Sometimes less is more. But when it comes to the support channels your business offers to customers — less is just less. Our 2024 customer service trends survey (you can read the full report here) found the #1 change in customer behavior in 2023 was higher expectations. And one of these expectations is seamless support experiences across every channel they use: chat, email, phone, webform, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and more.
Yet when it comes to meeting this expectation, many companies are falling short. In fact, according to Zendesk benchmarking data, only 42% of businesses offer 2 or more customer support channels. Let’s take a look at why putting together an omnichannel automation strategy won’t just take your CX to new heights, but will help your business thrive.
First (so we’re all on the same page) here’s a quick explanation of what we mean by omnichannel customer service.
What is omnichannel customer service?
Omnichannel customer service is when brands offer frictionless support experiences across channels and touchpoints — while providing agents with a unified view of these interactions.
71% of customers favor using different support channels depending on the context. Say you’re firing off a quick question about the sizing of a pair of jeans you’ve had your eye on — you might contact this fashion brand on social media. If those jeans arrive ripped and you need to share photos of the damage, you might prefer to send an email to explain the problem.
But omnichannel customer service is more than simply providing support across all the different communication channels your customers use. It means offering seamless, joined-up customer experiences at every stage of their journey. Omnichannel support consolidates customer interactions — regardless of which channel they take place on — to give agents a holistic overview of their case.
Say, for example, a customer is having an issue with a payment. First, they might reach out via your chatbot — but you need to verify some personal data before you can address their problem. So they’re escalated to a live agent via phone to walk through some security questions. The customer then needs to provide an invoice they don’t have to hand. They end the call and decide to send the document by email. A new agent picks up the ticket and swiftly resolves their problem.
With a successful omnichannel customer service strategy in place, the customer won’t have to explain their issue over and over again each time the conversation shifts to a new platform. Instead, the agent will have access to all of the context they need to solve the case as fast as possible.
And customer service automation is one of the most effective tools to help brands create frictionless support interactions across channels.
The top benefits of omnichannel customer service
Beyond catering to your customers’ wants and needs, there are some tangible benefits to offering omnichannel customer service. Here are the most important of these:
- Resolving issues faster: Having a 360-degree view over customer interactions gives agents access to the information and context they need to hit the ground running when they pick up a case. And faster resolutions means both happier customers and cash saved — by lowering cost per interaction.
- Delivering CX that drives loyalty: Hands up if you love repeating yourself! Nobody? Thought as much. When customers have to type out their issue, repeat it when they get connected to an agent, and repeat it again when their call is transferred to a different department — this causes frustration. Whereas seamless support across channels will drive loyalty and repeat business.
- Providing more possibilities for personalization: When your support team has access to the personal details a customer has already provided, you’ll create greater opportunities for agents to tailor the experience to each individual — such as offering personalized product recommendations.
What about self-service support?
As well as offering communication channels to connect customers to your support agents — today, more and more consumers prefer to solve simple issues on their own. And that means providing them with self-service resources such as video walkthroughs, FAQ pages, or a public knowledge base.
“We know that 91% of people would use a knowledge base if it met their needs. So we have really started focusing on making sure our knowledge base is up-to-date, contains keywords that we know our customers use, and doesn’t have conflicting information.”
- Madison Hoffman, Director of Self Service, Automation & Chatbot, Zendesk
Alternatively, a generative AI-powered knowledge base bot (like UltimateGPT) can help you to answer FAQs in the most conversational way possible. Gen AI can analyze your support articles and synthesize this information into accurate, relevant responses to common queries.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we jump into how automation can support your omnichannel CX strategy, let’s have a look at the best practices for launching omnichannel customer service.
More on self-service support
Omnichannel customer service best practices
1. Map all support touch points with your brand
If a customer sends an email, accesses your chat widget, then reaches out via social media — this creates 3 separate requests, which might be managed by 3 separate teams. Make sure agents have access to a holistic overview of every customer and their support journey to offer the best experience.
2. Take it slow and steady
More channels means more tickets. So take a staggered approach when opening up new channels to connect with customers. This helps ensure agents don’t end up overwhelmed by higher request volumes. And if you plan to automate some (or all) of your support channel, this same advice applies — perfect the automated experience on one channel before moving on to the next.
