How to deliver superb omnichannel CX in a digital world according to 24,000 consumers globally


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Omnichannel CX and how to optimize across channels is a huge challenge in today’s increasingly digital world. And with little wonder. A google of “omnichannel CX stats” and “omnichannel stats” quickly reveals that:

  • 98% of Americans switch devices in the same day (Google)
  • businesses that adopt omnichannel CX strategies achieve 91% better year-over-year retention rates (Aspect Software)
  • 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing seamless omnichannel CX (Zendesk)
  • only 7% can deliver seamless omnichannel CX in real time, all of the time (CMO Council)

And it goes on and on and on.

You probably got it before you even started reading this blog and, if not, you’ll have got it by now: delivering seamless and superior omnichannel customer experience is becoming ever more important but is extremely challenging to perfect.

However, none of this information is going to help you achieve this goal. For this, you need to know the specifics of how customers behave and what they actually want. And, then beyond that, what can you actually do about it?

This is exactly why we recently surveyed 24,000 consumers and 1,000 businesses globally. We wanted to shed some light on what companies need to do to meet the considerable omnichannel CX challenge head on. Here are five key learnings.

Learning 1: Human interaction remains super important as part of broader omnichannel CX “package”

Your omnichannel strategy should always incorporate a human element. The infographic below highlights some more specifics around this point.

Our research proves human interaction is a critical component of superior omnichannel CX

So, according to our survey, around 4 in 5 want direct person contact, 3 in 4 expect a phone number on your website and more than 6 in 10 think they get better service in-person.

And this makes sense when you think about it. After all, it’s hard to be delighted about a positive self-service outcome. But when you speak to someone on the phone or face-to-face and they go above and beyond the call of duty, that is genuinely gratifying for your customers.

They might even get the “warm and fuzzy” – a feeling that will subsequently repeat whenever they think of your brand (that is assuming you continually delight and don’t screw up in the future).

Carrying out more complex actions – like negotiating a better deal or exchanging/returning a product – is also easier face-to-face.

Amazon is a market leader any which way you slice it. But, latest book store initiative and Wholefoods acquisition notwithstanding, it simply can’t offer the same experience when it comes to these types of face-to-face interactions.

As an omnichannel retailer, for example, a returned item offers a great opportunity because it provides your customer with a reason to come to your store. Get more people into your store, you make more money. The same rule is true – to varying degrees – across industries.

Beyond that, you should also be thinking of ways to optimize these human interactions. For example, IVR and other contact center technologies, store/branch feedback and various other mechanisms help identify where your omnichannel approach is falling short.

Your assessment methods should also be connected across channels to ensure a consistent approach.

Learning 2: Digital is simply better for you and your customers in some scenarios

This is not to say all interactions should be human delivered. Clearly, that would not be an efficient way to scale resources. And – as our survey proves – it’s not even what your customers want.

In fact, our data highlights that delivering exceptional omnichannel CX involves a combination of both human and digital interactions.

In an omnichannel world, task complexity is key

For simple inquiries (and by this we mean checking account balances, product availability and so on), 44% choose a digital method. By comparison, just over 1 in 5 would pick up the phone in these situations.

However, these preferences change as the task becomes more complex. As the above chart demonstrates, more than 2/3 of customers want to speak to a person when they have a more complicated inquiry (e.g. setting up a loan or mortgage).

Here’s a breakdown in more detail of the types of channels your customers prefer to engage with you when it comes to specific situations:

When it comes to omnichannel CX, our research proves preferred channel varies according to task complexity

What does this mean for you? Channels are like children: you shouldn’t favor one over the other, they are all equally important. The reality is that your customers will use different channels for different tasks. You therefore need to adapt accordingly: creating consistent omnichannel experiences is critical to catering for this variety.

Learning 3: Younger generations favor digital but that’s not the be all and end all

So that may be the case today but what about the future? How will these preferences evolve in a hyper-competitive and ever-changing omnichannel CX environment?

Well, according to our survey, younger generations favor digital channels. This group will inevitably make up an increasingly greater proportion of your customer base as time moves on so this is an extremely important point.

These bar graph shows that younger generations are driving switch to digital

If you look at the charts above, the green and blue bars (younger generations) are less likely to favor human interaction and more likely to favor digital interactions. The reverse is true for more senior generations.

Of course, it’s important to recognize that this is a huge generalization and there will always be outliers. In fact, I can point to two examples in my own personal network where this simply doesn’t stack up.

