The basic principle of an omnichannel strategy is that retailers put customers (not platforms) at the centre of their customer communications. Whatever platform or channel the customers wants to use is just fine.
The obvious benefit of this approach is that it creates a unified view of the customer. Customer care agents have access to the customer’s history across all the different channels that they’ve used to talk to the retailer. This improves customer experience and increases the chance of repeat business. Customers want to research, browse, shop and communicate with brands at a time and place that’s easy for them. Retailers that make this happen will have happy customers.
How is omnichannel different from multichannel?
Multichannel solutions do a good job of providing the consumer with more choice (by allowing them to do business with retailers across multiple channels), but the customer journey is still fragmented. Customers still experience frustrations at having to repeat their issues to multiple representatives. A cross-channel strategy can help address this by sharing information between platforms, but it lacks the depth and effectiveness of a true omnichannel strategy.
Retailers that take an omnichannel approach integrate it into all their systems and departments. For example, omnichannel allows a customer to ask when their order will be delivered via webchat on the company’s website, later change the delivery date through text, and then leave a review thanking the company on social media. With omnichannel, each agent will know exactly what the customer is talking about and be able to respond effectively. But without this integration, there’s a real risk of something going wrong in the process.
In its Customer Experience report, published in June 2017, McKinsey explained the importance of omnichannel for the future of retail. It said: “Where companies once could differentiate themselves by product or efficiency, distinctiveness today increasingly lies in creating a seamless, omnichannel customer experience.”
In my experience, an omnichannel strategy has five core benefits to retailers.
1. Omnichannel allows retailers to create a unified customer view
Customers know that retailers collect data on them, but in order for them to be happy about it, they must benefit by getting a personalised service. An omnichannel solution helps retailers to deliver on this expectation. By keeping all customer information in a single customer view, retailers can identify preferences, purchases and trends with more efficiency. They can use this information to personalise and improve the service each customer receives, ensure that they are targeted with the right offers and promotions, and make sure that they are contacted on their preferred channels.
2. Omnichannel can increase first contact resolutions
An omnichannel solution provides customer service representatives with all the relevant information on the customer’s contact and purchase history. This gives them a better chance of solving queries the first time the customer raises an issue. It means the customer isn’t forced to keep contacting the retailer or calling different departments to talk to ‘the right person’.
3. It can get departments out of their silos
If you integrate information from across the business, you break down silos, giving the customer contact agent full access to everything they need to talk to a customer. Where operators used to have to transfer customers between teams – such as customer services transferring a call to accounts to update a payment method – an omnichannel strategy allows them to help the customer themselves. This saves time for both the customer and the business.
4. An omnichannel strategy increases the efficiency of the contact centre
Deloitte’s Global Contact Centre Survey in 2017 reported that 93% of executives expect their customer contact volumes to remain consistent or increase over the next two years. An omnichannel solution allows customer contact agents to deal with the increased demand efficiently. Omnichannel solutions mean that operators no longer have to hunt through multiple databases and systems for answers. Using one interface allows them to find the information they need to answer a customer’s enquiry efficiently and accurately.
5. An omnichannel solution saves the customer money
Omnichannel makes it easier for customers to transition between channels and provides them with the same level of customer service over webchat as it does the phone. Customers can get answers over more cost-effective channels – such as webchat and social media – resulting in decreased call volumes and freeing operators to focus on more complex queries.
In summary, it’s good for the customer, and it’s good for the retailer; it creates more customer acquisition and retention opportunities. It also leads to an improvement in customer service, and when people have a good customer experience, they like to tell others about it (Yonder Digital found that 88% of customers tell their friends and family when they’ve had a positive customer experience.
The increased personalisation of offers, loyalty programmes and customer service also means increased loyalty and engagement, creating more opportunities for retailers to upsell, cross-sell, and promote opportunities for repeat purchases. In short, omnichannel helps to create a seamless service that makes customers want to come back for more.
By Jack Barmby, CEO and Founder, Gnatta who help retailers to deliver universal customer engagement through the use of specialised software.