The multichannel contact center has become a commonplace concept in the CX world. We’re living in a world where customers use a variety of different platforms to interact with companies. Conversations don’t just take place over the phone but via social media, chat, and even video.
Companies need a contact center that spans various platforms to ensure they can interact with consumers successfully across all of these touchpoints. With multichannel contact center software (often based in the cloud), it’s possible for agents to engage buyers and leads anywhere.
The question is, what exactly is a multichannel contact center, and is it enough for business owners in the new age of customer experience?
What is a Multichannel Contact Center? The Basics
In simple terms, a multichannel contact center is a software platform that integrates various communication methods. It allows companies and consumers to interact across multiple channels, usually covering phone (VoIP telephony), SMS texting, email, chat, social media, and video.
The most common channels are:
Inbound and outbound calling still play a crucial role in the contact center. Even with endless bots and chat tools to explore, consumers still want to contact human agents with specific queries. A multichannel contact center will usually come with access to VoIP technology.
This allows companies to place and receive calls over the Internet using virtual phone numbers. Many cloud-based phone systems also come with a variety of tools for call management. You may be able to access intelligent IVR systems, skills-based routing, automatic dialers, and more.
SMS Text Messaging
Agents can use DID numbers to send and receive MMS and SMS messages from a multichannel contact center dashboard. Many CCaaS providers now enhance SMS abilities in their cloud platforms with automation and triggers for specific use cases.
Companies can create full SMS campaigns for live order updates, bulk texts, appointment confirmations, and two-factor authentication. It’s even possible to develop chatbots that can communicate with customers via text.
Used throughout the customer journey, email can be an excellent way to deliver information to customers, engage leads, and increase sales. Users can often link company emails to their multichannel contact center account for automated campaigns.
Teams use email for back-and-forth exchanges, promotional announcements, and password verification. Some contact centers also include templates and customization options for email.
Many consumers now expect to be able to communicate with companies and access support through social channels. With the right multichannel contact center, you can connect with clients across channels like Facebook or Instagram Messenger.
Some CCaaS providers also offer various social media monitoring tools, which allow agents to track and respond to company-focused posts on different channels.
Web and App-Based Chat
41% of customers now expect to see live chat on a website. Chat functionality in a multichannel contact center allows agents to connect with customers through websites or mobile apps. Some contact center providers offer API integrations with standard messaging tools like WhatsApp.
Usually, agents in a multichannel contact center can manage multiple chat sessions within a unified inbox. They may also be able to integrate CRM and knowledgebase data with their contact center to personalize conversations.
Self-Service and AI
Artificial intelligence and self-service have become crucial components of the multichannel contact center in recent years. Some companies, like Google, even offer companies access to chatbot builders they can use to create their own generative AI assistants.
Automated bots can deliver 24/7 service to customers, share knowledgebase articles, and automatically route customers to human agents when necessary.
The Features of a Multichannel Contact Center
At its core, a multichannel contact center is a simple communication tool that aligns agents and customers across various platforms. However, most cloud-based multichannel solutions also come with additional features to ensure contact center productivity.
The capabilities of your multichannel contact center will vary depending on your provider, but the most common solutions include:
Agent and supervisor dashboards:
A comprehensive interface where agents can access all communication channels, call logs, voicemails, and collaboration tools. These dashboards can include customizable notifications and in-built dashboards for tracking metrics.
Most advanced contact center software will include built-in automatic call distribution (ACD) technology, ready to route conversations across all channels. Some vendors also allow companies to create custom IVR menus to help customers navigate media, while others offer advanced features like skills-based routing.
Queuing features in a multichannel platform allow users to group agents and callers into distinct queues. Agents and supervisors can monitor queues from a dashboard, track how long customers wait for a response, and more. Some advanced contact centers allow for one-click and automated call-back options too.
Outbound automatic dialers can automatically call phone numbers from a list and transfer conversations to humans when calls are answered. Intelligent systems can detect different voicemail systems to make outbound campaigns more efficient.
Most multichannel contact centers will come with automation capabilities for creating specific workflows. They may allow users to send automated texts or emails to customers based on triggers. They can also offer automatic routing, call wrap-up and summarization with AI, and automated notifications.
