We’re All Connected – Unlocking the Power of the Omnichannel Customer

18th Apr 2016

The Internet has revolutionised the way we shop and communicate with each other. Customers can now browse and shop on many different devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs – and in many different places - while they’re out and about in the High Street (for example, while ‘showrooming’  - visiting a shop in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price), while at work during their lunch hour or sitting at home in the evening in front of a PC.

This new style of flexible retailing, where customers can shop and interact with a retailer at different touchpoints, and have the context of their prior interactions maintained without having to start over, is an “omnichannel journey”. Omnichannel is an excellent opportunity for retailers to increase their sales by enabling each channel to deliver a highly personalised experience to customers at every point of their ‘customer journey’.


Recently, my company [24]7 surveyed 3,500 consumers globally about their shopping habits. This blog summarises the findings from the 1,200 UK respondents.

The results – channel and device preferences, what customer experiences frustrate consumers most, the tipping point for changing suppliers and how consumers feel about sharing data - offer a fascinating picture of how we live and shop today.

Today’s ‘Start Stop’ Customer Experience

Nowadays, when customers are looking to buy something or even contact a company with a query, they typically do so across several channels and across an extended time period. The challenge with this is that they have to explain their query/start their order and sometimes log in and pass a security procedure each time they use a new channel or device.

None of the authentication or query information is passed between the channels or agents leading to a ‘Start Stop’ experience that leaves customers feeling decidedly irritated and frustrated.

What the omnichannel experience seeks to deliver is a ‘connected, continuous and contextual’ experience which allows customers to switch between channels and not have to identify themselves each time and start their query again from scratch.

We are digital and we are connected

The research found that nine out of ten people (90%) own both a tablet and a smartphone and that out of all the devices available, most people prefer to use PCs (31%) followed by tablets (26%) smartphones (25%) and landlines (15%). This shows how well connected consumers are as a whole. 

Most ‘customer journeys’ begin on the web (30%) or on the telephone (30%), followed by email (14%), mobile apps (13%) and chat (11%). Of the thirty percent of people who choose to ‘self-serve’ and go to the website first of all, 41% will then make a phone call afterwards if they can’t find what they are looking for. It seems we still live in a PC first – but not quite mobile first – world, at the moment when it comes to customer service.


Whatever the device, there’s a lot of activity going on. Ninety six percent of people use at least three channels to resolve an issue and get the information they want. Consumers have no problem crossing channels if they cannot complete their task in their first channel of choice.

Over three quarters (78%) of consumers will cross channels and over two thirds (68%) will change devices if they cannot complete their task via their first channel of choice and their first device of choice.

When trying to resolve an issue, 65% will then, as a second port of call, seek live agent assistance to help them, turning first to a phone call to talk to an agent (33%), secondly to live chat on the website (15%) and thirdly to email (15%).

It’s clear that the channels available to customers today are often not enough to resolve an issue on their first attempt. Even though customers may have a strong inclination to use several channels, the data from the study also suggests that those touchpoints need to be optimized to make it easier for information to be obtained first time around.

Customer Breaking Points

People were then asked if they had ended a business relationship with a company because of a poor customer service experience (if price and products were of equal value) and the answer to this was a resounding ‘yes’.

Thirty five percent of people who had ended a business relationship because of poor customer service cited IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition) frustration as the cause. The technology that allows a corporate telephone system to interact with humans through the use of voice and via a keypad is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Drilling down on this figure, 26% cited waiting times being too long and unskilled agents (10%) as being the main causes of their misery.

Interestingly, as respondents increase in age the higher the frustration is with IVR. Forty-five percent of the Greatest Generation (those born between the years 1910 – 1925) and Baby Boomers (those born between the years 1946 and 1964) who took their business elsewhere due to poor customer service cited IVR frustration.

Impatient Millennials (those born from the early 1980s to early 2000s), on the other hand, found waiting too long as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and led them to another company.


And it seems that some types of businesses fare worse than others when giving their customers a poor contact experience. Tolerance for certain industry sectors is noticeably higher for some than others, possibly because it’s easier to switch some sorts of suppliers and there is a higher number of alternatives.

When asked which types of companies’ customers had ended their business relationships with in the past 12 months because of a poor customer service experience, the answers were as follows:

Insurance companies (23%), utility (22%), retail banking (22%) were at the top of the list, followed by retailers (19%), ISPs (18%) and wireless/mobile providers (17%) at the other end of the scale. Least likely to leave for another supplier are customers of healthcare insurance providers (6%), investment and securities firms (5%) and healthcare providers (3%).

Customers who said they would change their supplier (81%), said they would do so the same day (21%), within a week (33%), instantly (18%) and within a month (16%). That’s quite a high figure – 39% - who say they would leave a supplier instantly or within the same day in response to poor customer service.

So what is a great customer service experience?

There’s been much talk about omnichannel and the ability to maintain customer context throughout the customer journey. But what is omnichannel good for? Well, absolutely nothing it seems! Or at least not without a predictive element.

When asked what types of interactions respondents want to experience, 29% view a company’s ability to anticipate their needs (via predictive analytics) as an example of a great customer service experience.

This was the number one answer, followed by mobile chat (20%) and the ability to apply the context (past history) from website interactions to a phone call (19%).  

The ability to use predictive analytics to predict trends and behaviour patterns and so ‘guestimate’ what customers might be enquiring about, before they’ve even asked, is a potential customer service game changer which will affect net promoter scores (NPS), brand satisfaction, recommend likelihood, repurchase likelihood, and so on.

Sharing Data

Following on from this, 70% of consumers said they were willing to share some of their data if it meant that they will receive a better service. Of those, most are prepared to share their location data (24%) followed by the type of smartphone/tablet they use (15%), their payment preferences (such as credit card information) (10%), their calendar (8%), their past purchases with the same or similar businesses (6%), biometric information (such as a fingerprint or voiceprint) for security purposes (6%) and information from their social media accounts (2%).

The thirty percent who say they don’t want to share their data say they realise that their customer service may not be as personalized or as quick as they may wish it to be.


So, to summarise the key findings.

Customers are changing channels and devices frequently throughout their customer service journey

The telephone channel remains the most frustrating channel for customer service, mainly due to lengthy waits and unskilled agents

Poor customer service experiences and customer churn are a major problem for the utility, insurance, credit card and retail banking industries

A majority of customers will take their business to a competitor within a week if there is no price disadvantage

Customers want to engage through the contact channels that they prefer to use with more intelligent (predictive) interactions across self-and assisted-service

Mobile chat is how the younger generation prefer to engage with businesses; they are particularly sensitive to quick responses and instant gratification.

Customers are more open to sharing their data if they understand what benefits come with it

An infographic about the survey can be found here: http://info.247-inc.com/rs/074-HBW-141/images/247InfographicMappingtheCu...


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