In Part 1, I explored how and why to test for the right mix of channels. In Part 2, I covered channel activity coordination and consistency. In Part 3, I delved into using technology to achieve effective channel integration for optimal marketing decision making. In this post, I investigate the concept of providing the customer with a seamless omnichannel experience.
When you shop, or do business with any firm, I’m sure you don’t think of them as several companies organized by channel. You probably think of them as one business. Yet so many firms still operate their channels by groups that are motivated to improve your experience in that channel, but not given incentive to guarantee you have an exceptional experience crossing channels.
If you are like me, you take a deep breath and hold in a sigh nearly every time you are passed across channels; whether it’s by a human saying they will transfer you, or whether it’s a system, such as an IVR. Basically, you have come to expect that more often than not the process will result in aggravation and dissatisfaction because:
- Very often, the transfer is never accomplished, causing you to begin again
- The hand-off results in you going to the back of the line in that next channel and/or having to spend a lot of time just pressing buttons to get to the next person
- The hand over, once it occurs, is unintelligent. None of the information you provided previously is transferred, and you have to start your story and providing information all over again
- There seems to be no accounting or appreciation for how much cumulative time you have spent across the channels. There is no built-in escalation; invariably you have to reach a boiling point where you demand other action
- The first question you are asked at the start of the process is if you want to take a survey on your satisfaction once you have finished
No doubt, a better omnichannel experience with less friction involves:
- Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service employees that genuinely care about whether you are successfully moved into the next channel
- Systems that transmit information already captured, so you don’t have to repeat it
- Systems to track your total time engaged across channels in your current session, and then have rules that take that into account
- People and systems that automatically document key events and transactions that transpired, so that there is a comprehensive corporate record
- A variety of choices when being transferred, all that are relatively seamless
- Survey & feedback options that reward you for taking your time, and are presented after the process is completed
For example, suppose you first enter a mobile website seeking information, encounter a chat option, then the person you are chatting with provides you with a link, you go to the link and while reading it find a phone number, you call the phone number, and finally the call center person refers you to a Facebook Fan Page. Sound unlikely? Not really. I actually encountered this case with an airline.
Consider closely this customer journey, which involved 5 channels (mobile web, chat, self service web, call center, and social), and your reaction might be that I’m describing a service case, not marketing. Actually, I contend that in most cases interactions with customers involve both. Moreover, when the consumer intent starts as a shopping process, consumers predominately use more than 2 channels during their journey.
Practically anytime a customer engages, you should think of it as a service and marketing interaction. Marketing, by definition, is the process by which you promote, sell, and distribute your products and services – and information on them. Using this description, nearly any interaction has the potential to involve some form of promotion. But in the end, as Ben Franklin once said, “Well done is better than well said.”
Let’s go back to the case. I might have rated this encounter smooth and near seamless if the people, systems and processes were more geared and tuned to meet my requirements – the least amount of time and effort, with the result being what I started off seeking. Although in this case my expectations weren’t met, it made for a great use case for the framework involved, and for the goals to aspire to.
Since I invoked a historical figure to quote from above, why not do it again. “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” – Peter Drucker.
I argue the same is true of marketing. It doesn’t matter how good you think your marketing is, what matters is what your customers or prospects think, and what they get out of it.
A credit card company I did consulting with for ages marketed their credit cards to me for 8 years using traditional physical channels. I never converted. Certainly all the marketing had an impact on my awareness of their products and brand, yet the exceptional omnichannel experience that I later had when I signed up for an entirely different service is what I now equate to their marketing abilities.
Of late, customer’s purchase decisions are influenced by online positive or negative reviews. In a recent survey, 88% of respondents said they are influenced by online reviews when making a buying decision[i] So whether it’s the functioning of a product, it accessories and training, its price, the promotions on it, or where and when its available – all these aspects get reviewed and become your positive or negative marketing. If the customer experience is a smooth one as they research, discover, and learn across channels – then you stand to benefit.
Above all, you need a system that records and makes accessible all channel activities to all that may have to answer questions from customers. Ideally, this system is integrated, with a unified front-end, so that customer facing employees don’t have to switch systems, toggle screens, and struggle to find historical records.
In addition, the channel systems that gather customer data should be able to:
- Send data across channels so it can be prepopulated and used in the next channel – namely data like account number, order number, specific product inquiry, and reason for call
- Trigger another system to update it or take prescribed actions, such as calculating elapsed time or sending an SMS or email
Comments and alternative views are always welcomed
Note: These views are my own, and not that of my employer
[i] Dimensional Research – Customer Service and Business Results; April 2013