Just what is an omnichannel customer experience?
Omnichannel has been a customer experience buzzword for a couple of years now. Brands love to talk about their omnichannel vision, although interpretations differ as to what exactly omnichannel means. Given that ‘omni’ means all or universal, it is easy to see why people confuse it with multichannel or crosschannel.
Yet omnichannel goes much further than multichannel, and there aren’t many brands that are yet offering a true omnichannel vision. This involves a greater continuity of user experience, the retention of a customer’s context across channels and ultimately the Single Digital Channel (SDC) to address customer requirements effectively.
It is a much richer and more personal interaction and is something that organisations should aspire to as we continue in this era of the service-savvy and empowered consumer.
Omnichannel – beyond retail and beyond sales
Omnichannel was first known as a marketing and sales strategy used by retailers to provide a more joined-up experience between online and shopping in-store. It has subsequently evolved into a strategy that is not just limited to retail, nor the sales process. It is about giving consumers a unified, consistent and contextual customer experience.
Much of this experience is now focused on mobile, which is as it should be. In 2015, customer experience is all about mobile, a trend that will only continue and eventually be joined by smart watches and other wearable technologies. Consumers are used to completing an entire journey on their mobile, something that not all brands are yet to reflect in the mobile element of their omnichannel offering.
Data is key to omnichannel vision
But bridging the gap between web, mobile, social and offline channels to serve the omnichannel customer experience, is very important, and technology has a major role to play. In addition to providing the seamless experience that consumers now expect, the right tools can give brands (and their customer service agents) unparalleled information and data relating to that customer and their likely intent.
This should entail being aware of what the customer has done previously, allowing frontline customer service staff to offer a better service to that customer, resolving issues quicker and offering help at the right time and via the right channel. SDC will even allow access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent.
Agents (and in-store staff too, where applicable) must then have access to this omnichannel data, allowing them to make better decisions and have more productive engagement with customers. Not only will this reduce customer churn costs as a result of abandoned interactions, it can have a significant impact on productivity in dealing with customers.
The effective integration of mobile into an omnichannel offering is fast becoming a customer experience holy grail for brands. Aside from the more obvious elements that I address here, mobile has to be fully connected to a contact centre, allowing the customer to change channels should they require, without having to re-explain what their issue is or what it is they require. Click-to-call or click-to-chat direct from mobile are prized assets indeed and I am professionally irritated and personally frustrated when this is not possible.
There are even customer experience technologies that can look for live issues that consumers might be having on mobile, which can then queue up a notification for a support chat request.
True omnichannel play, as opposed to the multichannel offerings still pushed by some organisations, involves content delivered to mobile, multi-channel access to information, an informed agent and actual person to person voice. This ultimately becomes a much more personal, richer interaction, with technology taking care of ID & verification (security etc) and customer intent, customers prioritised according the SDC.
Mike Hughes is MD at PeopleTECH and one of the UK’s foremost customer experience experts, having worked for and consulted companies such Thomas Cook, BskyB and France Telecom on how best to deliver a first-class experience to their customers.