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Omni-Channel CEM – What Does it Mean For The Customer Experience? 

Vinod Muthukrishnan | Aug 1, 2017 309 views 5 Comments

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This is the era of the customer. So, an omni-channel customer experience strategy could be a game changer for your business — as long as you keep the experience seamless and consistent across all your customer touchpoints.

Customers are constantly journeying with your brand. This includes your website, your mobile app, your stores, in their homes, through email, on social media and numerous other channels. And across this journey, every single customer is expecting an experience that’s consistent. Omni-channel Customer Experience Management (CEM) helps you track, measure and improve this experience.

Omni-channel is a word that’s been thrown around a lot these days. Given that marketers are having to come up with intelligent ways to drive customer engagement, it is a concept that is now ubiquitous. So, how does this fit right into the Customer Experience (CX) model? In order to understand this, let’s get straight to understanding the meaning of the word omni-channel.



My favorite (and most reliable) way to understand concepts that are equivocal in nature is to dig up its etymology. I like to get to the root of it. And etymologically speaking, omni-channel can be broken into two parts.

Omni simply means “all.” Channel, as we all know, is a means of expression or path of communication. Putting it together in its microscopic sense, we have it: omni-channel: An all-inclusive means of communication.

From a business standpoint, here’s the definition of omni-channel from Frost & Sullivan:

“seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels.”

This definition is straight-forward and to the point. Based on this meaning, to be truly omni-channel in your CX approach you need to make sure that the experiences that you deliver to customers are seamless, effortless and high-quality within and between contact channels, or as I call them, touchpoints.

All in all, we can understand omni-channel as a stream of communication that is open to and from the customers and the business. This should be across as many touchpoints as required, which allows for a more seamless experience. My saying is, “one brand, one experience.”

Multi-Channel vs. Omni-Channel

Many brands fall into the trap of assuming that these are the same thing. In fact, they are significantly different. In the simplest explanation, being multi-channel (in customer experience) could only mean that you collect feedback from via multiple channels or are open to communicating with your customers across multiple platforms. Like if a brand adopts mystery shopping, has a visitor’s book at the store, sends out SMSs and e-mails, etc. to its customers. They are adopting “multiple channels” to engage with their customers. This is all there is to being “multi-channel.

Being omni-channel, on the other hand, includes one crucial aspect that makes it significantly more impactful that being multi-channel. It comprises a bit more than just collecting feedback across many channels. Being omni-channel means creating an experience for your customers that is consistent across all touchpoints. In other words, omni-channel is nothing but multi-channel — but with the promise of consistency and seamlessness in the experience and messaging. No matter which channel you engage your customer on, he/she has the same experience – be it on the mobile, at the store, in-app, on the website, or wherever. It also attempts to use the data collected from different sources to get a unified understanding of the customer. This is where omni-channel takes the cake.

Challenges In Delivering An Omni-Channel Customer Experience

While more and more businesses are gearing up for the adoption of an omni-channel customer experience and its myriad benefits, a lot of them fall prey to the few challenges that haunt this exercise. By carefully planning out your omni-channel strategy, you can surpass these challenges and reap the myriad benefits that you were promised! Here are two of the biggest challenges that most businesses face while designing an omni-channel customer experience:

1. Not knowing your brand promise by-heart:
The top management’s belief in the brand promise is what trickles down to each and every employee and activity within the organization. So knowing what your brand stands for and having a tight grasp of the message you want your brand to send out is key to creating a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints. Once this is taken care of, align all your customer experience activities around it. Train all your customer-facing staff (and everyone else too!) to sing the same song. Your customers should know exactly what awaits them when they bring their business to you – be it online or offline, physical or digital.

2. Not knowing your customers:
No matter what your business strategy is, your customers’ tastes and preferences are changing. So, if you wish to stick to the more traditional ways of doing business, be warned that your customers can and will move onto someone else who resonates with their choices better. Knowing who your target audience is and creating an experience with this in mind is crucial to the success of your omni-channel customer experience strategy. In today’s digital world, you cannot afford to lose out on any channel on which you can communicate with your customers.So, what does this mean to your business? In a nutshell, the more customer-centric your brand is, the more customers you’ll attract!