AI has become a standard part of virtually every contact center. Multichannel contact center vendors can offer access to NLU technology to transcribe and translate voice calls. Some solutions also provide options for building self-service bots or agent assistants with generative AI and NLP capabilities.
Analytics and monitoring:
Most CCaaS platforms will provide access to both historical and real-time dashboards, reports, and monitoring tools. This makes tracking crucial contact center metrics easy and makes intelligent decisions on improving customer experiences.
Sometimes, a multichannel contact center may also offer integrations with various popular applications used in customer experience. This could include CRM platforms, UCaaS platforms for collaboration, and business databases.
These tools combine with the built-in functionality of the multichannel contact center to improve productivity and efficiency in the workplace.
Benefits of a Multichannel Contact Center
A multichannel contact center can deliver several benefits to business owners. Research finds that most customers engage with around 3-5 channels whenever they want to resolve an issue. If you’re not responsive on enough media, you could miss out on growth opportunities.
With a multichannel contact center, you can reach customers on the channels that matter most to them and offer better customer service at scale. Multichannel systems can provide other benefits, too, such as:
- Advanced insights: Most multichannel contact centers have built-in analytics and real-time and historical reports. They can use AI to provide dynamic insights into contact center performance. Plus, supervisors can monitor live queue activity, track sentiment with AI tools, and discover ways of boosting CX with custom reports, dashboards, and wallboards.
- Improved performance: Multichannel contact centers can support agents with various features, including dashboards, reporting tools, AI support, and workforce management tools. A comprehensive dashboard for customer communication also means agents can accomplish more without jumping between apps.
- Pricing: One of the biggest benefits of a multichannel contact center is you only pay for the features you’re going to use. This means you can choose exactly which channels you want to access based on your knowledge of your audience. Plus, you can use analytics to find new ways of reducing operational costs.
Multichannel Contact Center vs Omnichannel: What’s the Difference?
The biggest downside to a multichannel contact center is it’s not quite as advanced as an omnichannel solution. While omnichannel and multichannel might sound similar, the two concepts have a significant difference.
Like a multichannel contact center, an omnichannel platform allows companies to simultaneously support customers across various channels. However, with an omnichannel contact center, all the channels in your ecosystem are deeply connected.
If a customer starts a conversation via chat and wants to move to a call or video chat, all of the context and information will be passed automatically from one channel to another. Similarly, if you need to transfer a customer to another agent, you can move all their data with them.
Ultimately, omnichannel is probably the best option if there are numerous touchpoints to address in an average customer journey. It ensures you can transfer the proper context and information through the customer journey to create a more consistent experience.
Best Practices for Implementing a Multichannel Contact Center
Although a multichannel contact center might not be as advanced as an omnichannel alternative, it’s still a powerful solution for many brands. There are plenty of great vendors who can assist companies with launching their own multichannel experience. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Choose the right channels: Make sure you select the channels that make sense for your audience. If you’re unsure how your customers will prefer to contact you, consider sending out a survey or speaking to your existing clients. Try mapping the customer journey and considering how competitors serve similar customers.
- Find a reliable vendor: Look for a vendor that can deliver an easy-to-use platform and plenty of customer support. Prioritize excellent uptime and security, as well as advanced features. You may want to look for integrations with external tools, AI features, agent assistant tools, and developer assistance for custom integrations.
- Train your teams: Teach your teams how to use a multichannel contact center effectively. Explain which KPIs and metrics they’ll need to monitor to ensure they deliver excellent results and regularly monitor their performance. Regularly request feedback from your teams about how you can improve the multichannel experience.
Finally, it’s worth considering transitioning to omnichannel as soon as possible. Although multichannel contact centers are helpful, companies with robust omnichannel engagement strategies retain up to 89% of their customers. With omnichannel, you can strengthen the connections between your channels, boost your brand reputation, and improve efficiency.
Implementing a Multichannel Contact Center
In an evolving world of customer communication, connecting with clients across multiple platforms is essential. Multichannel contact centers allow you to strengthen your brand, increase your reach, and improve the customer journey.
However, it’s worth remembering that multichannel platforms do have their limitations. The channels won’t all be integrated, so preserving context and consistency can be challenging.
If you want to take your multichannel strategy to the next level, it’s worth considering an upgrade to an omnichannel experience that can align your platforms and teams.