Plato and the rise of the Omni-Customer

Emma Frame 21st July 2020

For a long time, there has been much talk about omni-channel in the customer experience space.

Interest in this topic has been growing, most notably since the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have people been adapting their behaviours, I have observed that more and more of us are becoming omni-customers – either consciously or in response to specific customer needs. 

With fewer agents available during the pandemic, more customers have been pushed towards making use of the various self-service options before reverting to calling into customer services. Indeed, many businesses are using various techniques to point us at alternatives to the phone. These have taken the shape of smart applications, online, email, chat – with the main takeaway being “only call if it is critical” and if you do, expect long wait times. Even today, after 16 weeks of lockdown, there are still many businesses who are operating with constraints and unable to handle the demands of customers.

What COVID-19 has done is create a new need, a burning platform, and as humans we are very adaptable and where needs must we tend to learn. We are all aware of the proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” which is translated from Plato’s dialogue ‘Republic’. I believe this is what is happening now.

We are seeing those who would have typically used the phone adapting to online and smart apps and then realising that these interactions are easier and faster and wondering why they have not done this before. Families are using technologies such as Zoom, Houseparty and WhatsApp to interact. Indeed, 4 months ago many of us would have associated Zoom with being a rocket shaped ice lolly!

While businesses have been trying to deflect us to use self service capabilities for some time, voice call volumes have remained strong and, in some cases, have increased. Thanks to the urgency of the pandemic, businesses were impacted overnight through staff absence due to; falling ill, the need to support social distancing, schools closing and family members needing support and care. This coupled with unprecedented demands resulted in a perfect storm which saw massive increases in call volumes against a reduced workforce. Something had to change and its customers who led the way.

This, I think, is a real positive to come from the pandemic. It has meant that we are all using services we would not have otherwise used and as a result of our needs, we have evolved into omni-customers. By definition, this means we are “customers of an organisation who uses the full spectrum of contact methods available to us in order to improve our experience and achieve a contextual, seamless and frictionless service.” 

It’s important at this stage to point out the difference between ‘Omni’ and ‘Multi’.

The key component of omni-channel is the seamlessness and frictionless of the service. This is perhaps less common in multi-channel strategies which provide customers with a number of different methods to interact with them which are typically independent of each other – making it impossible as a customer to move between the channels seamlessly.

It isn’t a case that multi doesn’t work. It does, but it’s no longer fit for purpose in a society where agents need quicker access to more accurate data regarding previous engagements with the customers, and customers have an expectation that queries will be dealt with first time, from whichever platform they choose.

This recent change in behaviour towards omni will mean that businesses will need to offer us the ability to interact through our chosen method and also enable us to move to other methods where appropriate – ensuring that we get to the right outcome seamlessly and quickly.

I am beginning to see a real opportunity to fully support the omni-customer, and it seems so have some of the industry leaders. AWS and Salesforce’s latest collaboration and ongoing partnership has seen the launch of Service Cloud Voice (SCV) this week. First announced at Dreamforce 2019, SCV is set to provide one unified console that brings together the contact flow capability of Amazon Connect with the customer relationship management capability of Salesforce. SCV can also tap into the intelligence that sits within Einstein – a suite of AI/ML products owned by Salesforce. This gives customers of SCV access to sentiment analysis, next best action, and knowledge article recommendations. In the chat domain, they also have Einstein bots which are similar to Lex chat bots.

As well as benefits to the sales journey and personalisation of the customer journey, Service Cloud Voice has the ability to:

  • Simplify and reducing training requirements for new agents,
  • Give transparency and accuracy of customer engagements across multiple business units,
  • Ensure higher quality conversations (sound and content) improving employee and customer experience,
  • Enhance trust by connecting remote sales functions with remote service functions,

In the words of my colleague and fellow Contact Centre Strategist and CX enthusiast Andrew Jeffree: 

“Contact Centres have grappled with the annoying requirement to flick between systems for decades, this is a huge step in eradicating that problem. There are clear ROI benefits in reducing handling time, though as we explore ways to recover post COVID, cost is only half the battle.”

I am very excited to see what comes from this partnership and what becomes possible from joining Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM platform with Amazon Connect, the worlds most innovative and flexible Contact Centre platform to help support today’s omni-customers.

You can read more about the launch of Service Cloud Voice here.


More about the author:

John Ing is a thought leader and technology disruptor with over 35 years’ experience in the IT Industry. This includes more than 25 years in Contact Centres having delivered some of the first ACDs and IVRs into Financial Services. More recently, John has led the delivery of the first Amazon Connect deployments into a UK Bank and is now supporting other organisations transform their customer experiences.


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