There was a time not so long ago when delivering an omnichannel customer experience was optional for businesses. A maybe. A bonus. If all the must-do jobs were ticked and there was a bit of time left in the day, a team member might have been inspired to think about how to create a more seamless customer journey by integrating the organisation’s multiple channels and touchpoints. Then again, they may have simply turned their attention to surfing the internet.
Well, those days are well and truly gone. Omnichannel customer experience is no longer a maybe but a must for businesses that want to thrive in the modern world. While the internet age dawned in the late 20th century, the past few years have seen an explosion in the number of ways that customers can interact with brands online and created a landscape where the line between digital and physical engagement is increasingly blurred.
Consumers no longer accept being forced to visit one store or platform to engage with a business. They literally have the world at their fingertips and expect to easily move between desktops, mobiles, tablets and even smart watches during their customer journey. For proof, look no further than a Harvard Business Review study that found 73% of customers prefer shopping through multiple channels. Crucially, the study of 46,000 shoppers also highlighted that those people spend 10% more online and 4% more in-store than single-channel customers.
The evidence is clear – if you want to attract the business of today’s consumers, you need to deliver consistent omnichannel customer experiences and that starts with gaining a better understanding of the concept. Hence why we have prepared this definitive guide to all things omnichannel including what it is, how you can create it and the ways in which it will improve your company.
What is an omnichannel customer experience?
The concept of omnichannel had its origins about 2010 when the marketing world adopted the term to describe a shopping experience that extends beyond multichannel retailing. While each channel existed in a silo in a multichannel environment, there was a growing realisation that consumers wanted to continue a singular journey across multiple platforms and that meant retailers needed to integrate every available channel to create a seamless customer experience.
This brings us to omnichannel customer experience and the art of marketing, selling and serving people on all channels to create an integrated and cohesive experience no matter how, when or where they reach out. Whether walking into a traditional brick-and-mortar store, picking up the phone to call a contact centre or entering the digital realm via a desktop or mobile device, the experience should be equally seamless regardless of the platform or method they choose to use.
Again, there is a clear distinction between an omnichannel and multichannel experience. While the latter features more than one channel, they are not integrated and in a contact centre environment that means agents are not as well equipped with information to handle interactions. Customers are often forced to repeat details already provided and risk being handed incorrect, outdated or different information in different channels.
Compare that to an omnichannel contact centre where customers can communicate via and switch between multiple channels within a single interaction because of a commitment to integration, choice and convenience.
What are the benefits of omnichannel customer experience?
Where do we begin? Whether you are setting out on a customer journey or laying the framework for one to unfold, the advantages of adopting an omnichannel approach are vast.
- Greater choice for customers: try explaining to a Millennial that there was once a time when the only way they could do their shopping was by physically walking into a shop. Technology has created an endless array of options for ticking off one’s retail wants and needs, and that is a great thing for both consumers and businesses. Providing a range of integrated channels that deliver a frictionless experience allows customers to engage in the most convenient manner possible.
- Improved customer retention: if a business is unable to offer an omnichannel customer experience, there is every chance customers will look elsewhere to do their business. Meeting people where they want to shop is key to retaining them, while there is also plenty of evidence to show that omnichannel shoppers are more likely to spend more money. One example was a study that showed people who use three or more channels to interact with brands have a purchasing frequency rate 250% higher than single-channel users. Such numbers simply cannot be ignored.
- Broader audiences: different people have different preferences in how they interact with a brand. Delivering omnichannel customer experience allows organisations to tap into more markets as the more channels on offer, the more chances of connecting with potential customers. Once you have found them, it is also important to remember that integrated platforms will play a vital role in keeping them coming back for more and reducing customer churn.
- Better data: given the power of the technology underpinning them, omnichannel journeys are a gold mine for data that can be used to gain a deeper understanding of your customers. Be it identifying their shopping habits or gaining insights into where they encounter issues, sourcing and analysing such data can help improve your offering.