Think about it. If you were to do business with a brand that gives you a grand total of two platforms on which you can reach out to them, would you continue to do business with them? Especially knowing that other brands throw open the doors of communication across a dozen (or more) channels? Your customers expect more and rightfully so. This is the era of the customer. So, your omni-channel customer experience strategy could be a game changer for your business, as long as you keep the experience you deliver seamless and consistent across all the touchpoints!

Remember – one brand, one experience!

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5 Responses to Omni-Channel CEM – What Does it Mean For The Customer Experience?

  1. Thomas Wieberneit August 5, 2017 at 4:30 am (11 comments) #

    Vinod, why should I stop doing business with a brand that opens 2 doors for me?

    Especially of they are, or even only one of them is, the one(s) that I would like to be in touch with them.

    From a business point of view there is neither the need nor the capability to be equally available for everyone and everywhere. It is far more important to offer touch points in the right channels than being everything for everyone, which is another possible description for omni-channel.

    https://aheadcrm.blogspot.de/2016/11/omnichannel-myth-reality-or-utopia.html

    2 ct from Down Under
    Thomas
    @twieerneit

  2. Vinod Muthukrishnan August 5, 2017 at 10:16 am (2 comments) #

    Hello Thomas – thanks for weighing in. I agree with you depending on the business’ context. However, the customer chooses the channel he or she wants to use. If we aren’t present on that one, it doesn’t matter how good we might be on some other channel. Take the example of mobile stock brokerage. Nobody asked for it but as the first brokerages started offering it, the lack of a good mobile platform started hurting brokerages that didn’t invest in that channel. It didn’t matter anymore how good their internet Broking channel was. I know this because my previous startup powered mobile Broking platforms for some of the largest brokerages in the US around 2009-10.

  3. Thomas Wieberneit August 6, 2017 at 3:06 am (11 comments) #

    Hi Vinod, looks like we are in principle in agreement. A company needs to be available on the right channels, not on all of them. The right channels are a subset. And, depending on how valuable a customer is for the company, the company may very well (and usually does) offer different channels, and quality of service on the channels, to different customers. Omni-channel, in its true and original sense, is a myth. nowadays. A meaner interpretation could be that the term mainly serves FOMO purposes 😉

    As you rightly say in your article. It is important to know yourself and the customer and from there on choose the right channels.

  4. Bob Thompson August 6, 2017 at 11:05 am (224 comments) #

    Omni-channel is not a myth, it’s just misunderstood.

    What is should mean, in my opinion, is a seamless integration of the channels that a company chooses to offer and support. Ideally these should also be the channels determined through research to be what customers want to use.

    What omni-channel is often taken to mean is supporting every possible channel in the hopes that customers will love the variety. This is good for selling omni-channel systems, but not a good strategy for most companies because the can’t support a dozen different channels well.

    I’ve been an omni-channel advocate for years, and have done consumer research which found they really hated repeating themselves (“touchpoint amnesia”) because channels aren’t integrated.

    But I recently completed a customer service study which found that real companies don’t live in an ideal world. Most don’t have the tools to support a wide variety of channels, and even those that do don’t have agents trained to handle them all well.

    My conclusion: “Less is more.” Because “… the vast majority of companies are not ready for omni-channel. Be smart, and only offer service channels that you can support with excellence.”

    As noted in a post about this (see http://customerthink.com/smart-practice-for-custserv-channel-optimization-less-is-more/), perhaps a better term is “optichannel” which Michael Lowenstein defined as “desired methods of support or communication, depending on the business and the customer’s situational needs and desires.”

  5. vinod muthukrishnan August 7, 2017 at 1:34 pm (2 comments) #

    Thomas – glad we agree 🙂 I think it IS critically important to know the channels your customers want and to be good at them. I agree that launching all sorts of channels without either the ‘omni’ stitching together or a good user experience purely out of FOMO can be counter productive. The only caveat I would add is that sometimes one needs product (in this case a new channel) to meet actual users in order to tweak and improve it. So it all depends on why you are launching a channel you are weak on

    Bob – As I pointed above, I guess your conclusion finds resonance in my comment above. If Omni channel is really a poorly disguised ‘multi channel’ with touch point amnesia, the business is better off not doing it as you pointed out. Complete agreement on supporting channels depending on customer / business needs but businesses do need to be proactive in scoping and service new channels that customers might want. In China I noticed HEAVY commerce on chat platforms. It is unique to that market – we just need to find the right channels for our markets and be the best we can be on them !

    Thank you both for taking the time to comment !

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