If the customer is always right, how can you please them all at once?

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If you watch enough of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares you start to identify a few trends.

A scene that features in almost every episode goes something like this: Gordon flips through a menu the size of War & Peace, his expression steadily becoming more aghast as the struggling restaurant owners attempt to justify each of the hundreds of dishes available.

It’s a paradox: surely success lies in giving potential customers exactly what they want?

Not so, Gordon explains with increasing exasperation and ever more colourful language.

Eventually, the chefs give in. The menu shrinks, business booms, and it’s happy, lucrative families all over again.

But what if you could offer every customer exactly what they want – spaghetti, wontons, shepherd’s pie – without generating excessive waste or putting unnecessary strain on your kitchen staff?

Let’s leave the restaurant analogy behind and explore this in an example outside of the realms of ‘reality’ TV.

The omnichannel argument

I was recently approached by a client – a medium-sized business in the safety and security space – who wanted to streamline their sales operations.

A quick look on their website, where they had more than 10 links for different payment options, was enough to diagnose where to begin.

The client had clearly identified that their customers have different preferences for purchasing new services. The client’s response was to offer as many options as possible.

So far, so smart: without realising it, our client had taken a first half-step towards an omnichannel communications operation.

But keeping track of all of these different interactions, and streamlining the experience for the customer, was proving difficult.

The fix was relatively straightforward: we implemented a Twilio solution that allowed the client to centralise and track payments, as well as building in new services.

Since then, we’ve been able to explore new options – like live chat and an IVR channel – without having to overhaul the whole system.

Now, why am I telling you this otherwise unremarkable story?

Because it represents a dilemma that many small and medium-sized businesses face when considering how to scale up their operations.

Coronavirus has made reaching customers where they are even more important

Omnichannel, at its most basic, provides customers with all the options they want to – and the business with a streamlined, strategic means of managing all of these channels.

It’s an approach that’s grown in popularity along with an increase in customers expanding their contact and payment preferences.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these trends too.

Research published by Twilio earlier this year found that 90% of organisations are thinking about adding new digital communications channels.

A third of businesses – small and medium-sized companies included – have adopted live chat for the first time as a result of the pandemic.

But the thought of revamping a core process like payments or CRM can be a daunting one for businesses that are typically keeping a close eye on their ins and outs.

It’s not only the interim disruption that implementing new processes can cause, there’s the not inconsiderable risk of making a bad bet on a big investment.

These are understandable fears, but not insurmountable.

Build on what works best

In the case of our security client, they had taken a ‘build-as-you-go’ approach: beginning with a specific pain point (payment options) and building up from there.

By starting small and adding extra layers of functionality, they were able to keep a handle on cost and mitigate the risk associated with deploying a new solution.

It’s a measured approach that, fair enough, wouldn’t make for compelling TV.

But even Gordon would agree that happy customers make for a happy business.

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