What’s Next With… Multichannel?


Our panel of experts look at how the multichannel customer experience is expected to change over the next few years, and where it might be by 2025.

What can we expect in the next few years?

Customers will shop for a service experience

Customer-choice routing will enable customers to play an active part in choosing the agents they work with.

In this approach, customers can see the status and availability of agents when they access the website.

Karina Howell

Karina Howell

After finding a list of qualified agents, customers look at agent personality profiles that include characteristics such as interests, experience, skills, general location, and reviews from other customers.

Once an agent has been selected, customers choose a preferred channel of communication – phone, callback, email or chat – to make a connection.

Customers will also have the option to create a profile with a list of preferred agents, the availability of these agents, and the estimated wait time.

With thanks to Karina Howell at Interactive Intelligence

We are witnessing the emergence of the “blended agent”

The fabled “blended agent” who can handle multiple types of contacts has actually started to emerge, and along with this new skill set, a new set of tools to unify their information access.

Jeff Gallino

Jeff Gallino

One such tool, customer engagement analytics, makes it easier to capture and analyse characteristics and trends across multiple communication channels and beyond individual interactions.

Overall, consolidation of data and information and unification of interfaces and output are how I would best describe the next few years of multichannel in the contact centre.

With thanks to Jeff Gallino at CallMiner

Empowered social communities will facilitate peer-to-peer support

User forums and social platforms will help to create empowered social communities that facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and problem resolution and provide a powerful alternative customer service channel.

Jeremy Payne

Jeremy Payne

Even some of the largest enterprises today can operate with very small customer service teams because they are able to harness the power of user engagement in forums to answer customer queries in the most effective manner possible.

More complex voice self-service

Speech-based self-service tools are likely to work in much the same way as Google works on a user’s smartphone today when verbally asked to search for a certain topic.

The range of applications businesses deploy that leverage voice-based command will increase significantly in complexity over the next few years.

With thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive

Text-based channels will be the preferred choice for Generation Y

Susannah Richardson

Susannah Richardson

Over the next five years, many organisations will also experience a decline in voice-based customer service as text-based channels become the preferred channel of choice by generation Y.

According to Nicola Millard, Head of Customer Insight and Futures at BT, “Recent research “Super-Agent 2020: The Evolution of the Contact Centre” supports this as it predicts that in 2020 the primary function of telephone customer service will be for complex problem solving. Agents will focus on more complex enquiries and spend time on resolving issues whilst the simpler, high-volume repetitive-type requests such as requests for store opening times or stock availability, balance enquiries, password reset requests, service updates, change of address notifications, meter readings or delivery status updates will become automated.”

With thanks to Susannah Richardson at mplsystems

We will see an improvement in the movement between channels

We will see an improvement in the movement and escalation between different channels.

Breaks in communication are only opportunities to lose customers, so being able to handle interactions from start to finish as channels change will be key.

Stephen Wright

Stephen Wright

This means agents will have to be multiskilled, as you will not want to change agents during an interaction.

A video chat channel will be integrated as a standard option

The industry will start to see video being used more. People are getting used to video with things like Skype and so will be happier to use it.

Although some companies are already at this point, it is not mainstream and it will likely be a few years before it becomes the norm, but organisations will want it as an integrated part of their platforms.

With thanks to Stephen Wright at Azzurri Communications

We’ll see a shift from ‘channels’ to ‘sessions’

We’ll start to see a pronounced shift from ‘channels’ to more extended customer engagement ‘sessions’, that could evolve from initial digital self-service interaction, escalating to chat before eventually adding voice or even video to complete an individual session.

WebRTC – the open source Web Real-Time Communication initiative that turns the web into an open communication platform – will help enable this shift.

By 2020 around 40% of calls to contact centres will be WebRTC-based, with its ease of access potentially even driving up voice contact levels as companies look to differentiate their service offer.

WebRTC will also serve as a precursor to more communications-enabled APIs, allowing organisations to move from more traditional traffic routing to develop more distinctive end-to-end customer experiences that bring together a much richer, omnichannel session with a customer.

