A Conversation on Omnichannel with Sheila McGee-Smith

Survival in today’s customer experience economy requires businesses to adapt to customer behavior, and that includes letting them choose how they want to get in touch. That’s why it has become more important than ever for brands to be able to drive a consistent, seamless customer experience across each and every one of their customer touchpoints—from voice, email, and chat, to SMS, video, and social channels.

Dennis Fois, CEO of NewVoiceMedia (now Vonage Contact Center) recently had the opportunity to catch up with Sheila McGee-Smith, founder and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics, for a conversation about how omnichannel service trends are impacting contact centers. Below are the video highlights from that discussion, along with some bonus insights. 

Bonus insights

The below conversation is edited for brevity and clarity.  

On CRM + contact center:

Dennis: A symbiotic relationship between CRM and contact center allows us to stop talking about integrations and focus on how to remove the artificial divide that we’ve created with technology because, for the consumer, it doesn’t exist. ... The consumer expects that we know everything about them, and they’re right to expect it because all their information is in the CRM. This shift represents a fabulous opportunity to move the dialogue away from how efficient or effective our contact center is to how we are really affecting customer experience on the frontlines of our operation, where we operationalize customer experience, in the contact center.

Sheila: There are parts of the customer journey that the contact center alone can’t impact. We can’t impact how quickly the freight department is going to get an order to a customer. But if the entire business has been digitally transformed and we [all have access to the same information], we may not be able to change the truck roll, but we can set the customer’s expectations and make their experience smoother.

On using omnichannel to better compete on customer experience:

Dennis: Step one is to realize that you are competing on experience. That changes the mindset from “I’m in sales; I’m in service; I’m inbound; I’m outbound” to “I’m an extension of the organization I represent.” And, therefore, what I’m really competing on is experience for the customers at every touchpoint of the business. That shifts the dialogue toward an emotive experience, which is amplified when two people connect. There is a discriminative behavioral psychology at play. We, as people, have more profound loyalty to people than brands.  Competing on experience comes down to the day-to-day operational level, where your brand promise is being tested by your agents, by your sales reps, by your field service engineers that represent your brand.

Sheila: Contact center leaders can begin to help their companies compete on customer experience by getting a seat at the table. When I do speeches for contact center end-user communities, I’ll ask “How many of you are familiar with IoT projects going on at your company?” It’s gone from 5 percent, to 10 percent, to maybe a quarter of the audience who will say they are. Then I’ll say, “The rest of you, go back and find those projects, because they’re happening.” Those IoT projects are going on, and we in the contact center can help those projects, can be part of those projects, can extend them and make them more successful. It’s partly our job to have a seat at the right table in the business so we create better customer experiences and help our business be more successful.

Dennis: Omnichannel tests the idea of who owns the interaction channels, which is a longstanding unresolved issue in the industry. Up until recently, you had to decide on the provider you wanted to get your omnichannel from, and you probably had to consume your channels from that particular vendor, despite the fact that, maybe through a digital transformation project, you had settled on consuming the digital channels through your CRM vendor. Omnichannel cuts through all of that.

To have true visibility at the agent level, or the organizational level, we need to have a more symbiotic relationship. What I’m pleased about is [that NVM’s omnichannel solution] can do that with Salesforce and support this notion that it doesn’t really matter where the interaction ownership or commercial ownership sits for the interaction channels. What’s more important is the visibility and the service and experience levels that we can unlock by getting out of each other’s way.

For more on this topic, don't miss our upcoming webinar, Omnichannel and the Ultra-Connected Consumer.

Written by Vonage Staff

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