By Alexandra Tachalova
From a customer’s standpoint, every interaction with your company should be part of a singular experience — not a siloed, repetitive one. In fact, a smooth, seamless connection between the online and the offline worlds can provide a lifeline. For example, imagine you have to book a plane ticket just a few hours before hopping on a plane. To beat the clock and make your flight, it may take a few tweets, a visit to the airline’s website, a call to the airline’s customer service team, and a quick check-in once you are at the gate.
When this kind of interaction happens seamlessly, and the intersections of the online and offline channels work together smoothly, your needs are met quickly and painlessly (and you are not left behind at the terminal). This is the omni-channel customer experience.
Multichannel is when multiple marketing and service channels work independently to enhance the customer experience. When these channels intertwine and work with one another, that’s when multichannel evolves into omni-channel. In the context of customer experience, omni-channel results in a single, seamless interaction with consumers across all channels, both online and offline. This can include all touchpoints in the customer lifecycle — websites, social media, live chats, follow-up emails, phone calls, and in-person assistance on the sales floor.
Let’s take a bank, for example. Financial institutions should be available to assist you any time of the day or night over multiple channels. The goal is to do so without your having to repeat yourself because they’ve documented, collected, and stored all the information about your offline and online inquiries. In addition, they can effortlessly upsell their services appropriately because they have the history of your interactions with the bank.
Thanks to implementing an omni-channel customer experience, McKinsey & Company increased a regional bank’s product sales by more than 25% in six months. It tightened the loose ends between the bank’s digital and traditional channels because it’s all about making a user’s experience as seamless as possible.
Which of these two options would you choose: a product from a company that pulls your personal data from your previous online experiences and doesn’t ask too many questions, or something from a company that asks you to spend time filling out multiple forms? You likely want to do business with the company that knows what it’s doing and uses the information it has already collected from you to make your life easier.
In fact, 70% of customers “say connected processes are very important to win their business (such as seamless handoffs between departments and channels, or contextualized engagement based on earlier interactions).” Furthermore, over 80% of customers are willing to give a company relevant personal information in order to bridge the connection between their online and in-person experiences.
Successful omni-channel implementation offers myriad ways to prevent disconnected departments and processes from happening. It supplies representatives from all your departments with all the company’s information about a specific customer. For instance, a customer began messaging through your website’s integrated chatbot about an issue, but then decided to contact your call center. As the customer switches from one channel to another, they expect (or at least hope) they won’t have to re-explain what they need.
The omni-channel experience focuses on the overall customer experience, making it smoother, more consistent, and highly personalized for customers.
Even though the main idea behind the omni-channel experience is fairly easy to understand, companies are still figuring out how to manage it correctly. Many companies can handle the multichannel experience, but industry leaders are investing in omni-channel as a part of their commitment to a great customer experience.
Let’s review some ways to make the processes work like clockwork, as well as what to do when integrating channels for an omni-channel customer experience.
This is where everything begins. Because the omni-channel experience is all about creating a flawless customer journey, understanding this journey from the very beginning is crucial.
Gather all the data you have about your customer, including how they prefer to interact with your brand. If you have a CRM system, that’s your starting point. Check your various analytics tools, too, to learn more about your customers’ communication preferences when they reach out to your support team or decide to purchase your products.
Your data, analytics, and KPIs are among the most important tools your business can use to make the customer experience as pleasant as possible. Search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and email campaigns all offer rich insights into both potential and current customers. “Ecommerce analytics must evolve to track shoppers wherever they may be, whether they are purchasing a product on Instagram, discovering a brand on their phone, or cashing in a gift card at a pop-up shop.” As omni-channel becomes more commonplace, well-organized and optimized data will provide the competitive edge.
Another approach for understanding your customers involves researching the issues they come across. To do that, launch a short survey. One method is to enlist the help of your sales and support teams. Those teams are at the forefront of your company, directly represent your brand, and communicate with your clients on a daily basis. A second method is to weave surveys into your online experiences. For example, when a user performs a specific action on your website, have a brief customer satisfaction survey pop up. These triggered questionnaires can be valuable sources of feedback.
Always keep in mind your audience segmentation. Different groups of customers have different needs, and those needs should help you define your user personas. You can segment your users by the products they use, the frequency of their purchases, or their customer lifetime value (CLV), a KPI in marketing that tells how much revenue a customer generates throughout their customer lifecycle. A well-implemented omni-channel user experience can increase a client’s retention rate, and therefore potentially increase their CLV.
Finally, talk to your customers. Do they feel like something’s missing? What are the things they’d like to see in your product line? Is there something your company does particularly well? If you can, ask them a quick question each time they shop with you. For example, after completing your data analysis, your ecommerce store may learn that customers prefer to pick up their order at a store instead of waiting for an item to be delivered. Some businesses have seen increases in their sales by giving their customers the option to track their orders and sending them notifications. These improvements enhance their shopping experience and keep customers coming back.
After defining your customer journey, generate ideas on how to make the journey more coherent. How can your representatives jump from one channel to another, without data loss, in the most convenient way for the customer? Your customers come to you from various channels, but their personal details should be saved and accessible throughout your data management system and CRM platform. This means that all of the channels and technology you use in your business processes do not operate in silos; they should be synchronized, integrated, and able to work together to complete any missing pieces of information. By fine-tuning this process of interchannel and interdepartmental cooperation, you will likely generate more revenue.
Because social media is an extension of many people’s lives, many ecommerce sites integrate their services with social platforms. When it comes to online shopping, Instagram and Pinterest reign supreme; however, each industry has its own dominant social network. This means the omni-channel universe extends far beyond your company’s data and platforms and must include social media.
After setting up all the necessary processes, make sure your omni-channel experience is performing as planned. Data and analytics give you the ability to view and learn the results of your efforts. To measure your omni-channel customer experience from a subjective point of view, collect feedback from your customers on key points throughout their journey with your brand. It can be through a call center, over an online chat, by a quick online survey, or on a social media page.
Proper management and organization of the data you collect will help you tweak your efforts and put you on the right track to a better omni-channel experience. Research, analysis, and data-backed action provide a better understanding of your customers’ needs and expectations.