Omnichannel is a hot topic for customer service executives, and I expect that trend to continue well into the future. Why? Because customers are pushing companies in this direction. Any organization with multiple customer service channels – IVR, web, mobile, social, etc. – must consider how all these channels work together and create the right strategy to make it happen seamlessly.
Why omnichannel? My channels work just fine thanks.
Many people hear about omnichannel, but for some the attitude is, “Hey my IVR is doing just fine.” They’re under the impression that metrics are being achieved and there’s nothing wrong with the status quo (the same often goes with the web or mobile apps). Organizations think those things work – so why disrupt it? Because your customers are disrupting it for you. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s fine. Customers are the ones moving quickly between individual service channels trying to resolve issues. They know things aren’t “fine,” because too often customers experience no connectivity, no shared information between channels, and they’re forced to re-authenticate at each step. Their patience – and their loyalty – is wearing thin. It doesn’t matter if individual channels work on their own. The lack of a cohesive, integrated omnichannel approach will hurt an organization in the long run.
How to start
Omnichannel is now the north star for a company’s customer service efforts. It offers the promise of seamless, contextually aware experiences. But for many companies striving for omnichannel, they truly don’t know where to start. What’s the plan? In the wonderful story “The Sound of Music,” (for more musical metaphors, check out my blog on La La Land!), Fraulein Maria introduces “Do Re Mi” by telling the children “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
The very beginning: the customer journey
Any serious omnichannel strategy must start with the customer journey. It may be cliché, but customers are the heart of your customer service – so start there. What do your customers do today? Which channels are growing and which are declining? Which channels cause the most frustration or get the best results? Does your organization have a map showing how customers flow in and out of the various channels? That will quickly identify what’s working today.
Beyond what the customer journey looks like today, the more important issue is what do you want that journey to be in the future? With exponential growth in technology, who knows how your customers may engage you in the future. Did anybody think we’d be ordering Domino’s pizzas with a voice app on our phone? Domino’s dreamed it and made it possible. What will your new customer journey look like in 1, 3, or 5 years? Think and plan for that future.
Evaluate the role (or need) of each channel
Does your future customer journey look different? What needs to change to make that journey possible and most effective? Perhaps some channels need to go away completely, while others can be optimized to better deal with changing consumer habits. For example, with calls pouring in and a future world of people talking to cars, homes, and televisions, will your current IVR be an effective solution? Or will it feel outdated and broken?
It’s also important to consider which channels your business is not currently supporting. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have become common platforms to engage customers. Does your organization support those channels? Can information gleaned within those channels be fed back into your other customer service systems? If the answer to both questions is ‘no,’ then consider how to add more channels and capture what goes on in each one.
Omnichannel as a platform
Many people view omnichannel as a manner to connect their existing channels together. That’s a good starting point and will improve the current situation, but misses out on perhaps the biggest key to omnichannel. It’s not simply a collection of channels, it’s a new platform upon which to build your entire customer engagement.
Companies that think about platforms vs. channels give themselves the ability to add new channels quickly and easily. The social media and technology channels of tomorrow aren’t invented yet, but it’s only a matter of time. With a platform-first approach, companies will invest in one underlying brain to manage the business logic, speech recognition, grammar libraries, and customer profile information. The one brain can now feed all the channels. No more siloed information! Finally, the platform-first approach allows customers to move freely between the channels because the omnichannel solution knows who they are, authenticates them one time, and remembers what they did the last time they visited. Thinking platform-first helps create a unique, positive customer experience for now and in the future.
It’s an omnichannel world. Is your business ready for it?