Over the past couple of years in customer experience management circles, there has been a lot of chat and even hype over the term “omnichannel.” Omnichannel claims are now a ubiquitous part of the customer experience management market. Where the quip “now offering omnichannel services” is being dropped like names at a cocktail party, in an air of prestige, and followed by whispers of “how did they do it??”.
But as technologically savvy as it all sounds, what does omnichannel actually mean? How is it any different from multi-channel? Let’s start with some context on what customer experience management entails and how a holistic, omnichannel strategy dovetails with it.
In customer experience management, a company takes a proactive approach to shaping the customer journey to enhance customer experience and drive brand preference/loyalty. Every customer interaction is considered and refined to streamline user flow and get customers the information and services they want with minimal delay. Tools that help us set and optimize customer experience management include customer feedback, customer satisfaction surveys like the net promoter score protocol, and other customer data signals that help us evaluate every aspect of the process within and across channels.
Considering EVERY Channel
A key part of this process is ensuring we consider EVERY CHANNEL. We must distinguish between multichannel and omnichannel touchpoint strategies. Only in this way can we provide an optimized experience strategy built on the richest possible customer insight.
To explain the difference, let’s start with the simpler of the two, multi-channel. Undoubtedly you already have a multi-channel system in place that includes various channels in which you interact with your customers, be they your website, your social media sites, via email, your branch or retail outlets, and telephone. An omnichannel system is a layer that simply threads together all these channels. Such a system can focus on both new and existing customers to make all of them loyal customers.
Multi-channel systems enable customer journeys to be accessed across multiple avenues to ensure a seamless and consistent customer experience. DIgital and digital experience play a critical role in weaving these paths and customer journey map touchpoints together. Digital solutions also make it more straightforward to collect the experience data necessary to understand customer behavior and inform a robust CX strategy.
While the obvious benefit to omnichannel customer service is that it produces a consistent customer experience leading to an enhanced customer relationship, there are also other benefits that run much deeper than this. They ultimately revolve around having an optimal customer experience management strategy.
Customer Centricity for Customer Experience Management
The future of customer service is about giving customers more control and better access to operations, so they can independently manage their own experiences. In an omnichannel system, customer service or sales processes can be accessed 24/7. In this digital environment, customers have easy access to their accounts via their smartphones from any range of channels. The smartphone becomes a key touchstone in any thorough customer experience management program. By enabling access to service activities at any time that is most convenient, it contributes to happier customers. That’s a critical consideration for customer experience management.
Enable the customer to achieve the best possible outcome they desire in the shortest time. An effective omnichannel solution necessitates the automation of customer processes. The ability to create and implement an intuitive workflow enables customers to complete more activities in self-service, such as complete transactions and purchases, or even applying for a loan and potentially getting approved on the spot!
A clear consequence of optimizing the efficiency of both new and existing customer interactions is reducing back-office complexities. More straightforward and integrated customer journeys, in addition to the complete automation of repetitive tasks, work to enhance the range of opportunities and efficiency of digital customer self-service and simultaneously “free-up” customer-facing staff. That, in turn, leads to savings as well as a better and more rewarding employee experience.
For example, one of the significant issues bombarding call centers is difficulties associated with customer authentication and validation. While a critical step in the process, the time and effort required can create considerable customer friction and suboptimal customer experience management. Companies can apply automated pathways to reset passwords or validation requirements that do not take up the time of a live agent. Going one step further, companies can employ biometric authentication that includes fingerprint, voice, and facial recognition. All of these can be provided via customer interaction with their smartphones and are proven to dramatically reduce the possibility of accounts being breached.
In an omnichannel solution, automatic data capture is far more reliable and accurate. An integrated customer experience management toolset connected to back-end systems ensures that data is up-to-date and relevant. All information provided by customers can be automatically transferred to the brand’s CRM and entered into the appropriate data fields in real-time. Additionally, as this data is integrated and holistic and not derived from a series of isolated platforms, it holds greater validity as a source of information to optimize processes for continuous improvement and system refinement. Using it, we can fully understand critical questions such as how the optimized omnichannel experience strategy impacts brand loyalty, brand switching among existing customers, and other customer retention measures.
With omnichannel support, data accuracy is assured with the ability to fill in forms digitally. Paper-based processes can be subject to illegible handwriting and misspelling. In contrast, data entry onto digital forms is standardized and less subject to human error. Forms can be reviewed, and mistakes can be rectified in real-time. Digital forms can enforce rules or information guides to enhance the relevance and reliability of the data collected. They can even be configured to provide personalized interactions based on pre-existing customer data.
Automated Pathways for Customer Experience Management
The automated pathways of an omnichannel customer experience management solution not only increase customer self-service but also serve to support live agents when helping customers through complex activities. The automated pathways ensure time is no longer wasted by the agent as they try to identify the correct process and forms to serve a customer. Instead, agents follow process pathways that are brought to completion far more efficiently. This may include workflow processes such as business lending, claim assessments, or dispute management, where there are enormous cost savings to be gained.
An increasingly prioritized operational objective for customer experience management is to deliver the complete experience regardless of where the customer happens to be. Whether the customer accesses the website from their home PC, the app while on the way to work, or the mobile web in the branch itself, the customer should still enjoy an equivalent experience. Furthermore, even if a customer starts an interaction in one medium, they can complete their activity in another medium without any interruption, picking up at the point they concluded their previous session.
It cannot be overemphasized that building an omnichannel customer experience does not mean re-investing in new internal systems. Instead it means using the digital channels that have already been invested in, such as the app, the web and mobile site, the CRM etc, and threading them together in a centralized customer experience management environment that supports seamless automated pathways. An omnichannel solution should maximize the value of existing digital assets and prime them towards facilitating complete service journeys.