The challenge will still be to integrate newer channels with voice

Research currently suggests, however, that voice will still account for around 70% of interactions by 2020. So the multichannel debate will still need to focus on how newer channels integrate with an organisation’s existing voice infrastructure and CRM systems.

Ken Hitchen

Ken Hitchen

We’ll also see a much greater emphasis on social customer service, especially with platforms such as Messenger on Facebook taking off.

Companies will identify the bottlenecks in the customer journey

Customer service providers will also need to concentrate on optimising customer interaction points.

Deploying text and speech analytics is already playing a key role in identifying bottlenecks in multichannel journeys, pointing out issues of poor usability and helping organisations to implement change quickly.

With thanks to Ken Hitchen at Sabio

The tools for handling social media will become more efficient

Contact centres currently differ widely in how well they handle social media interaction – and some technology vendors have catching-up to do.

We expect that over the next five years the tools and techniques for handling social media will become more mature, efficient and aligned with other channels, e.g. by using APIs to capture social traffic data in the same way that ACD data is captured.

Chris Dealy

Chris Dealy

Forecasting and scheduling will be necessary across all channels

Integrating new channels affects different working areas in your contact centre – from input and response management to training, forecasting, scheduling, quality management, etc.

It will be essential that your workforce management (WFM) solution provides the ability to forecast, schedule and manage the staffing requirements for each type of contact across all channels – regardless of where a conversation occurs, e.g. through chat, email, Twitter, community, forum, remote support or even text messaging.

With thanks to Chris Dealy at injixo

Inbound requests for text-based contact will be fed into the dialler

We’ll see more contact centres using diallers for effective multichannel communications, which will also save agent time. They will take the customer intelligence gained through using precision dialling technology and feed it into the dialler to achieve more live contact and First Call Resolution.


Ken Reid

Inbound requests for contact such as emails, tweets, texts and chats will all be fed into the dialler to deliver a faster, more personalised response to customers. Diallers will also be used more extensively across multiple channels in efficient marketing, service and fulfilment campaigns.

Multiple screens will be discarded in favour of a single view of the customer

Desktops where agents have to log in and out of applications and shuttle between multiple screens will be discarded in favour of those that provide a single view.

Further, contact centres will be using systems that allow customer responses that need to be logged for future reference to be entered just once and everything else will be updated automatically.

With thanks to Ken Reid at Rostrvm Solutions

WebRTC via smartphones and tablets will become the norm

Simon Beeching

Simon Beeching

Over the next 5 years, contact centres will achieve a more integrated multichannel experience by adopting the following steps:

  1. Install a managed-service and blended multichannel environment with agents available to customers by email, voice and webchat.
  2. Back this with a CRM-driven ‘single view’ of the customer so they can contact you by whichever channel suits them at the time. This should also include all their information and integrated past contact history being available to the agent in real time, on all channels.
  3. Use a tracking and analytics system to attribute calls/messages to the web search and history generating each customer contact. A screen view for the agent on the customer’s history/web session in real time will also allow them to see what the customer is looking at on-screen, and improve customer service and conversion to sale where appropriate.
  4. Be ready to take the next step to video chat as WebRTC becomes the norm, with customers using the equivalent of Facetime and Skype from their smartphones and tablets to contact your agents – probably not letting themselves be seen, but nevertheless wanting to see the agent.
  5. Ramp up agent training across all channels so that they can manage the different demands of voice/messaging/video chat equally well.

With thanks to Simon Beeching at Syntec

Agents will be able to escalate webchat issues to video sessions

This might work as a way of escalating a complex chat session that needs a more detailed discussion, or maybe running on an e-commerce website to ensure that the customer who is close to abandoning their cart for whatever reason can instead get instant help through a one-way video session with an agent.

Using WebRTC, the video-enabled contact centre can offer one-way or, optionally, two-way video.

David Ford

David Ford

Visual self-service apps will remove the need for a voice channel

Another development coming soon is visual self-service in apps and websites. These will remove the need to use the voice channel for those customers who prefer to self-serve; they won’t actually need to use the telephone in the traditional sense.