How do you create a seamless omnichannel experience?
Just as every customer journey starts with a first step, creating a quality omnichannel customer experience requires decisive action. To help put your own plan into motion, here are a few tips to consider.
- Map the customer journey: understanding the way your customers interact with your business is crucial for creating a seamless omnichannel customer experience. Study where buyers first engage with you and all the touchpoints that lead not only to the point of purchase but any subsequent engagement. This process will help identify any gaps or issues along the journey and allow you to take the necessary steps to resolve them and, in turn, optimise the experience across channels.
- Listen to feedback: the most successful companies are those that listen to their customers. Along with accepting feedback and even criticism, it is essential to proactively seek information in a bid to create a more cohesive customer experience. It is far better to ask customers how they want to interact with one’s brand rather than forcing channels and processes upon them. Send surveys via email or mobile apps. Use pop-ups on websites to source comments and ratings. Then use that feedback to deliver an omnichannel approach that directly meets their needs.
- Adopt the best technology: the very nature of the omnichannel world means seamless experiences will not happen without the right technology. Given the power of today’s tools and platforms, there are no excuses for customers not to easily navigate the customer journey from the palm of their hand and businesses should similarly be able to offer levels of data-driven personalisation once unheard of. Contact centre technology alone can bring data together in a single customer view which means no matter what channel a customer uses to make contact, agents can easily access the information needed to pick up seamlessly where they left off.
- Don’t be scared to imitate: it is no surprise some of the world’s top companies are leading the way with their omnichannel strategies and no shame in trying to replicate what they do. Brands like Amazon, Disney and Starbucks offer excellent case studies of how to deliver better customer experience by integrating channels and while you may not have the resources to copy exactly what they do, looking at where they dedicate those resources is an excellent way to bolster your own plan.
- Use digital to bolster physical: amid the push to improve online processes, it is easy to forget the vital role brick-and-mortar stores continue to play in the retail environment. Most people are still inclined to head to a physical location for their shopping needs and blending your online and offline worlds will help improve customer experience when they do. Be it incorporating in-store locators to mobile apps or providing live inventory so people know whether to make the journey before hopping in the car, there are many ways to combine the online and physical experience.
How do omnichannel contact centres improve customer experience?
Any conversation about customer experience that does not include contact centres is an opportunity missed. The ability for people to resolve an issue or get questions about a product or service answered quickly and correctly is essential to improving customer satisfaction and the birth of omnichannel contact centres has changed the game for the better.
An omnichannel contact centre lets customers choose how they want to interact with a business or brand by allowing them to communicate via multiple channels. Better still, it means they can switch between channels within a single interaction without the headache of needing to start their enquiry from scratch. For example, when moving from live chat to speaking with an agent over the phone (or vice versa), a transcription of the chat history is available to agents at every touchpoint. Likewise, agents have access to a customer’s previous interactions regardless of the channels they have used, making for better informed agents, personalised service and faster resolutions.
Then there are ground-breaking solutions such as Convai’s Oration, which uses a sophisticated automatic call distributor (ACD) to intelligently route calls between multiple channels and advanced technology to recognise caller intent and offer customers the most appropriate channel to resolve their query. Its analytics and reporting capabilities also help contact centre managers accurately forecast call volumes and query types to ensure they have the appropriate agent resources and skills in place.
Like so many technologies, Oration by Convai is another step on the road to a seamless omnichannel customer experience. By utilising artificial intelligence to better manage customer conversations, it raises the efficiency of contact centres, reduces costs and makes for happier consumers.
For those in the early stages of their omnichannel journey, it may well be daunting to ponder both the theory and practicalities of embracing the concept. However, as anyone already along the path knows, there are few better ways to improve brand recognition, create loyal customers and boost revenue than making omnichannel a priority.
While there is one key difference between multichannel and omnichannel – integration – it is what that integration means where the true differences can be found. Discover why it is essential that organisations know such differences and how choosing the concept that best suits one’s needs can ensure the success they are looking for.