat) and then have to repeat all the information.
With omnichannel technology it makes no difference, all the customer information, previous interactions with your business etc is immediately available to any call centre agent so the conversation can easily move between channels resulting in a much better customer experience.
Omnichannel technology done properly has ALL information about the customer including transactions, what pages they visited on the website, when they were last in-store, outstanding sales orders or enquiries, last agent they spoke to etc.
I’m yet to see many call centres (and by default the entire business) have a fully functional omnichannel environment.
More importantly, though I’m still trying to work out why Cadbury Snack has the Turkish Delight flavour?
That’s just gross.