The first statistic I saw from a new report into US and UK contact centres by the research company ContactBabel is staggering.

Only 12% of the public actually want to use the phone as their primary channel for customer service.

This is striking because in terms of volume, the voice-based contact centre is still extremely important.

But the underlying message is clear: customers expect flexibility and do not want to be marshalled into a single channel.

This implies that multichannel service options are important to offer, but as the report highlights, there are several ways of defining how a contact centre manages multiple channels:

  • Multichannel: offering a variety of different communication channels to customers.
  • Multimodal: offering multiple channels that can be used simultaneously for the same query.
  • Omnichannel: offering multimodal service, but additionally with a complete history of interactions offering a single view of all interactions with this customer.

Naturally, if contact centre managers are asked to self-assess where they are in this evolution they tend to inflate their capabilities. Those supporting multiple channels will often say that they are omnichannel-enabled even if they don’t really manage to connect everything together.

But there is some agreement on the main obstacles to achieving success and achieving full omnichannel support from the support team. The top three barriers to supporting the omnichannel are:

  1. No technology in place to enable this level of connected support – impossible to get a single view of the customer.
  2. Business itself is siloed and does not share information.
  3. No budget available for change.

Clearly if there is no budget available then the executive team are not taking the omnichannel seriously enough and the lack of technology is directly linked to providing budget. Ensuring data can flow within the organisation is more strategic and may involve changing corporate structures. If the business sits in silos and is not used to sharing information then change will involve more than just rolling out some new software.

But the first statistic I mentioned from the ContactBabel research shows why this is essential. If 9 out of 10 consumers now expect choice in the channels they use then this is now a key competitive differentiator. If your competition offers flexible support across multiple channels then they can probably charge more than you and still get more sales volume and customer loyalty. This is what that 12% figure really means.

What do you think of the ContactBabel observation that customers do not want to be forced into a voice call as their only choice of support channel? Leave a comment here or get in touch directly via my LinkedIn profile.