My dad is in his late 60s (a baby boomer by any definition). He recently visited me in the US from my “home” country of the UK. While he was here, he was using his iPhone to get around Chicago with Ubers and Lyfts, check his bank account app to keep up-to-date with transactions, iMessage me as to his whereabouts and much more besides. When he got home, he even arranged an international money transfer to my account online for a dinner we had (he insisted and I didn’t ask, honest).

I personally just about squeeze into the millennial category and a lot of my similarly-aged friends aren’t digitally savvy. One – in fact – has only just started using Whatsapp, will only shop in store and refuses to make bank transfers online as he thinks its “untrustworthy” (omni channel banking is wasted on him).

What’s the point of this digression? As the data proves, the trend may be towards digital but millennials still appreciate the human touch. And, as time evolves, will your customers become more comfortable making critical life-defining decisions without talking to a real-life person?

It’s impossible to predict the answer to this question with any certainty. Bottom line: digital will become more important but plan for omnichannel for the foreseeable future.

Learning 4: When it comes to omnichannel CX, there’s a disconnect between customer preference and company offering

So far we’ve learned the world is becoming more digital but you shouldn’t underestimate the value and importance of human interaction. However, according to our survey, many organizations are guilty of just that when implementing their omnichannel CX strategies.

And – when it comes to customer experience – there is a pretty big disconnect between what customers want and what they’re actually getting.

How omnichannel strategies differs from customer preferences

In some respects, this makes sense. Digital touchpoints tend to be cheaper to operate. There is also a perception that customers increasingly want to engage this way (which has been proven in our study). And businesses are seemingly falling over themselves to be the most evolutionary and cutting edge.

So it makes sense that you would invest heavily in digital and be “pushing” customers to these channels.

But your customers – treated as a total entity – don’t seem ready for such rapid digital transformation. They place more of an emphasis on human interaction than organizations currently do.

As we’ve demonstrated, there are variations in this overarching trend driven by factors such as age and task complexity. And digital offers tremendous value as part of an overall omnichannel CX offering – both for you and your customers. But, for now at least, there appears to be an imbalance between customer desire and company offering.

So what can you do about it? Continue to embrace digital but also ensure you continue to deliver high-quality experiences across every channel.

Learning 5: Customers are becoming less loyal in the digital age

When you look at customer retention across industries, the findings are quite striking.

If you look at the chart below, it appears that customers are becoming more likely to switch companies at an alarming rate. The difference between the 2015 and 2016 figures are clear. This is only one year – project that same trend five, ten or 20 years from now. It’s not a pretty picture.

Our research highlights how customer retention is becoming harder in an omnichannel worldWhy are your customers becoming less loyal? For one, the environment you compete in is now more competitive and your customers are more aware of their options. Applying for a new credit card and switching utility provider, bank or insurer is easier than it used to be.

The influence of digital, with increasing functions moving online, has been a significant driver of this trend.

Indeed – if we break these above figures down between customers who prefer digital vs human interactions, the difference is quite revealing.

So, according to our study, digital consumers are less loyal than consumers of more traditional channels.

Importance of both digital and non-digital channels

Applying this to your own omnichannel CX strategies, this highlights the importance of both digital and non-digital channels.

Clearly, human interaction-based channels offer tremendous value from a customer retention perspective. Nail this part of your customer experience and your customers will keep coming back for more.

But it also demonstrates that you need to fully optimize your digital touchpoints and your overall digital CX needs to be top-notch. If not, you will also lose customers.

Here are a couple of examples of what customers expect from digital:

Both these points are interesting. Companies used to be weary of personalizing their experience too much as they were worried they’d come across “creepy”. While that was probably the case a few years ago, it’s not anymore. The jump in our survey results over the past year certainly reflects that.

Your customers now want an experience that is personalized to their needs and preferences. Which makes a lot of sense. The less work your customers have to do, the easier it is for them and – by that logic – the more likely they will spend money with/remain loyal to your brand. Good news for you: with the almost limitless customer analytics tools now available, personalization is becoming easier and easier – especially in the digital realm.

But – according to the above – your customers also expect more from digital than they are currently getting. Perhaps this is why many in our survey currently prefer more human interactions?

Regardless, it stresses how you need to constantly optimize and integrate digital as part of your overall omnichannel CX intiatives.

But most of all, this data again highlights the importance of each and every channel. Optimize every component of and touchpoint across your omnichannel CX and you’ll be well positioned for success.

How can you apply this insight to your omnichannel CX?

So what have we learned so far about omnichannel CX? Your customers expect high-quality interactions across all digital and non-digital touchpoints.

Bringing in findings from a separate IDC survey, it’s also evident that your customers also expect consistency throughout these interactions.

