Omnichannel contact: improving the digital customer experience
Increasingly-demanding consumers want businesses to present a single face to them – whether online, in a retail store or over the phone. We investigate how an omnichannel approach promises to deliver a consistent customer experience.
The Internet has fundamentally changed how consumers interact with businesses across virtually all sectors. Now more knowledgeable, they can get information from many different sources and want to communicate on many different channels from multiple locations.
It’s no longer just about phone, email and face-to-face contact. In just a decade social media has come out of nowhere to become a critical channel for interaction, particularly for dissatisfied customers. An Avaya survey found that almost 55% of consumers had interacted with businesses on social media. Businesses can’t simply ignore social media, because users will take to it anyway to vent their frustrations.
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supporting multiple channelsWeb chat is another channel that has come into its own – particularly for consumers shopping online. The survey found that it was the fastest growing channel, with 38% using it already, and 68% saying they would like to use it while browsing on the internet. Even video, which has languished for many years is starting to take off, with 55% of respondents interested in having their questions answered by video-chat.
But in many cases, the customer experience between these different channels are not at all consistent. Statistics from Eptica found that only 71% of companies provided email contact details on their website, and just 41% answered emails accurately. It took companies an average of over 60 hours to answer email, which is really quite poor. Social media responses were quicker, but still slow at eight hours average and only 38% of the responses were correct.
With such unreliable customer experience, businesses should not be surprised that their customers are becoming less loyal. They need to provide accurate, timely and consistent information across all channels – something they have known for some years. “True integration of the customer experience across all available communications channels, devices and applications is the holy grail of customer service,” says Nancy Jamison, principal analyst, Customer Contact, Frost & Sullivan.
new consumer behavior
What makes this new explosion of channels even more challenging for businesses is that consumers also want to switch between channels depending on context or requirement. The Avaya survey found that just 17% of the businesses it surveyed were able to support this behavior.
Consumers rarely follow a linear buying pattern anymore. They are more knowledgeable about products and more demanding about what they want to do with them. So they might browse the internet beforehand to find out about products, check social media and speak to an agent using web chat when browsing. Even when inside a store they expect to be able to interact with the retailer and get them to do a price match or get an upgrade, for example.
An Accenture report gives a good example of a disconnect customers often experience. “If a customer buys a tablet computer online and then returns it to a physical store, but the store is not equipped to take it, due to its being part of a different P&L, the customer is increasingly likely to be frustrated or even astonished by this problem,” it says. “After all, the customer views the company as being one company, and expects that the company will likewise have one view of them as a customer across all channels.”
“One of the biggest problems facing brands since personal technology decided to up its game during the last decade has been maintaining uniformity across channels of communication,” comments Jennifer Bowden, customer service specialist at numero.
The solution is an omnichannel approach, which takes a multichannel contact center strategy one step further to encompass all customer touchpoints including retail outlets and branch offices. In fact, it is better to think of the omnichannel approach as a single channel to the customer with multiple touch points.
four building blocks of customer experience
Bowden says that omnichannel communication can deliver better customer experience in four key areas. First is consistency; it helps businesses provide a consistent service based on a single set of customer data shared across all channels.
Second is personalization; it helps businesses build a detailed profile of customers across all interactions to find out their likes and dislikes in order to provide personalized offers and services. This can include real-time location information to provide relevant local offers.
Third is accessibility, it needs to ensure that you are able to react to and service the customer on any channel quickly. And fourth, it can help businesses become more efficient. Bowden uses the example of abandoned shopping carts, which are estimated to cost UK retailers £1 billion per year. By tracking the web journey, omnichannel software can flag this up to a customer services agent who can reach out to the customer and see if they can help meet their needs.
Taking an omnichannel approach to customer experience needs to bridge marketing, customer service and operations. But this company-wide approach will deliver the personalized customer experience that will help businesses attract and keep modern demanding consumer.