Insight

Integrating Omnichannel Communications Into Your Infrastructure

Picking the right option for your messaging needs and environment.

January 12 2017

Integrating omni channel communications doesn’t have to be complicated, time consuming, or costly. There are straightforward ways to not only integrate omni channel communications but also create a platform for future growth as well.

Overview of omni-channel communications

As we covered in the Marketer’s Guide to Omnichannel Communications, omni-channel means more than just using multiple communications tools to engage customers, it means integrating all those tools together into a cohesive communications platform.

Often multi channel and omnichannel communications are confused with each other. Multi channel communications allows customers to communicate with you over several channels, but those channels aren’t integrated with each other. Like when online purchases can’t be returned to a brick and mortar store or emails to support aren’t in your file when you call on the phone. Multi channel is the first step towards omni-channel, but can be very frustrating for customers. To a customer all communications with a business are the same. It shouldn’t matter how customers contact a business, everything should be joined together. Voice, chat, email, SMS, even push, should all appear to everyone (customers and internal stakeholders alike) as a single, unified engagement.

Bringing things together is the promise of omnichannel communications. In the omni communications world, there is a single view of the customer regardless of how they interact with a business. The customer expects emails to connect with phone calls to online chat, a business can now actually deliver on that promise.

Let’s contrast conversations in the multi versus omnichannel worlds:

Multi channel

Customer email: "Hi, I was chatting with someone in support over Facebook Messenger and I want to follow up on the status of my order."

Company reply: "Sorry, I can’t see that chat. Could you send me your order information? Do you remember who you were talking with?"

Customer: Frustration and not-safe-for-work language.

Omnichannel

Customer email: "Hi, I was chatting with someone in support over Facebook Messenger and I want to follow up on the status of my order."

Company reply: "Hi, yes I see you were chatting with Bob and he put everything through for you. Looks like your order has shipped and will arrive tomorrow."

Customer: Happiness and satisfaction.

The second conversation builds a customer loyalty and satisfaction. The first one leaves everyone unsatisfied and might cost the company future business.

Which conversation would you like your customers to have with your company?

The question faced by many companies and IT departments is how to best implement and integrate omnichannel messaging solutions into their existing systems. There are several ways to approach omnichannel integrations, but the most straightforward are self-service, API, and hybrid hardware-cloud solutions. Let’s take a look each of these solutions and their pros and cons.

Self-service solutions

Self-service solutions are built around web portals that may or may not connect to your existing CRM or marketing automation solution. Most of us are familiar with web portals for email marketing, CRM, and any other SaaS tool we use. Self-service solutions are easy to use, require little training, and if they connect to your existing systems, use native APIs to do the job.

Pros: Easiest to implement. Works like other SaaS apps. Little training needed.

Cons: If you have custom systems or apps, development resources are needed to implement.

Recommended for: Starting out with omnichannel, businesses using standard SaaS tools for support, CRM, and ecommerce, SMBs without significant development resources.

API connections to your apps

API connections allow you to integrate omni into your apps, legacy systems, or any other internal system that isn’t an off-the-shelf SaaS product. Integrating an external API into your code requires development resources, but if you’re building an app, you probably have these already. An API connection allows you to easily implement push, SMS, and email into your app without having to build these functionalities yourself. Through the same API you can also integrate your existing SaaS systems as well. Using a direct API connection gives you more flexibility and control over how omni is implemented in your business.

Pros: Integrates with legacy systems or your app. More flexibility and control than self-service portals.

Cons: Development resources are needed to implement and integrate into your systems.

Recommended for: Companies with existing apps and custom built systems. Companies that want to add push, SMS, and email into their apps without having to build these functionalities from scratch.

Hybrid Hardware-Cloud solutions

When security is paramount, the best option is a hardware-based solution that connects internal systems to cloud-based omni solutions that provides end-to-end security with VPN tunnelling, strong encryption and IPsec standards. The strong firewall protects your traffic and confidential consumer data protecting your infrastructure behind a firewall while still allowing messaging services to function unimpeded. Using a hardware device that includes all the API connections to connect to SaaS systems, and even homegrown solutions, can connect to advanced omnichannel communications tools gives you unparalleled flexibility over other options. Unlike a typical hardware gateway implementation, hybrid solutions pair hardware for connections and protection with cloud-based communications for sending and receiving messages.

In this scenario the hardware shields your network from the internet while still allowing SMS, email, voice, chat, and push traffic through. This solution puts your systems at less risk than trying to build and connect your systems yourself.

Pros: Secure solution for banks and other FinTech companies. Connects legacy apps, but offers extensible platform for future innovation.

Cons: More costly and more complicated to set up than purely software-based solutions.

Recommended for: Businesses that significant security or regulatory constraints. Businesses with homegrown or legacy apps that do not have off-the-shelf connections.

Combining all the options

All of these ways to implement omnichannel communications are built on each other, which is the magic at the heart of omni. Even with hybrid hardware solutions, nontechnical users can use the self-serve portal to manage campaigns. Each level of complexity above only improves the ones above. Start with self-serve, implement the API into your app, then bring in hardware for legacy connections—the implementation becomes more flexible and more robust. Users who have mastered the self-serve solution have nothing new to learn. They just have more tools at their disposal.

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