“Omnichannel” is quickly catching up to “customer experience” (CX) when it comes to being widely accepted as a strategic Holy Grail in the era of smart customers. Just as with CX however, there’s lack of clarity about what this actually means, and even greater gaps in organizational ability to deliver on this ever-growing customer expectation.
An omnichannel approach puts the customer at the center of its strategy, and is based on an “outside-in” view of the world. It recognizes that not only do customers continually switch channels, they often use channels simultaneously.
On the other hand, many companies focus on driving maximum performance from each channel. This is more of a multi-channel strategy, and it is often the result of an “inside-out” view of the world. These channels are typically managed in different silos and groups, with their own revenue goals and reporting structures.
Beyond the ability to serve customers seamlessly regardless of their channel or channels of choice, omnichannel also takes into account that the information surrounding each customer’s interaction must seamlessly follow them from channel to channel. Enabling the supporting technology, people, data and processes to accomplish this is no small undertaking.
Customer Experience, Omnichannel or adios
One reason that omnichannel is such a big deal is because those organizations that nail it in the unique context of their customers and their customers’ needs will be in a position that will be very difficult for competitors to copy. By differentiating on omnichannel, you’ll empower your customers to get what they want, exactly when and how they want it.
The obvious truth is that customers could care less what you call it, nor do they care a whit about any one channel. What they do care about is that whether or not their preferred channel works, when, where and how they expect it to.
From the customer perspective, this means that whether by phone, in-store, over their digital device or online from home or combinations thereof, that they can easily and efficiently interact with your firm across any one, two or three of these channels – or more – at the time and place of their choosing.
If they can’t, well – they’ll leave.
Multiple studies state that between and 60 and 90 percent of customers will stop doing business with your brand after a single bad experience in just one channel, no matter how well other channels may have worked for them.
This is why it’s so important to recognize that beyond being good for your customers, omnichannel is an imperative for you. Because your customers are increasingly demanding these capabilities – and if you don’t provide them, someone else will.
No one strategy for omnichannel, but a clear path to success
The ability to offer your customers seamless, consistent, omnichannel experiences at all stages of the customer journey – from information gathering and commerce through service and support – is essentially table stakes, across industries. In retail, for example, you’ll find buyers using mobile to conduct product research while they’re in-store. Or expecting in-store pick-up for items ordered online, with near-immediate notifications when items arrive.
The path to omnichannel success isn’t a simple one. Much like the complexity of improving all-up customer experience, executive leadership and cross-functional stakeholders are crucial to assigning accountability and driving organizational change. It’s driven by the hard work of aligning the people, systems, information and technology that enable the delivery of a seamless customer experience across the silos and groups that exist in virtually every business of scale.
Practically speaking, this means the ability of an organization to essentially eliminate internal silos, and seamlessly manage the hand-offs of customer data from channel to channel as customers move from channel to channel to complete their tasks on their terms – no matter where they are, or what tools they’re using.
One channel to rule them all
And speaking of channels – as important as omnichannel experiences are, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re increasingly driven by one channel over others. And that channel is mobile. Two thousand thirteen (2013) was the year that hours each day spent on mobile devices matched that spent on desktop/laptop computers at 2.3 hours. In 2015, mobile devices consumed 2.8 hours per day, vs. 2.4 for desktops and laptops.
Mobile continues to lead as the channel of choice across segments. This means that omnichannel will succeed only to the degree that your mobile strategy delivers anytime, anywhere access for anyone – even if there’s a PC on the desk in front of them.