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What does omnichannel mean?

MyCustomer.com is going to be focusing on the topic of omnichannel retail during May, and our early interviews and discussions have demonstrated that there is no clear consensus on the definition of omnichannel, and how it differs to multichannel and/or cross-channel. As it seems quite a divisive issue, we thought we'd start a thread on this topic, to support the debate and gauge your thoughts on precisely what omnichannel means to you and your business. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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30th Apr 2013 14:41

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

I am not sure a pure definition is all that hard, it simply means all channels. The more interesting point is what constitutes a channel. This is where things get more grey - to the technology world, a channel is technology. To the rest of the world, it is bigger than that - walking in a store and talking to someone is a channel, talking to a friend on the phone, is a channel. No technology company can touch all channels. 

Now, multi-channel are the channels that a brand and/or organization monitors, listens, talks, etc.,... It is the closed system defined at the level of the organization. In the digital universe, again, technologists like to constrain this to electronic channels, as it makes things cleaner. Cross-channel gives the ability to to know that a person is the same person whether they talk to you in one place (channel) or another. If I decide to switch channels, say from Twitter to phone, Email to In-person, then the company should know - that is cross channel. 

There, my $.02

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30th Apr 2013 14:42

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

> "Multi channel" = several channels (eg email, mobile app, voice), but not necessarily implemented in a joined-up way. 
> "Cross channel" = as above, but through a joined-up strategy & implementation so that you can deliver a consistent customer experience across these channels. 
> "Omni channel" = consistent, joined-up approach across ALL channels, including human agents. 

Omni channel is a challenge, because it involves (potentially) cultural and organisational change as well as CX strategy & tech execution. But it's where retailers need to aim.

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30th Apr 2013 14:43

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

Multi-channel: Communicating with customers through multiple devices such as mobile (SMS, MMS, Instant messaging, email), web, tablet, landline, email and social media. Allowing customers to communicate in any way they wish and at any time. 

Cross-channel: Using the above to communicate with customers across various areas of a business... In your store, on your website (web & mobile), in your call centre, in your service desk and through your social media platforms. This ensures that customers can start communicating on one device in one area and seamlessly switch to another device in another area with the same experience. 

Omni-channel: Combines the above two so that a customer has a great and consistent experience wherever and whenever they interact with a brand. 

That said I think that all these industry 'buzzwords' are creating an omni-shambles. All we need to remember is that customers want convenience, they want to be heard, they want consistency, they want timely & relevant communication and they also want all this in real-time! 

It would be great to hear other people's opinions. What are your current challenges? Has anyone had particular success implementing a 'multi-cross-omni-channel' strategy?

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30th Apr 2013 14:44

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

Great topic. It's important to recognise that the omnichannel customer experience doesn't stop at the point where a sale is made. Other corporate functions such as supply chain must be perfectly joined up with CRM to deliver a complete customer experience, including 'returns', which for some retail sectors can account for a significant proportion of products dispatched to customers. See www.bt.com/retailtopia for an in-depth report based on a debate featuring independent retail, CRM and supply chain experts [apologies for the shameless plug ;-)]. Neil - happy to set up a briefing with panel members if you want to hear more.

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01st May 2013 10:04

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

omni from the latin 'all'..finally found a use for what I learned at school.

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01st May 2013 10:05

Thanks for your comments, there definitely seems to be some agreement here, particularly between Yiannis and Justin. And your views on it chime with my own. However, I've spoken to quite a number of professionals recently that appear to think that omnichannel/multichannel/crosschannel are completely interchangeable, so there is certainly a lot of confusion. 

To further muddy the waters, when I've spoken to some analysts - in particular Forrester - they also refer to 'agile' service or commerce, the definition of which is basically what we're referring to here as 'omnichannel'.

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03rd May 2013 20:08

 

This is a great topic for discussion. Knowing which channels your customers prefer and being able to communicate successfully in all of them is a key feature of customer service in 2013. Younger customers are particularly prone to looking for service on a wide variety of platforms. We have done a significant amount of research into best practices for serving Millennials and nailing your communications in chat channels.

Here is what we have learned from our research and experiences:

Multichannel: To my colleagues and I, this refers to communication in separate channels, however the messaging isn’t necessarily aligned. While service is provided through different media - Facebook, Twitter, Online Chat and live phone agents - support agents are not accessing multiple channels at the same time, therefore they cannot provide support through different channels for the same customer. Cross-channel, however, allows support to be provided between two or more channels.  

