I’m really pleased to be joining a panel, including Rick Gianvecchio from Norton and Michael Montonen from Deloitte Consulting, at the HfS Service Buyers Convention in New York later this week. Hosted by HfS analyst, Melissa O’Brien, the panel session is focused on the development of omnichannel in customer experience strategies and how companies are racing towards a seamless experience for customers.
Of course omnichannel has been a story that has developed over several years. Initially the explosion of new customer communication channels caused by the introduction of social customer service and the proliferation of mobile created a need to handle a multichannel and multi-device environment. Soon it became apparent that customers have an expectation of similar service and experience across all interaction channels – it was not acceptable to offer a great service experience on Facebook and yet to make customers wait on the phone. Customer expect that you know them and adapt to them.
What has also changed very significantly for most brands and customers is the journey they take to a purchase. Think about how customers used to reach a purchase decision – they would learn about a product, explore the options, make a purchase and then possibly get in touch with questions or comments. That’s entirely different today. Customers can read and post reviews, compare products online, shop on apps or in-store, watch customer videos, and ask questions long before a purchase is made. This is much closer to a continuous ongoing dialogue with brands and fellow consumer and it often continues long after a purchase is made – engagement builds into a relationship.
Research from our Customer Experience Labs indicates that 60% of customers in the US are now using digital channels to communicate with customer service teams and 66% of companies are offering at least five different channels now to interact with customers. Managing this well is really important. Customers really notice if their experience is poor and there are direct effects on their likelihood of shopping with the brand in future if they feel let down.
In fact, from our research, we have found that 31% of customers report an intention to be less loyal when facing a negative experience and 8% report an increased feeling of loyalty after a positive experience – so it’s much easier to lose customers than to hang on to them. 45% of online customers say that they will abandon a purchase they are ready to make if they cannot get a quick answer to a question and even more importantly, it is these socially engaged customers who are important to work with because they spend 30% more than less engaged customers.
So then, how can companies deliver on the omnichannel promise. There isn’t a silver bullet (seldom is). But there are a few key steps you can take to making your own omnichannel strategy work well, but it needs some insight and research into your own customer preferences as this changes from one industry – and even company – to another. Briefly I would advise exploring these 5 steps:
- Create a strategy based on the channel preferences of your customers
- Select a technology (or technologies) that can offer the right channels and preserve data between them – so context remains intact
- Define the staff profiles you need to support this structure and train them for each channel
- Ensure that your processes are consistent across all the channels supported
- Identify the new metrics you will use for each channel and the entire experience
Although I have outlined a 5-step plan there is clearly a lot of work involved in each of these steps. The complexities of each step can be daunting, but not insurmountable.
I’m going to be discussing this in more detail at the HfS event so I hope that you can either leave a question for the panel here or ask me in person at the event in New York.
Photo by GPS licensed under Creative Commons.