Omni Channel Engagement is an Application within the Microsoft Dynamics 365 family and also part of the Customer Service family of products in the Microsoft Business Applications stack. You might be wondering what Omni Channel means, and why it would be different to something like Multi Channel. Some of you may even be wondering what a channel even is. This article covers all of these and more – it gives less than a 5 minute introduction to all of these concepts and what the Microsoft Omni Channel Application is capable of.
It is important to understand that Multi Channel and Omni Channel can have certain skews. This means Multi Channel can mean different things for ‘Marketing’, ‘Customer Service’ or even as an industry like ‘Retail’. If you put these words in a search engine, you’ll get different views of what they mean based on this skew and some may have a particular focus on one of these depending on the author of the articles.
As a general term, multi-channel is the concept of offering different channels (i.e. multiple) channels for SOMETHING. This can be perhaps an online shop to purchase goods and also an in-person store providing the opportunity to serve customers in two different ways. It could be offering customer service via SMS, Online Chat, and email and therefore serving and offering multiple channels to serve questions and support.
Where the shift from Multi-to Omni channel takes place is where an organisation offers a service via multiple channels, it means they are often silo’d and disconnected – you can think of this in the way of the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Reality can even be that entirely different teams manage different channels, leading to a fairly inconsistent experience for customers or people interacting with that organisation. Omni channel is different in that organisations who promote an Omni Channel experience offer these channels which are connected. This means the right hand DOES know what the left hand is doing. This means for example, a customer can have interactions through many different channels across their journey from pre purchase, purchase and post purchase, for example ask questions via live chat, get a delivery confirmation via SMS, and marketing emails for related products and across the life-cycle the brand message is not only consistent, and also the customer service and interactions are too for all three of these channels. This results in a fully ‘omni channel’ experience i.e. your going to get the same experience regardless of channel that you choose to interact with that organisation with.
Dynamics 365 Omni Channel Engagement application promotes the capability for organisations to implement an Omni Channel strategy within their business. Implementing an Omni Channel Strategy is easier when the data isn’t silo’d and a single system is being utilised to deliver experiences. Omni Channel Engagement utilises the Common Data Service and the app has access to the shared Contact data, Account data allowing the capability for organisations to achieve that connected experience for those delivering interactions to customers. The idea is the same departments would have access to the unified data within the Common Data Service too.
Omni Channel first and foremost offers numerous channels to be able to get started with. Remember this isn’t the number of channels = winner. Organisations need to choose the channels where your customers live. Once this is down, you can go ahead and set those up and create routing rules based on the availability and skill level of those who are managing the queries. What makes the application great, is that it can go ahead and help agents provide the consistent experience through chat scripts, not overloading the workload because capacity it set and also gives access to the customer information and associated such as their transaction history and other key information available via the Account and Contact records. The agents can ask for help internally, transfer customers to other departments without losing the context from the previous interactions. The same data store this application is utilising is the same data store sales and marketing departments are also working in, and so they can view conversations and other interactions that would be recorded via their Contact record.
Omni Channel Engagement is capable of much more. It can utilise Macros, see the history of self-service interactions at the start of a conversation, use proactive chat to check in on customers to see if they need help, and also integrate to the channel integration framework for engaged features (e.g. telephony integration). It can also connect to Power Virtual Agent and the Bot Framework to automate many interactions, providing a consistent hand-off to human agents (again, based on availability and skill level) and also utilise RPA features to automate across api-less applications to further connect essential disconnected data needed to provide that consistent experience across channels.
That summarises what some of the core concepts of what Multi-channel, Omni Channel and the Omni Channel Engagement Application is capable of within Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform!