Omnichannel solutions and customer experience: part one

We know you’ve heard the word before. If omni means ‘all’ or ‘every’, then omnichannel must mean every channel. But is that all an omnichannel solution is? Offering your customers the ability to communicate with you across any channel? Well yes and no. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Part One: Omnichannel solutions and customer experience

Let’s say you set up accounts for your company on every channel out there. You also advertise that your customers can use these to chat with you about your products or services. From SMS or Facebook Messenger to Twitter DM and web chat, the inquiries and opportunities begin to pour in. Here are three examples of how it can all go horribly wrong:

1. The lights are on, but no one is home

You’ve lowered costs by reducing phone calls. But now you’re trying to manage multiple messaging channels. As messages come in across disparate systems and channels, it becomes apparent that response times are slow or non-existent. Chats are even missed by agents. Without unified communications, agents are struggling to monitor all the new messaging channels customers can contact them on. This puts you at risk of losing at least 45% of consumers who Forrester found abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly.

2. Your customer journey is coming apart at the seams

Anne has a question about a product she wants to buy online. She starts a web chat with one of your agents on her desktop at home. Soon after, she must leave to catch a train. Anne wants to continue the conversation on her phone, but with spotty mobile internet coverage, she opts for using SMS. Like 61% of customers, Anne finds it isn’t easy to switch from one channel to another when interacting with customer service. The agent asks to do discovery with her all over again and repeat herself. Like 89% of consumers, she finds this understandably frustrating. It puts her off buying the product altogether.

3. Poking the bear – a very frustrated customer

Joe, an existing customer, has a complaint. But all is not lost. After all, eight out of 10 consumers say that getting an issue resolved quickly is the number one factor that defines ‘great’ customer experience. The fact that there was an issue at all can become a distant memory. Joe’s complaint is something that can be easily fixed. But he needs to get in contact with one of your agents for this to happen. Already irritated, he becomes further frustrated when messaging the agent and needing to provide them with reams of information. In Joe’s view, the agent should already have this on file. In reality, the company will have that data somewhere, just on a different system, the agent can’t easily access.

We all know that customers are likely to recommend companies they have complained to, if, that is, the complaint is handled well. Unfortunately, in this example, we doubt Joe will be singing anyone’s praises. He becomes one of the 95% of consumers who talk about their poor customer service experience with other people, and of the 91% who won’t do business with your company again after a bad experience.

All three of these examples were omnichannel experiences. But they weren’t omnichannel solutions. Without the right tools, it’s simply not enough to be omnichannel, or you’re at risk of a plummeting customer experience track record. It won’t be long before word gets around that your customer service is nothing to envy or aspire to.

So why choose omnichannel?

Simply put, you can’t afford not to. With two-thirds of consumers preferring to reach or be reached by brands through messaging apps, you can no longer stick to more traditional channels like email alone if you want to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Every channel is undoubtedly an opportunity to inform, engage, support and convert. It stands to reason that with more channels at your disposal, the better you will be able to do this. But if you’re not responding quickly, you’ve not only lost those chances, you’ve possibly alienated a lifetime customer.

Amazingly, 33% of consumers would recommend a brand that provides a quick but ineffective response. That’s not to suggest that quickly responding with gibberish is key to customer success, but it does highlight how speed or response is of the essence. It’s not just a swift experience that customers would like, but a seamless one. The modern customer expects contextual communication on the channel that’s most relevant to them.

The importance of great customer experience

Chances are, you may think you already offer ‘superior’ customer service. 80% of companies believe this to be the case. But according to a study by Bain & Co, just 8% of people think these same companies actually deliver on this. But why is customer experience important anyway?

The combination of rising customer expectations, the increasing sophistication of technology, and saturated market places have created a perfect storm for the consumer where their preferences reign. Not only do 70% of buying experiences stem from purely how the customer feels they are being treated (McKinsey), but according to Salesforce, 70% of consumers also say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.

Not getting customer experience to a level consumers expect can be costly. It was estimated in 2016 that in the U.S. alone, the cost of customers switching due to poor service was $1.6 trillion. Getting it right, however, delivers more than you would expect. A huge 86% of consumers don’t just cite better experience as a buying influence, they also admit they would be prepared to pay more for that better experience.

After all, customers aren’t declining the once-great pull of brand loyalty for no reason. It’s a pain to switch providers for products or services, no matter how exciting the industry is. But they are seeking the kind of experiences that make them excited about a brand. By 2020, customer experience is set to even overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator to the consumer. But how do you go about delivering this?

Part two: How to deliver great customer experience

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