Online articles. In-store discussions. Web chats. The way consumers purchase is changing and businesses need to be able to engage across more touch points than ever before. But how do they ensure a seamless customer experience across multiple channels?

We talked to Christopher Coleman, Head of Multi-Channel Sales & Development at Virgin Media — the first provider of all four broadband, TV, mobile phone, and home phone services in the UK — about how it has transformed the prospect journey.

How important is the customer experience at Virgin Media?

Customer experience is everything. Having amazing products and great offers isn't enough; you’ve got to deliver a brilliant experience too. And that doesn’t just apply to current customers but also future customers. We want prospects to be able to interact with us how and when they want, so they can ‘buy their way’.

How do prospects interact with Virgin Media?

We did some research, called Pathway to Purchase, to help us understand the key stages of the prospect journey. It revealed that, on average, people touch 2.6 of our channels when considering and researching their purchase. Although more than 80% of journeys start on the Virgin Media website, only 20% of prospects actually convert online, proving that personal interactions still matter.

Why did you need to improve the prospect journey?

Every time a prospect engaged with a different channel, they had to start from scratch and resupply all their details. People don’t think of Virgin Media online, Virgin Media telesales and Virgin Media retail, they just think of Virgin Media and want to have a joined-up experience across every channel. The research revealed that we weren’t meeting this expectation.

Tell us about your omni-channel programme

There are four pillars to the programme: devices, sales skin, automation, and lead and prospect management. Deploying Salesforce was key to achieving our vision for seamless lead and prospect management. Salesforce didn’t just offer the right feature set; it looked and felt good and aligned with our vision.

How have you gained visibility across all customer channels?  

With Service Cloud, we can make all previous channel interactions visible to agents, allowing them to personalise customer conversations. Every sales interaction is recorded to capture as much detailed knowledge of the prospect’s journey as possible. To ensure this information is also available to sales agents working in the field, we use the Salesforce1 Mobile App.

What have you learned about customer engagement?

We always knew where a prospect started their journey and where they completed it, but had limited visibility of what happened in between. Now we can see the whole journey in detail. By integrating Service Cloud with Wave Analytics, we can unlock new intelligence about the performance of different sales channels.

How does this intelligence help you make smarter decisions? 

It helps in so many ways; it shows us where we need to invest and what we need to optimise. I’ll give you an example - we always believed our retail stores played a key role in the purchasing journey, but we couldn’t prove it as sales were often completed via another channel. We can now see how each store in each region contributes to the prospect experience, which helps justify future expansion.

How will analytics continue to improve the customer experience?

We are constantly mining data to optimise their experiences and our processes. You have to be obsessed with your customers and prospects. Our aim is to provide an experience that means more of our prospects choose to become customers.

What top 3 tips would you share with someone considering omni-channel, or at the early stages of this?

  1. Listen to your customers and prospects. Design the experience that they actually want
  2. Be ready to tackle the cultural elements associated with a shift in operational design – deploying technology alone won’t solve anything without buy-in and adoption throughout your operation
  3. Revisit your customers and prospects part way through design and deployment to make sure you’re doing things the way they want them. It’s a risk worth taking to ensure long-term success. 

Big thank you to Christopher for sharing his thoughts. For more details on how Virgin Media are using Salesforce, check out the full customer success story.

Or download the Creating a Connected Customer Experience e-book for more insights and tips from Christopher, and some of the UK's most trusted Customer Experience thought leaders.