The visual system will walk customers through various service options, quickly pinpointing the area where they require assistance or wish to carry out an action. Uncomplicated menus and branching options will allow simple self-service with just a few touches or clicks.

With thanks to David Ford at Magnetic North

Customer service as one entity

Many organisations have separate traditional customer service and specialist multichannel teams and systems.


Klaas van der Leest

However, the concept of customer service as one entity will become an integral part of the organisation. The latest cloud-based technology makes it possible to integrate people, process and technology and blend traditional calls with the latest in social media enquiries.

Creative outsourcing will play a role in this unification. For example, if marketing and PR typically deal with social media enquiries during the day, out of hours this can be switched through to 24/7 help desks and customer service departments, making them truly multichannel.

With thanks to Klaas van der Leest at Intelecom UK

What can we expect to see by 2025?

Artificial Intelligence and speech recognition will lead to artificial agents

It’s likely that the continued evolution of Artificial Intelligence and speech recognition will eventually lead to artificial agents.

Given what we are already seeing with the likes of Siri and Cortana – the ‘personal assistants’ from Apple and Microsoft respectively, it’s quite possible that this type of help will eventually become the norm.

Enquiries handled this way will inevitably start out fairly simple in nature, but over time they will become ever more complex as the technology and advanced algorithms evolve to handle this.


We may eventually see a time with no human agents whatsoever, as the technology becomes ever more refined. But as social animals, will there always be a need for human interaction in some instances? Clearly, time will tell if the contact centre can ever be totally devoid of human interaction.

Holography could turn phones calls into face-to-face meetings

Don’t be surprised if holography makes an appearance in the contact centre of the future too. With an agent appearing as a 3D image, the traditional ‘phone call’ is transformed into a face-to-face meeting.

As holography is increasingly being used in broadcast technology, it’s likely that this will also cross over into customer service.

Since 2012, when a hologram of late American rapper Tupac took to the stage at American music festival, Coachella, this technology has been advancing – both to immortalise artists after death (in the case of Tupac and, more recently, Billie Holiday and Whitney Houston) and also to relay concerts in real time to other cities and venues.

By 2025 it’s not unthinkable that this, more interactive experience, might be taking place with your bank, energy supplier or even as part of the online shopping experience.

With thanks to David Ford at Magnetic North

Multichannel journey mapping will integrate with marketing strategies

In the future multichannel will focus heavily on customer journey mapping (CJM), the process of capturing the total customer experience across all touchpoints with an organisation.


Geography is also important. In certain parts of the world, such as India, instant messaging system WhatsApp, which has the ability to embed, send and receive videos, pictures and even voice clips, is thriving, with over 60 million users.

With thanks to Klaas van der Leest at Intelecom UK

Contact centres are still struggling with webchat let alone WebRTC

I’ve said for a while now that in my children’s lifetime if not my own, we’ll be communicating by telepathy, which I guess means that all the other contact centre channels would become obsolete at a stroke!

Many contact centres are still stuck in the old ‘call centre’ world, with little progress on fully integrating other channels with voice such as webchat, let alone others already in the pipeline such as WebRTC video chat.

But telepathy would be fun, wouldn’t it? Perhaps even knowing in advance that the customer can really afford that more expensive product you’re going to try to sell them!

With thanks to Simon Beeching at Syntec

Mixed-media conversations will become more prevalent

Future multichannel customer contact will be a polarised mix of automated and highly personalised, live, expert contact to suit the customer.

Telephony will remain key, as the ability to handle multiple, complex requests quickly through this channel is unsurpassed.

People talking to each other in real time won’t be bettered as a channel for delivering customer service and resolving complex enquiries, and therefore this aspect won’t change.

But mixed-media conversations like an advisor and customer speaking on the phone whilst looking at the same web page will become much more prevalent.

With thanks to Ken Reid at Rostrvm Solutions

Self-service tools will direct simple issues away from the contact centre

Self-service tools will be able to handle more and more of the contact centre’s role. We have already seen this trend with basic self-service capabilities being removed from the contact centre’s purview, for example consumers using online or app-based services to check their own bank balances. And there are already self-learning knowledge management systems that suggest the most likely answers.

