Evolving your organization for the multi-channel customer


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As I sit confined in my hotel room today (after three very hectic 11 hour days at office) thinking over the various new things happening with me & around (exciting sure, but new things bring a sense of fear too, no matter how much on the edge you live) I cannot stop thinking that the weather here in San Ramon, CA, is kind of ominous. Overcast, sunny, rainy, windy – all changing every few minutes – the weather can’t seem to make its mind. And as my good friend Graham Hill says, no matter what you wear, it is not the right one. But this post is not about the moodiness of the weather; rather its the moodiness of the customer. Or as my another good friend Mitch Lieberman paraphrases: “Customers are fickle“. One such recent customer behavior has been diagnosed as Channel Multiplicity.

Channel Multiplicity is the emerging phenomenon of customers’ seeking information and demanding products and services from an ever-increasing range of sources and is characterized by at least two distinguishing features:

  1. the reliance by customers on multiple sources of information, and on multiple sales and support outlets making available the sought after products and related post-purchase services. Product information and its availability are facilitated by third parties other than the manufacturer or traditional channel intermediary.
  2. Customers’ increasing demands for, and expectations of seamless transitions from information provision to transaction fulfillment to post-purchase service provision, across these multiple channel providers

What it all means is that its no longer merely enough to have a 360 degree view of the customer (which is a tough nut in itself that most have not yet cracked) but its also increasingly important that you provide a seamless experience to the customers across all the channels that they are in, not where you are.

Human beings are unique in the animal kingdom, among other things, because of their ability to be self aware as well as be aware of how others perceive them. It is only expected that organizations mirror that too, right? A good reason why we need to have a 4? Steradian view of our ecosystem within which our organization operates & exists. This means that everything in all directions is visible to the observer: front to back and straight up and down. (The term Steradian is the “Standard International Unit” of solid angular measure. Just as there are 360 degrees or 2pi radians in a circle, there are 4pi Steradians in a sphere.)

However, mere self awareness is not enough. We should also respond to the changing behavior of the customers. But hold on! I am not asking you to give in to the hype and start creating a twitter, Facebook, blah blah account and add to your woes of being “unable to scale your social media“. I am in fact asking you to think through the implications of these new market realities and understand how it affects your business – if it affects it at all. Only after that should you experiment with your responses. Laurence Buchanan, another good friend of mine (when we are not donning our corporate hats) reminds us that solid foundations are as important as cool innovations, or may be more so.

There are more insights in that paper on Channel Multiplicity from the Journal of Service Research on what is required to plan for responding to the channel multiplicity of the customers:

  1. a broadened view of products and services
  2. channel leadership challenges
  3. alterations in channel structure, and
  4. an expanded view of distribution intensity
Hope it is a good place to ignite your thinking while I try to get a grip on the flux capacitor for social business that my geeky good friend Esteban Kolsky put in my mind and has been whirring around in my head this whole week. He has already told you why Whatson pw0ning humans in Jeopardy! is a good thing for customer service (though he did miss out on informing you that now scientists have figured out that we have stored more than 295 exabytes since 1980).

If you are in a hurry, the “Unbundling the corporation” [PDF] as proposed by John Hagel III & Marc Singer a decade back should give you some insights. I came across this in the excellent book Business Model Generation suggested to me last year by yet another good friend Wim Rampen (who BTW reminds us that Customer Service is serious business). Another older model that could fit in the flux capacitor would be the Value Disciplines [PDF] suggested by Treacy and Wiersema but Graham asks me to trash it.

Finally, I am not a person who is complimented for being lucid in my articulation. Lucidity requires deeper understanding. And to get that I need to work, do the stuff that I have been thinking up. 2010 was a good year for me to do the stuff, hoping to doing even more in 2011. So am all set to hit 88mph on my DeLorean. Are you strapped in? 😉

If you don’t want to wait till I can write lucidly, you might want to attend SugarCon and listen to many of my friends there, Brian Vellmure has put together a GREAT list of speakers. Worth the money!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


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