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  • Wendy Shlensky

Omnichannel: Are We There Yet?

In today’s constantly evolving world of digital transformation, there will continue to be a struggle for brands to create a true omnichannel experience. Today most, if not all, brands are multichannel.

Omnichannel is defined as a cross-channel sales approach that companies use to connect multiple sales channels to provide their customers with a seamless and consistent shopping experience regardless of channel: brick and mortar, telephone, online or mobile app. For companies to achieve a true omnichannel approach, they have to overcome the challenges stemming from people, process and technology.

Of all the omnichannel challenges, people and process are possibly the biggest issues in terms of channel and workflow ownership. Often an organization’s Customer Service department owns the contact center (voice, chat, email) and reports to the CIO and IT leadership, while social media is frequently led by Marketing. At many companies, Marketing and Customer Service don’t even know each other, much less communicate. That siloed approach needs to be broken down.

The technology struggle involves stitching together the various legacy technologies that enterprises have significantly invested in to support omnichannel implementation. From a cost perspective, leveraging previous investments is often preferred to migrating to a completely new solution.

From large brands to small service industries, some of today’s best examples of effective, seamless digital customer service come from companies you least expect. These well-known success stories vary, including the Walgreens IVR, Amazon’s ease of ordering, USAA’s roadside assistance app and Uber ride credits. Exceptional customer service can even be found booking hair appointments via Instagram.

Unlike those examples listed above, many companies get stalled at the first step of where to start the omnichannel journey. They get too caught up in technology choice, leading to paralysis by over-analysis. Instead, companies should start by considering the objectives that drive their business. What channels are customers asking for? Do they prefer an in-store experience? Self-service? Text messaging?

Here are three good omnichannel tips for brands to keep in mind:

1. When considering adding additional digital channels like chat or messaging solutions such as Facebook Messenger, aim for the goal of enhancing the customer experience and improving the speed to resolution rather than only reducing call volume.

2. Understand that unexpected results can occur during the digital transformation journey. For example, one company’s CSAT scores went down after implementing a chat channel. This was not because customers were less satisfied than they were with the voice channel, it was because they held the company to a higher standard in the chat channel. And, scores were not negatively affected across the board—although CSAT scores declined, NPS went up.

3. Be keenly aware of regulations affecting specific industries. For example, in highly regulated environments such as healthcare and financial services, companies need to more carefully guide the interaction, rather than providing too much channel choice. One example is the banking industry, where personal information cannot be disclosed over public channels such as social media. Here, the best practice is to authenticate on a mobile device in an app to quickly solve the customer’s issue.

The general consensus is that the omnichannel destination is further away than most companies think. However, the journey is well worth the effort, and with patience, collaboration and customer focus, brands can easily find their “true north.”

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