Customer support goes 'omnichannel'

12 Apr 2016

As featured in DisruptiveViews

It wasn’t that long ago that when a customer needed to contact their phone company the only choices available were to write to them or call the customer support ‘hotline’. The only thing hot about that line was often the customer’s temper at having to wait their turn for a long period of time, having to cope with an inane IVR system or trying to understand the accent of the service rep locate in a foreign, lower-cost country.

My, how things have changed since the advent of the internet and the smartphone. Now customers expect to be able to have their issue resolved immediately through the use of an app or a browser, but the experience is not always consistent or seamless and the result can be an irate customer that simply uses the same tools to find another supplier of service.

Realizing just how critical this has become has led to a number of leading entities in the customer service space to get together to come up with a new and better way to manage the customer’s support expectations – and the technology being perceived will benefit all industry sectors.

The term ‘omnichannel’ has been adopted to describe a consistently good, seamless experience across all customer contact channels, regardless of the channel type or time of use. Ideally, this puts the customer in charge, within a guided journey, to provide a stress-free, intuitive and consistently good customer experience regardless of the channel used. The customer should be able to choose their preferred channels and change channels at any time. They should also be able interrupt and resume a session regardless of time, delay or channel choice.

These very features are the objective of a TM Forum Catalyst project called APPEX Omnichannel that will be featured at the TM Forum Live! event in Nice in May.

The ‘APPEX’ stands for Adaptive Predictive Personalized Experience eXcellence. The catalyst’s objectives are to create an agile omnichannel management framework, that supports business goals and is flexible and open to all current and future omnichannel ecosystem participants.

Championing this Catalyst is the Vodafone Group supported by Huawei as project leader and a star-studded team of participants that include Celebrus (providing analysis of user touch point from web sites and applications); ESRI (specialist in rich location data feeds); NTS (specialist in retail point of sale technology, digital marketing and customer management); Sedicii (providing unique, secure one-time user authentication); and Sigma (providing catalog-driven offer and order management).

This Catalyst follows on from one that initially addressed customer acquisition, care and retention as priorities in use case development. The APPEX Omnichannel Catalyst scope includes the full end-to-end customer journey including the buy, use and evaluate phases. All channels are in the scope, including new digital channels such as social media, web chats etc.

The use cases developed to date are designed to reduce customers’ stress by eliminating multiple authentications and multiple agent hand-offs, the need to restate the problem and so on, so we can focus on solving customers’ problems or queries with the right solution during their first contact in any channel.

Personalization is a key component of the APPEX Omnichannel solution; for example, in creating offers to acquire or retain customers and during care interactions with them. To do this, it leverages powerful personalization capabilities based on persona-driven, real-time analytics and persistent customer information to infer intent and generate next best actions. This will enable reduced response times and deliver right-first-time responses to change potentially negative interactions into positive experiences and outcomes.

The APPEX Omnichannel operations are unique as they exploit those customer personas or behavioral data, and correlate data from multiple sources within the analytics engine to generate compelling offers or personalized next best actions to greatly improve customers’ experience.

How better to create opportunities that aim to surprise and delight customers, by converting potentially negative interactions such as seeking help, complaints or customer care enquiries into positive outcomes for both parties?

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