I first heard the phrase omni-channel in 2012. A retail brand I was working with was integrating its systems so customers could seamlessly browse, shop and interact with the brand across all the channels available to them, including the contact centre. The company won several awards for its solution and the customers, employees and business all benefitted from the change.
Fast forward nearly three years and ‘omni-channel’ has become a holy grail for many working in the retail and contact centre space. The effervescence and pace that enabled large step-changes in the early days has matured into a more considered proposition.
But… many organisations are still struggling to deliver at the pace of growing customer demand, as standard. Take the 90% of customers that now expect to receive a consistent experience regardless of the contact channel; or the 70% of customers that expect assistance within 5 minutes of contact and the 40% that expect the representative to know about any previous interactions. (Salesforce desk.com 2013)
Omni-Shambles to Omni-Channel?
There are many external factors that challenge the contact centre to delivering a consistent omni-channel experience. But there are also some internal ones that hamper us as well:
Sometimes, we are too slow:
How many times we have heard the phrase agile delivery and yet less than a quarter of UK organisations feel they are built to be agile.
We are sometimes too fractured:
In January of 2014, Forrester published a white paper on omni-channel retailing. One of its key findings was that 6% of organisations surveyed reported ‘no significant barriers to becoming an integrated omni-channel company’.
We are sometimes too self-centred:
At Team JoHo, we often see organisations use contact channels to drive benefit for them, but sometimes at the expense of the customer.
Take the example of a telecoms company who advertised web-chat as a contact channel to its customers. In reality it was pushing chat to sell highly desirable hand-sets. Customers quickly got by simply hovering over a relevant web-page and waiting until a poor unsuspecting agent zooms in.
So what can we do about aligning ourselves internally to make sure we deliver for our customers. Here are three lessons I have learnt along the way that have helped me.
#1 Be ruthless: For most organisations it’s impossible to offer all available channels in the world on the off-chance that a customer might want to interact there. Spending time thinking about which contact channels are must-have’s for customers and which will grow over time will enable you to build a roadmap that is more effective than reactively launching.
#2 Be relentless: Once there is a clear proposition, be absolutely relentless about pursuing it. Make sure your people are all lined up with the same mission, your values are clear and unwavering and above all you are using data and metrics to help you make good decisions and drive those behaviours aligned to your goals.
#3 Be collaborative: By networked I mean networked into all parts of organisation and networked into your customers. An effective way to achieve this can be to get every single department in the department to commit to one metric that they can deliver that impacts the customer experience and roll that up into a dashboard the entire organisation can view and get behind. KLM, an organisation highly successful in the social space, publishes its live waiting times across all its channels so everyone can see how well customers are being serviced.
And what does the future hold for omni-channel service. Personally I would like to see organisations moving towards
- Being omni-present; understanding where your customers truly want to interact with you and being there, on-demand when they need you.
- Being telepathic; moving away from using NFC to advertise and towards learning about individual customer behaviours & preferences for uses that benefit both parties.
- Being collaborative – using the principles of being omni-present and telepathic to enable customers to share the knowledge they have about your brand and other brands.
For those brands that can lead in these areas, they will be more efficient at putting effort where it truly matters and they will build trust through engaging with their customers in ways that matter to both parties.
Watch the recording of our recent webinar for more from Maria about how to deliver a consistent customer experience.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
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About Maria McCann
Maria is co-founder of JoHo Ventures, an independent agency that helps brands use the digital space to leverage the effective points of engagement between their business, their people and their customers.
For the last 8 years, Maria has been at the forefront of digital and social customer experience, having built the customer service experience strategies and operations for brands including Red Letter Days, ASOS, Spotify & Karen Millen.
Maria was one of the first UK practitioners to use social media for customer service, launching it for ASOS in 2008. Since then she’s been at the forefront in leading companies on digital and omni-channel customer service and her work is often highlighted as examples of best practice.