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Omnichannel customer experience takes aim at information silos

Companies still struggle to join multiple communication channels to create a seamless experience for customers, whether it's that be for shopping or sales or service.

Today's customers have high expectations. They want to be able to interact with companies through the communication...

channels of their choice. Companies have responded by providing sales and service channels such as voice, email, company website, mobile or social media. The goal is to meet customers where they are and reduce the traditional friction in using multiple channels. That friction can lead to customer frustration and attrition.

But multichannel experience is still a work in progress. Many companies still suffer from a lack of true integration of these channels, either in the data that resides there or in the departmental processes that govern each channel. When companies are saddled with siloed data and processes, customers are often forced to repeat or reenter information when they switch channels rather than the company having a unified view of the customer's interactions -- even if those interactions take place on disparate channels. Similarly, sales, customer service and finance departments often work out of these data islands rather than joining their processes to capture a 360-degree view of the customer. Data silos get in the way of timely and comprehensive service.

So, companies have to cross the chasm, so to speak, and move from a multichannel experience to an omnichannel experience. The distinction here is important. With an omnichannel approach, companies begin to remove the silos and barriers to a truly cohesive view of customers and operations. And for customers, the experience should be integrated and seamless, without showing the silos that continue to nag a multichannel environment.

From multichannel to omnichannel

If you are responsible for creating your company's omnichannel customer experience strategy, you are likely selecting multiple channels on the basis that you need to be where your customers are. You need to determine which channels your customers want to interact with you on, whether that is through websites, social media, mobile devices, physical stores, direct selling by a sales team, or in a distribution agreement with a third party and its sales organization.

The new battleground measure is the company's customer experience ratings.

Once you invest in capabilities and technology and have established your company in these channels with a consistent presence on each one, measure and monitor your presence and engagement in each channel in order to judge your investment. Typical metrics will include the following:

  • Revenue by channel
  • Profitability by channel

When monitoring the channels, pay attention to these kinds of issues:

  • Price management and product selection by channel
  • Limiting conflict or competition across channels

Revenue attribution determines the success of the channel. It is the most important piece of information when evaluating the channel's performance, which leads to declaring winners and losers and subsequently drives resourcing decisions. In multichannel, the winners will be rewarded and the losers will risk being abandoned, so it is important to closely monitor how each channel performs.

A shift in thinking

For an effective omnichannel environment to thrive, companies must change how they think about measuring experience. The new battleground measure is the company's customer experience ratings. Rather than judging individual channels, companies must evaluate the bigger picture of what a presence on these channels does for their customers' experience. Look at your channels as an interacting and complementing set of resources and the contiguous paths that each of your customers take along their customer journeys. You aren't trying to pick a winner; you're investing in a mix of capabilities and enablers that will hopefully improve the customer experience as a whole.

Interaction across channels is encouraged and required to drive the optimal customer journeys and experiences. These are not achieved by good intentions; they are achieved by design. To achieve the optimal omnichannel customer experience, employ customer journey maps and approaches that place the customer in the center of your customer experience design (e.g., design thinking, VOC programs) or in other words: Have the customer's experience built into each step in the process. Metrics now include the following:

  • Customer repeat purchases
  • Customer retention
  • Customer satisfaction

All employees should focus on improving the customer experience. Individual sales representatives and employees with specific tasks need to continue to have their individual performance measured and rewarded. The overall performance will benefit from a blend of rewards for individual contributions and companywide omnichannel customer experience performance. Stop the revenue attribution arguments by salespeople or channel owners, and instead point that passion toward ensuring the best customer experience. And don't miss the need to include customer fulfillment and customer service employees in the mix. By harnessing that energy, the potential of omnichannel can be realized.

Next Steps

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This was last published in April 2015

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