The Contact Centre is a digital channel


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Why an out-dated model of channel separation is holding back customer experience.

I was recently asked to speak at an Executive function on the topic of the impacts of the digital channel on the contact centre. After a little preparation, I reached the conclusion that I was being asked the wrong question. The idea that digital channels (online, mobile, apps etc) is separate from the contact centre channels (voice, chat, social media, email etc) is now out-dated. Everything is a digital channel. The difference is only whether the customer interaction is self-service or human -assisted.

Let me explain. Firstly, why is the contact centre a digital channel already?

Voice is data. A basic but obvious place to start is that voice is data. It’s mostly now IP, or will soon be, and is just another enterprise application, based on servers in a data centre in the cloud. May the PABX rest in peace!

Every interaction type is digital. We’ve been managing digital interactions such as email and online forms in contact centres for some time. Newer digital interaction types such as Chat and Social media are also now being managed within the contact centre.

Contact centre staff use digital platforms. This one depends on the enterprise, but either now or soon, most internal sales and service systems use the same platform as the one that customers see online (with employees getting a deeper authority level and view). Everyone is or will be on the same digital platform.

In fact it’s not that hard to extend this idea and also see the store and any other channel as at least ‘digitally enabled’. Perhaps all channels are digital?

So why is this important?

Customers of course have never seen their interactions with companies as channel-based. They are looking for a service or some other outcome, and will interact whichever way they prefer or find easiest.

But the neat divisions between the big three channels have kept ‘online’, ‘contact centre’ and ‘store’ very siloed in companies for decades. As a result, the ability of big companies to create seamless experiences and processes for customers keeps tripping up.

If we can liberate ourselves from the view that the channels are separate, we will go a long way to having them work more effectively together. We can then start to think about designing for customer experiences, not channel interactions. So, not only do we need to see the contact centre as a digital channel, but to help break old habits we should start repeating to ourselves…

“All channels are one,
All channels are one,
All channels are one…”

And soon everyone will be taking a much more external, customer perspective of how experiences and interactions are to be managed.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Severn
Co Founder and Director of The Customer Experience Company. Expert in Customer strategy, and delivery of customer improvements in service, sales and marketing, and across online, call centres and retail channels.


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