An omni-channel contact centre – industry jargon for a platform which connects with customers via telephone, email, web chat and SMS – can be a powerful asset for small and medium businesses.

Going omni provides new opportunities to reach your customers and can help you utilise resources more efficiently. The technology is affordable but making the most of it calls for careful planning. Roll out a platform on the fly and you may be in for a world of trouble – and a decline in customer service standards to boot.

Here are some tips for avoiding the most common pain points.

Single customer view

Using customer data to create a so-called ‘single view’ of the individuals who deal with your business regularly is where quality customer experience begins. Many companies forget this when going omni. Instead of implementing a comprehensive solution which makes it straightforward to effect, they opt for an array of standalone platforms, bolt them together and hope for the best. Too often, the result is patchy service and sub-par customer experience.

Integrating new channels

Most omni-channel contact centre platforms are designed to be user friendly but they shouldn’t be plug and play. Letting agents loose on a new channel before you’ve trained them in its use – and in the nuances of communicating with customers via a new medium – can lead to clunky and inconsistent service.

It’s also important to set service levels before you switch on, so agents are clear on the number of interactions they’re expected to handle and how quickly the messages should be flying back and forth.

Keeping costs down

In these straitened times, few companies want to pay more than they need to for software, contact centre platforms included. It’s easy to keep track of your outlay if you’re using a single vendor platform, with a flat fee that covers all the channels. Cobble together a contact centre with multiple channels supplied by different vendors and it can be a rather different – and more expensive – story.

Engaging with agents

A good platform is important and good agents even more so. That’s why it makes sense to engage with them when you’re expanding your contact centre coverage. Making them part of the process, by seeking their input on scripting, customer sentiment and the like, gets them invested in the process and makes a smooth roll-out more likely.