Once upon a time, call centers only needed to support one channel: the telephone. Fast forward to today and customers have many more channels to engage with an organization, from phone to email, websites, web chat, social media platforms, SMS and more. Call centers and customer service representatives (CSRs) within an organization are often expected to support all these engagement channels, and consumers expect a seamless customer experience no matter which they use.
In addition to providing excellent sales and support to customers across multiple channels, any organization that takes payments or handles purchases must also keep customers’ sensitive data secure, remain compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and provide a frictionless customer journey that will keep customers coming back. Providing a fast, frictionless and secure experience across multiple engagement channels can be challenging, but with the right digital strategy and technologies in place, organizations can do just that, while also easing PCI DSS compliance and even increasing sales and loyalty at the same time.
The Rise of Digital Customer Service
Even with the multitude of different channels available, speaking on the phone with a live agent remains one of the most popular ways for consumers to connect with organizations. Consumer surveys show that most people (54%) still prefer to use the phone when it comes to dealing with payment or billing issues. But the preference for digital channels is growing. The same survey showed that consumer preference for web self-service grew 25% and the preference for online chat grew 21% over the last four years. As a result, call centers must be prepared to transact with customers in digital channels, including webchat and social media, in order to meet and service consumers in the channel of their choice and be positioned for success both now and in the future.
Until recently, supporting sales and service across multiple channels meant businesses needed to integrate and maintain multiple different payment applications and systems, or complicated e-commerce platforms. This also meant that businesses were often locked into a closed payment ecosystem. Fortunately, new cloud-based technologies are making it much easier to enable an omnichannel strategy and accept payments across voice, digital and in-person channels without the need to purchase and maintain equipment or integrate with complicated payment platforms.
A quick and easy approach is to use secure payment hyperlinks that CSRs can generate and send to customers through any digital channel, including webchat, social media, email, SMS, QR codes, chatbots, e-commerce or m-commerce. Customers simply click the link to enter their payment details. Their payment card data and other sensitive, personally identifiable information (PII) is routed directly to the Payment Service Provider (PSP) and never enters the business’ network infrastructure. This keeps both the network and the digital payment channel (the webchat solution, for example) out of the scope of compliance for PCI DSS, making compliance faster, easier and less costly. At the same time, these technologies can relay real-time progress updates that inform the CSR when the link has been used, when payment information has been collected, and whether the payment was approved by the PSP, providing businesses with a powerful tool for insight into the status and success of collected payments.
Because secure payment hyperlinks are fast and easy and can be used across any digital channel, they provide a seamless, unified customer experience across all engagement channels. For example, imagine a customer calling into the contact center via the telephone because they need to pay a bill. However, the customer may be in a public place and not comfortable reading their payment card information aloud over the phone, as they risk being overheard. The CSR can quickly and easily send a payment hyperlink to the caller’s mobile phone via SMS. The caller can click the link and input their payment card details for a fast and secure payment process. At the same time, they’re able to stay in full voice communication with the CSR, who can answer any questions and help ensure the caller has a positive customer experience. Or, imagine another scenario in which a customer is interacting with a CSR through web chat or on a social media platform. The CSR can send the customer a secure payment link through those channels or via email, and the customer can rest assured that they are paying through a secure platform.
With secure payment hyperlinks, the CSR is able to meet and service the customer in the channel of their choice, or even bridge multiple channels, providing a seamless, frictionless and unified omnichannel customer experience. They also fit easily into an organization’s existing artificial intelligence (AI) workflows. Best of all, the business does not need to integrate or manage any special e-commerce platform or hardware, and the customer does not need to download any apps or use special dongles, for example, to swipe their payment card.
How Omnichannel Customer Service Boosts Sales and Loyalty
Providing a positive customer experience and enabling transactions across all channels is not simply something businesses do just to make customers happy – it also makes good business sense. Research shows that omnichannel customers are more valuable and loyal, spending more on every shopping occasion, making more repeat purchases and are more likely to recommend a business to their family and friends, than single channel customers. In short, enabling omnichannel payments and purchases helps businesses boost revenue and keeps customers coming back.
As consumers increasingly embrace digital channels, organizations will need to enable fast, easy and secure payment methods in these channels, in addition to their more traditional channels like the call center. By ensuring that they are delivering a unified, frictionless customer experience across all channels, organizations can evolve their call or contact centers into becoming true customer engagement centers – all while increasing revenue and ensuring greater customer retention and brand loyalty.