3. Use automation to increase support coverage
Don’t have the people-power (or the budget) to cover every single support channel? Automation is here to help. With an AI-powered bot taking care the repetitive queries — across every channel — your team will be free to focus their talents on cases that require their human empathy and problem-solving skills.
4. Meet your customers where they are
Find out which platforms your customers are using and carry out customer research to ask where they would prefer to interact with your brand. Prioritize automating the most popular channel first to see the fastest time to value with this technology.
5. Make sure the experience makes sense for each channel
We communicate in different ways on different platforms. People don’t use a sign-off message on WhatsApp (unless you’re speaking to your nan) but it’s rare to see an email without one. Be mindful of creating experiences (whether automated or not) that make sense for each specific channel.
How Ultimate can support your omnichannel automation strategy
Now you know how to get your omnichannel customer service strategy off the ground, we’ll guide you through how our AI can help you to automate across all the channels you use.
The latest edition to our customer service automation platform, UltimateGPT, gives you access to the most cutting-edge AI tech available: generative AI. Simply connect this generative bot to your public knowledge source and start resolving FAQs. UltimateGPT can:
- Provide the most conversational, human-like way responses
- Hand over to your human support team when needed
- Summarize long message threads to help agents solve cases faster
And the best part? No bot training required.
With Ultimate’s chat automation solution you can provide personalized CX at scale, across 109 languages. As a headless automation platform, the bot sits within your existing tech stack — so no siloed data. With chat automation you can:
- Instantly resolve simple, repetitive requests
- Gather customer details up-front before escalating, to cut average handling times
- Pull info from your CRM and backend systems to personalize customer interactions
Customer support messaging exploded over the pandemic — with WhatsApp tickets jumping by 219%. With the popularity of asynchronous messaging channels growing, companies should consider an automation provider who can cover social platforms (like Ultimate).
Email is the #1 fastest growing support channel reported by business leaders, according to our 2024 CX trends survey. Ultimate’s ticket automation solution allows you to:
- Maximize efficiency by routing, tagging, and enriching tickets
- Provide accurate, 24/7 responses to customers
- Slash your ticket backlog and help cut cost per interaction
Combining Ultimate’s industry-leading customer support automation platform and the next-generation voice capabilities of PolyAI and babelforce means businesses can now offer their customers round-the-clock, omnichannel support, in any language. PolyAI focuses on the UK market, while babelforce is the top-tier voice automation provider in the DACH region.
How to get started with omnichannel automation
Not sure where to get started with omnichannel automation? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a step-by-step guide to seeing the highest ROI with automation.
- Launch in minutes with generative AI: As well as being the trendy new tech on the automation scene, the beauty of gen AI is that you can get started with support automation right away. Simply connect a generative AI bot to your public knowledge base (like a Zendesk Help Center) and start deflecting FAQs.
Read this guide on how to set up a knowledge base bot.
- Customize your bot with workflows: Next, you can decide which conversations you want your generative bot to answer, and which you want to take control over. What we mean by control is adding workflows. For example, if someone is looking for help verifying their account, you can create a dialogue flow to guide them through this process — instead of simply offering a response based on your help center articles.
Discover more about how generative AI and conversation design work together in this article.
- Enable end-to-end automation with API integrations: Even the most comprehensive knowledge base won't be able to answer every query. Some cases require details stored in your back office systems. Building custom API integrations will allow your bot to access these systems (just like your human agents do) to resolve complex queries end to end.
Check out this free event on how to level up your automated support with integrations.
- Add channels (ticket, messaging, and voice) to increase coverage: Now you're ready to scale. That means automating across channels to provide support to your customers wherever they are. Remember: take this process slow and steady — making sure the experience is right on each channel before moving on to the next.
- Use analytics to continually optimize your solution: Automation isn't a set-and-forget project. To get the most out of this tech, use analytics to measure how your solution is performing and identify opportunities for improvement. Once you reach this stage, you can expect to see +60% automation rates, faster responses, happier customers, and stress-free agents.
Delivering on the promise of omnichannel service empowers brands to build more meaningful relationships with customers (while winning their loyalty). With automated omnichannel support, you'll be able to create the seamless experiences customers expect — whether they’re jumping from chat, to phone, to email, and back again.