Cross-channel: The ability to move a customer conversation from one channel to another. For example, if a customer voices a complaint on Twitter, a customer service agent, who is monitoring both Twitter and online chat, would ask that they move the conversation to the chat channel to further assist the customer in a more appropriate medium.

Omnichannel: This implies multiple customer service agents are using a singular communication strategy with aligned messaging through all points of contact with a customer, including face-to-face. For example, both online chat agents and in-store sales staff will remind customers of the same promotion. The result is a seamless customer experience. 

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17th May 2013 22:44

Not sure exactly but as far as I know, it means All Channels.

Mawdoo3

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21st May 2013 21:57

omnichannel/multichannel/crosschannel are completely interchangeable but they are all almost the same so there is no need to get confused.

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23rd May 2013 16:14

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

So I think this is where CE professionals get it wrong and where so many consultants fail to understand that there is no need to dream up new words and terminology to discuss operational and design considerations which have been around a long time. Customers themselves would never understand why we need to constantly dream up new terminology. Having worked in agency world for many years I seen too much of this smoke and mirrors. Controversially I think the words above all actually mean the same thing. I don't see a reason why you would separate out a purchase journey and a communication journey. From a customer point of view they aren't separate 

For those businesses still trying to map out how you deliver a multichannel experience I'd recommend informing your shareholders that you need to close. I bought something online last week from John Lewis and had it delivered to my local Waitrose store for pick up. I bought online, received an email and a text and visited a store. Nothing was siloed and I didn't distinguish one channel from the other

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23rd May 2013 16:20

Thanks for your comment, Paul. I think you're absolutely correct that the average man on the street has little awareness of terms like 'cross channel' or 'omnichannel'. All they know is that a brand is on a variety of different channels, from retail to web, and that it is the same organisation so should provide a completely seamless experience from one touchpoint to another. When a customer has to repeat himself three times to three different operators in three different departments, he doesn't start yelling: "You're the third person I've spoken to now, why don't you provide an omnichannel experience?!"

These new phrases are often teased out to highlight subtle differentiations between concepts, but they are absolute gobbledigook to the customer. 

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23rd May 2013 16:30

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

Hey Paul, I think we all agree with your last comment: "Nothing was siloed and I didn't distinguish one channel from the other". That's what big B2Cs need to shoot for, and for me at least that's "omnichannel" (in the classical sense, not vendor-jargon; "omni" meaning "all" or "every"). 

The problems start when vendors - and customers - start down a path where they have a range of comms channels (store, phone, text, app, website) and they *are* siloed, and the only sense in which they're indistinguishable is that they all give consumers a fragmented, inconsistent customer experience. 

You're right that it's essentially a set of terms dreamed up by vendors, and that customers couldn't give a four-x so long as they feel pleased, valued and cared for. But a lot of tech / marketing / CX vendors (and their customers) are still shooting too low when it comes to offering a consistent, joined-up consumer experience. Or they try to charge a fortune for the privilege :) 

Would love to continue this conversation on a different channel. Eg a pub, over a beer.

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23rd May 2013 16:31

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

But more importantly gobbledigook to most professionals as well. So many presentations are full of this stuff. When you see the same wording presented in another programme launch a few years after the first time you know a business has a problem

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23rd May 2013 16:32

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

More than happy to discuss over a beer ha :) I think those involved in CX (another taxonomy issue) just need to be careful about the language they use. A lot of vendors approach me to discuss omnichannel and the minute they do I just switch off. Multichannel I can just about cope with but you often get the impression that vendors just need to create new terms to keep content flowing

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23rd May 2013 16:35

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn Community

re: "but you often get the impression that vendors just need to create new terms to keep content flowing"

... yup. That's what we (vendors) do. And if we don't start talking in language that customers understand, about ways to solve their *actual* problems rather than fictional scenarios dreamed up by our own product teams (in many cases overseas product teams who don't understand the real world), it's us vendors who will ultimately lose out.

Beer, you said... Will drop you a note ;) 

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31st May 2013 07:19

Although the desire of omnichannel is nice because it will use all possible channel to track customers but it will required much time. Likewise, it is indeed expensive. You will need to communicate in IT and marketing department from time to time for an update of your product.

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By vivin
20th Apr 2016 20:13

Not sure exactly but as far as I know, it means All Channels

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