But interactions with contact centres in the far future will therefore only get more intelligent and complex.

The agent’s role therefore will change to place more emphasis on the more problematic tasks.

With thanks to Stephen Wright at Azzurri Communications

Location-based capabilities on smartphones

The use of presence and location-based information will also play a larger part in certain customer service environments. We are already seeing companies using location-based capabilities on smartphones to push suitable offers in real time.

Equally, emergency services can use GPS codes on phones to locate callers automatically, and breakdown companies can use similar technology to pinpoint stranded vehicles.

The Internet of Things will impact outbound customer service operations

The way people buy extended warranties will change and this will impact on outbound customer service operations. Instead of effectively buying an insurance policy, consumers will increasingly purchase a subscription service that monitors their device or appliance and manages it for them.

In the future, boilers, for example, will invariably be integrated with the IoT – effectively connected to the manufacturer’s server, which will continuously poll readings about performance and efficiency; identify when servicing is required and schedule an appointment with an engineer.

This will drive a more proactive approach to sales and marketing, where businesses monitor the ‘health’ of gadgets and appliances, provide estimates of repair costs and then make promotional offers – perhaps including the option to switch to a subscription-based service plan – that drive customer loyalty and recurring revenues.

With thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive

Proactive service will reduce the need for customers to make contact

The Internet of Things will also offer multiple benefits for the customer experience. Service will be more proactive, as smart objects are able to alert the manufacturer of any potential issues before they arise.


Service will also be more efficient, as problems with devices will be prevented. Companies will be able to diagnosis issues with devices before they emerge, and consequently customers will no longer be required to contact the service centre as often.

The Internet of Things will also provide companies with a wealth of data for improving products, thus rendering the need for time-intensive service less necessary.

At the same time, when customers do contact the service centre there will be a need for specialised agents to troubleshoot the more complex issues that can’t be resolved via self-service.

With thanks to Karina Howell at Interactive Intelligence

Enhanced analytics tools

Multichannel in the future will be much broader and probably not even referred to as multichannel. Already some are calling it omnichannel, all channel or any channel.

Tools for capturing, analysing and transforming insights into actions from customer conversations across all available channels will also continue to evolve and be even more effective at optimising the customer experience.

Different channels will be used in different ways for different customers

My prediction is that eventually the different channels will be used to speak to a company and from a company to the customer in different ways. We will use social to “broadcast” to our customers, and let them reply. We will use the telephone to handle complex “must get it right” transactions, chat for the super busy “task switcher” and email for the information perfectionist. Additionally, multi and omnichannel are going to be strongly multimodal. Already we are seeing WebRTC-driven video conferencing support; Amazon MayDay is a great example.

Soon automated avatars will replace people, but our mobile experience will be “talking” to a face that responds to what we are saying and allows a more emotionally rich dialogue and experience.

With thanks to Jeff Gallino at CallMiner

Voiceprint recognition

By 2025 there will have been an exponential increase in the power and potential of personal smart devices.

Smart mobile devices already feature extremely powerful fingerprint or voiceprint recognition technology, and the impact of biometrics technology will become increasingly available.

Add in the ability to ‘tokenise’ identity in the form of vouchers that are always sent within the data channel, and the smartphone’s voiceprint or fingerprint can be used to manage the end-to-end identification & verification process right through to core contact centre and CRM applications.

Video support will be repositioned as a premium differentiator


Video service will become much more prevalent during the 2020-2025 timeframe, and by then many of the issues around customer frustration should have been addressed.

We’ll see the smarter contact centres repositioning video support as a premium differentiator, with rich immersive content and interactions, encouraging a stronger emotional bond between agents and customers.

With thanks to Ken Hitchen at Sabio

What do you think the future holds for the multichannel customer experience? Do you agree with the ideas our panel have put forward?

Author: Megan Jones

Published On: 14th Oct 2015 - Last modified: 31st Aug 2021
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