By Basabdutta Chakraborty
Today’s customers are constantly moving from channel to channel and device to device as they interact with retailers. Whether via phone, email, chat, SMS, social media or mobile app, customers seek a consistent and seamless experience across all channels. An omni-channel strategy is what accomplishes this goal and enables customers to resume any interaction, at any time, from any channel of their choice.
Multi-Channel Vs Omni-Channel
While multi-channel and omni-channel are both strategies intended to engage customers at any means of their choice, there is a difference. The primary distinction between them is that multi-channel merely maximizes the number of channel engagements without providing a connected experience. Omni-channel, on the other hand, offers customers a frictionless journey, regardless how many channels they access.
Something worth doing is worth doing right. For companies that offer an omni-channel customer experience, here are five best practices to adopt:
- Invest in the right channel. Instead of focusing on too many channels, research the preferred channels of the target audience. Apart from the company website, email or telephone, mobile apps and social media are becoming critical for omni-channel success.
- Maintain the contextual engagement. Whether a customer sends an email, texts, calls, browses knowledgebase articles, reviews sites or leaves a comment on social media, all the history and context should be maintained in the system. Include a unique identifier so the Customer Service Representative (CSR) has a consolidated picture of the customer’s journey while responding to him or her. A single thread of conversation should be maintained so customers never have to repeat any previous step, regardless of how many channels they have used.
- Deliver consistent messaging and brand imaging. Pay attention to the details. Top executives need to ensure the relevant departments are collaborating in an omni-channel effort. That’s because customers see the brand as a whole, not just a single department. Additionally, make sure customers receive the same experience and messaging regardless of whether they are interacting with an eCommerce app, talking to customer service or browsing marketing contents from the channel of their choice.
- Optimize response time. Customers want speedy resolutions to their issues. Technology is an asset here. For customers contacting via phone, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a useful menu-driven tool to redirect them to correct agent. For SMS and email inquiries, auto-responders can indicate the resolution is in progress. In addition, automated workflows can assign the tickets to the right agent, based on skill, knowledge and workload and thus optimize the response time in the relevant channel.
- Set up self-service options. While call center agents have limited bandwidth, companies can provide 24x7 customer support through a variety of channels, thereby empowering customers to resolve their own issues following ways: knowledgebase portal, FAQ, online forums, and chatbots. That said, customers should have the ability to escalate to a live agent seamlessly in case of a complex situation.
Obstacles In Omni-Channel Strategy
When implementing an omni-channel strategy in retail customer service, there are challenges to be aware of and address. They include:
- Not recognizing the uniqueness of every customer. Customers leave enormous amount of data at every channel. Collecting all the complex data and identifying the unique customer profile can be complicated. To address this issue, leverage artificial intelligence to recognize the customer and proactively determine the intent behind their requests.
- Lack of backend data integration. Sometimes organizations use platforms that work in isolation and do not integrate well with the backend data. That’s why it is critical for relevant platforms to integrate with the system of record and provide consistent information across all channels.
- Outdated technology. With legacy technology, it can be difficult to bridge the gap between online/offline user journey, dissimilar order fulfillment, and seamless payment refunds. Companies that invest in modern technology and adopt ‘mobile first’ approaches are more likely to provide a unified experience to customers.
Risk Of Falling Behind
By delivering a well-planned omni-channel experience, companies gain greater customer insights by collecting context from the entire ecosystem, maximize agent productivity by providing instant access to the customer’s history, improve customer satisfaction with personalization and save call-center costs through call-deflection and efficient resolutions. With the rapid advancements in technology and the competitive choices available at customers’ fingertips, falling behind is not an option. That’s why implementing an omni-channel strategy across the organization is an essential initiative for retailers that want to grow and thrive in the now and in the future.
About The Author
Basabdutta (Moon) Chakraborty is an experienced technical lead and results-driven solution architect with a history of successful project implementations in multiple countries. Currently, she is working on customer care initiatives for Amway. For additional information, please contact Chakraborty.firstname.lastname@example.org.