Challenges of delivering superior omnichannel CX

This insight is backed up by a recent OpinionLab Strategy Guide, where we analyzed the concept of disconnected omnichannel CX and various research completed on the topic extensively.

It probably comes as no surprise that organizations with the most joined-up omnichannel processes are the ones winning right now.

Impact of omnichannel CX on revenue

So connected omnichannel CX has real bottom line impact. But creating great omnichannel CX is easier said than done. In fact, one of the most striking points we explore is that the majority of companies are not able to do so effectively.

Omnichannel is key priority but many companies coming up short

Clearly, there’s a recognition of the importance of a strong omni channel approach by nearly all CX professionals. But there also seems to be huge and palpable confusion about how to perfect it.

This is further muddied by the fact that omnichannel done poorly can be more detrimental to your brand than omnichannel not done at all.

The good news: with so few companies able to get omnichannel right, this represents an incredible opportunity to standout. In what has been proven a highly competitive landscape, market differentiation is hugely important. Which leads us to our next question.

How can YOU create optimal omnichannel CX?

How do you know the extent that the results of our survey applies specifically to your own omnichannel CX? And what do you need to do to perfect your own omnichannel strategies?

You are a unique business with a unique business proposition and unique customer base that has unique wants and needs. With this being the case, listening to your customers across channels with a connected VoC listening program is critical.

Most companies agree about the importance of harnessing VoC to drive CX improvement. Which makes complete sense. Think about it: why wouldn’t you want input on what you’re doing right (and wrong) from the people who ultimately determine whether you win or lose.

However, few harness their VoC effectively with the same consistency across each and every channel. And even fewer take action on this insight in an organized, structured and coherent way.

Listen and act on what your customers say

To provide enriching omnichannel CX, you need to listen to your customers across all channels, touchpoints and all interactions and then react consistently. These continual marginal improvements then add up to have far and wide-reaching impact.

Although far from an easy challenge, it’s also far from impossible if you:

  • allocate resources correctly
  • employ the right technologies
  • structure your teams in the right way to ensure effective collaboration and timely response

Providing your customers with a platform to tell you what they think is at the crux of this very process. Digital feedback solutions provide a great vehicle for capturing VoC about all aspects of your omnichannel CX.

Think about it: where’s the first place your customers go if they want a general overview of your brand? More than likely, it’ll be your website. By the same token, your site is probably the first place many will go if they want to tell you something about their interactions with you.

There are also various other mechanisms you can put in place to capture this insight across your contact center, live chat, brick-and-mortar network and so on. However you choose to collect this information, the most important thing is that you do and then react consistently.


Our study reveals that omnichannel CX strategies are not currently hitting the mark for customers. They value human interactions more than companies currently offer.

At the same time, there is huge variety in how your customers want to engage with you – which is tied to factors such as age and the complexity of the task they’re attempting to achieve. And digital interaction levels continue to grow, which is leading to increased competition as customers more easily switch between brands.

Bottom line: in order to maximize your appeal, you need to deliver consistent and rewarding omnichannel experiences. Companies that do this are winning in a hugely competitive marketplace.

How can you do this? Although it’s a challenge, great omnichannel CX starts with a connected cross-channel VoC program.

This ensures you capture the insight you need to effect change. But this information is useless unless you do something with it.

Taking timely action in a connected manner across channels is critical to ultimately delivering improved omnichannel CX and driving successful business outcomes.

If you’d like to download our omni channel marketing study of 24,000 consumers and 1,000 businesses “The Digital Tipping Point: Balancing Digital and the Human Touch in Customer Engagement”, you can do so here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Andrew Smith
Andrew is Senior Marketing Manager focused on digital, content and customer marketing strategies at OpinionLab - a VoC solution trusted by hundreds of the world's leading brands to optimize customer experience and drive engagement across multiple channels.


  1. Andrew,

    I found your article quite interesting. Our company (Forty 7 Ronin) is heavily involved in CX through our IVR consulting and voice solutions and we’ve seen companies experience the great benefits you talk about with omnichannel service. In many cases, IVR technology (telephone self-service) can be a great bridge between the purely digital channels you mentioned and person-to-person telephone support.

  2. Thank you Chris, we put a lot of thought and effort into our research so I’m glad you find it useful!

    Hi Seth, thanks for your comment. I agree – IVR technology for sure can be very valuable for this purpose and definitely has it’s place in an overall omnichannel “package”. But, at the same time, it needs to be supplemented by high-quality human and digital interaction to ensure an enriching beginning-to-end customer journey.


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