An omni-channel experience is about providing a seamless experience across all service and communication channels. Regardless of how or when or how often a customer wants to interact with a brand, they can. Over the years, however, omni-channel has become an over-used buzzword employed by vendors to sell technology and software.
Rather than a strategy focused on helping customers, it can turn into a millstone around the neck of contact centre operations. Damian Kernahan of Proto Partners, comments, “An Omni-channel experience means that regardless of how a customer wants to interact with a brand, there is a platform for them to do so. That said, adding another channel isn’t always the right answer, nor is it a simple process”.
“Every time an organisation adds a new channel to connect, it might be a 3-year journey for this to be properly integrated as it needs to connect with every existing channel and piece of infrastructure. It needs to provide a consistent experience and information across each channel”.
In search of the CX Holy Grail
The addition of poorly integrated channels can add unnecessary complexity, confusion and frustration for customers. An article in Customer Think highlights how businesses have added new channels, such as chat, social media, or a mobile app, yet failed to provide staff or adequately resource these channels. In turn customers become disgruntled and opt out of buying items because they couldn’t connect with anyone who could help them.
Kernahan advises, “Ensure you are first offering a seamless user experience with your existing channels before adding to the mix. You also need to recognise that when adding a channel, it needs to be serving a clear purpose”.
There are real and significant benefits to pursuing an omni-channel strategy. The path, however, can be obscured by vendor hype. Omni-channel is fundamentally about the customer not the specific channels you use nor the technology that enables them. Don’t let vendors or competitors determine your strategy. Base it firmly and exclusively around the needs and expectations of your customers.
Overcoming the hype and the roadblocks
Taking your organisation on the omni-channel journey means overcoming a range of roadblocks and challenges. The three major challenges that most organisations face when pursuing an omni-channel strategy, include:
- Evolving consumer expectations and shopping behaviours: Organisations are faced with the challenge of understanding and meeting the needs of a diverse set of consumers, from boomers to millennials and everything in between.
- Changing channel landscape and growing competition
- Internal challenges: Many companies are struggling internally with how to become successful in an omnichannel environment
So how can organisations overcome these challenges? Technology may play a key role in enabling solutions and in building systems and processes for managing your channels – but it is not the solution. Kernahan advises, “There’s no doubt that undertaking a digital transformation will increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of dealing with customers. Having said that, if you at first don’t understand the journey or what customers are trying to achieve first, before you undertake all that work, a lot of it could be for nought because you’ll actually invest in the wrong digital technology and you’ll solve the wrong problems for customers”.
“The benefits of making sure that all the channels you offer to customers are properly connected and possess the same information and similar or relevant service experiences is great, because customers at the heart of it just want consistency. Consistency with what you have promised to deliver and what is available once they engage with you. Getting the basics right first is the best starting point”.