Image courtesy of Pixabay

I originally wrote today’s post for Intradiem. It was published on their blog on October 15, 2015. 

How would your customers rate your omnichannel experience? It’s probably time to make that a priority, if it isn’t yet.

Customer effort is (or should be) a huge area of concern for customer experience professionals; it’s major point of contention and frustration for customers. Measuring customer effort is probably one of the best ways to understand if you’re delivering a great customer experience; effort is a key driver of satisfaction and of the overall experience, no doubt. If you’re not asking a customer effort question on your transactional surveys, it’s time to add the question; the responses will likely be eye-opening!

If you’re thinking about reducing customer effort, one of the most impactful ways to do so is to take a look at your omnichannel experience. Don’t confuse that with multichannel or any of the other “xx-channel” terms. There’s a difference! Let’s start with defining multichannel versus omnichannel.

Multichannel refers to offering or using multiple channels to interact with their customers, for purchases, support, or whatever the customer is trying to achieve with the company. Multichannel does not refer to a consistent, seamless experience across channels. The experience is not optimized across channels, and the channels are not integrated in any fashion. This can lead to a very fragmented experience for customers.

Omnichannel refers to using these multiple channels to interact with customers (or for them to engage with you) but in a consistently seamless way. The experience is consistent with each channel, and companies know who the customer is and what she’s done at any previous channel with which she’s  interacted with them. In other words, omnichannel is all about delivering a seamless brand experience across and with all channels. Regardless of which of those channels your customers use, they feel like they are getting the same, personalized experience; they don’t have to start from scratch with each interaction. To them, you appear as one brand from channel to channel. (It sounds odd to say that, but you know there are plenty of brands out there that are very disjointed from channel to channel.)

I’m going to focus on the omnichannel experience. I think most businesses know that they’ve got to offer multiple channels with which customers can interact with them. But far fewer have mastered how to make the entire channel ecosystem experience effective; they haven’t made it a priority to integrate the experience across all of those channels.

Why is this important?

According to research by Oracle Retail and Retail TouchPoints about the shopping experience…

Omnichannel shoppers are the most valuable. These consumers are significantly more valuable compared to single-channel: More than 45% of retail executives report that omnichannel shoppers are 11% to 50% more valuable; and close to 3% said they are up to 200% more valuable.

Three of the most significant ways that their value/profitability is measured include: frequency of shopping trips, total dollar value of purchases over time, and average basket size.  I don’t think we can argue with any of those metrics when we think about the value of a customer. These types of results speak to focusing on the omnichannel experience – simplifying it and reducing the work that customers have to do when they are interacting with your company.

If you want to effect change that results in reduced effort and an improved omnichannel experience, it will take a herculean endeavor. Why? Because, first of all, by definition, it’s not something that each individual department can fix or improve on its own. It’s an organization-wide transformation, and it begins with executive commitment and then moves into understanding your data inputs, outputs, infrastructure, and flow.

Once the executive team is on board (resources, budget, etc.) with this transformation, there are two key next steps:

  1. Silos must be broken down. This is a culture thing. Departments need to start talking to each other, working together, and sharing data and information. Key to this is helping each department understand how they impact the customer experience, i.e., importantly, that every department touches a single experience in one way or another. The best tool to facilitate this understanding is a journey map.
  2. You must have a single view of the customer. In order for this to happen, data must be shared. In order for that to happen, your CIO must prioritize the work; without that prioritization, forget about it. The key to an improved omnichannel experience and, hence, a reduction in customer effort, is data. It must be shared across departments and channels; in order to do that, you’ve got to have the right architecture and infrastructure in place to capture it, centralize it, and get it into the hands of the right people at the right time in a format that makes sense and is actionable. No small feat! It has to be given top priority. Now.

The crux of the matter, the reason that the omnichannel experience breaks down, is that the business acts like it doesn’t know the customer at every touchpoint. For the customer, that means that he has to “re-authenticate” at every interaction; he has to start each interaction with identifying himself, what he’s trying to do, who he’s already talked to, where he’s been, etc. You’re a customer. You know all about this. It’s so frustrating. Why perpetuate this experience with your own customers.

Customers and prospects today are extremely savvy and informed. They want to browse, shop, talk, and otherwise interact with companies through a variety of channels: phone, web, in store, social media, app, mobile, web chat, and more. The bottom line is that companies need to allow customers to do so  using whatever channel is most convenient for the customer; most importantly, those channels must afford a seamless and personalized experience. Then, and only then, will you have successfully reduced customer effort in a way that is meaningful and impactful.

Are you ready?

In the future, I’ll write about a channel that you may not think about when you’re making the transition and the transformation from multichannel to omnichannel experiences.

The le
ss effort, the faster and more powerful you will be
. -Bruce Lee