As marketing consultants, our blog generally focuses on trending topics such as media strategy, adtech, ROI measurement and reporting. However, the fact is all aspects of a company combine to create consumer perception of your brand. Perhaps the most important factor influencing brand perception is customer experience. Today, we’ve invited our partner Ruby to guest blog on the importance of creating an omnichannel customer experience. We’re sure you will enjoy their thoughtful piece.
How often do you switch between your devices over the course of a typical business day? Dozens, hundreds of times?
Personally, I wouldn’t be able to keep count. Our devices are so connected that we can start writing an email on our desktop, revise it on our tablet, and send it from our phone. We can seamlessly send files from one device to another without any interruption via AirDrop or Bluetooth. And many of us wouldn’t have it any other way.
Is your business offering customers the same level of flexibility and convenience?
Maybe you’ve already optimized your business’s web presence. Perhaps you’ve embraced hyperlocal marketing and created welcoming and engaging social media feeds. And maybe your physical storefront or business lobby is warm and inviting, your customer service is top of the line, and all your other touchpoints are where they need to be.
Each of these pieces is important for drawing in new and returning customers. But if you were to look at your business in its entirety, would you see these pieces as separate undertakings? Or do they function as elements of a cohesive whole, fully and seamlessly integrated with one another?
There lies the difference between a multichannel experience and an omnichannel experience.
Multichannel vs. omnichannel: What’s the difference?
Imagine your business as an apple. (The fruit, not the tech company).
Some business owners choose to slice their apples into separate pieces. Think of each piece as a different channel. One slice may represent brick and mortar, another slice may represent a website, and another may represent phone calls.
Each slice is available to customers, but they are all consumed separately. Customers have access to multiple channels through which to reach your business, but perhaps those channels don’t “talk” to each other. This is a multichannel experience.
Many customers today don’t just want a slice of the apple. They want to take a big bite into the whole thing. They want a continuous, harmonious, convenient experience however, whenever, and wherever they connect with you. In short, they want an omnichannel experience.
What omnichannel looks like for your business depends on who you serve and what you offer.
Maybe it looks like…
- consistently responsive service online, over the phone, and in person
- lightning-fast lead qualification and conversion
- seamless patient intake and scheduling
- conversations that transition smoothly between phone and chat
- 24/7 availability for your clients and prospects
Why go omnichannel? Follow your customers’ lead.
Despite the evolving habits of consumers, most businesses are still clinging to the multichannel approach. They worry that going omnichannel is…
- Too costly
- Too time-consuming
- Too complicated
- Too risky
These are valid concerns, but they overlook two simple facts: 1. more and more customers expect an omnichannel approach, and 2. omnichannel is good for business. Consider the numbers:
- Customer retention rates are 90% higher for omnichannel vs. single channel. [Source]
- 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels. [Source]
- Companies with omnichannel customer engagement see between 3.4% and 9.5% year-over-year increases in annual revenue. [Source]
And why shouldn’t your customers feel this way? We live in an omnichannel world. As humans, we interact with the world on multiple platforms all at once. When these channels interact with one another, customers feel more connected to the businesses they support.
Meanwhile, corporate giants such as Apple, Disney, and Nintendo have been training customers to expect an omnichannel experience as the standard.
Take the Starbucks app, for example. Not only does the app link mobile payments to local stores—it also offers users reward programs and other digital incentives to promote continued use. Starbucks customers can order, pay, and redeem points all using the same integrated platform. They can even quickly reload their Starbucks cards while waiting in line.
As more large companies continue to expand their omnichannel services, more customers will begin to notice when a business is lagging behind. If the Starbucks app suddenly stopped offering services such as mobile ordering, their user base would feel cheated.
No, these customers probably couldn’t define “omnichannel” off the top of their heads, but they recognize it when they see it. And if they didn’t see it, they would feel like something is missing.
Going omnichannel: how to do it
To build an omnichannel customer experience, you’ll need to view your technology, processes, and people through an omnichannel lens. It begins and ends with your customers and the various places they want to interact with your business (that is, your touchpoints).
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Start with your customers.
The core of your customer engagement strategy is your customer. If you’re not already doing so, start collecting data on your customers at every interaction.
Consider: What do your customers want? Some customers want faster service and the flexibility to interact with you digitally. Others may prefer to interact with your business on a much more personal level and speak with a human being when they call or initiate a live chat. Part of your omnichannel strategy should include looking at your various customers and their pain points to identify customer needs.
Step 2: Design the omnichannel journey.
Once you’ve looked closely at your customers and identified the customer needs you want to address, you can build your customers’ omnichannel journey.
Whether you are trying to synchronize the experience of your physical office with a digital app, or connect your customer to the correct department when they initiate a conversation online, think about the possible stops your customers might make from start to finish. For instance:
- A client researching a product might start on your website.
- Next, they may follow you on social media or subscribe to your mailing list.
- Before making a final purchase decision, they might call you to ask about product availability or to schedule an appointment.
- After their purchase, they may contact you through website chat inquiring about next steps.
An omnichannel experience integrates those various communication channels so that your customer has a unified journey throughout.
Mapping out this journey will help you determine what technology and personnel support your company needs to integrate your digital and live channels.
Step 3: Select your omnichannel tools.
Omnichannel tools include technology that integrates your web and live channels, tools that collect customer data (and make it available to your customer service agents), and platforms staffed by highly skilled and trained customer engagement professionals.
To choose the right omnichannel customer experience tools…
- Identify what tools your business already has. What technology and services do you use to serve your customers? Are you using the full capabilities of those tools, and taking advantage of their integrations with other tools?
- Fill in what’s missing. Looking at your existing tools and customer journey map, determine what you need to add to create a seamless experience on the channels where your customers are active.
- Get to know your new tools. Beyond simply investing in new tools, take the time to learn how to use and get the most value out of them.
- Train your team and create buy-in. Ensure that your entire team knows how to use the tools they need to use to serve customers, and that they feel comfortable using those tools.
Watch out for siloes. Make sure everyone who acts on behalf of your business understands and believes in your vision of a customer-centric omnichannel journey. Keeping your team members cognizant of the bigger picture rather than hyper-focused on the roles they play in that customer’s journey will keep them looking toward your overarching customer service goals.
Step 4: Test, monitor, and improve your approach over time.
When looking to create an omnichannel customer experience, it can be overwhelming to consider the infrastructure needed to integrate all your channels. And with more digital and in-person channels popping up every day, it can be a lot to keep up with. Don’t feel like you have to integrate them all at once.
By getting to know your customers through collecting data and surveying customer experiences, you should have an idea of the few digital and live channels you want to focus on at first.
Implement your plan to integrate your priority touchpoints. Then, track and monitor how well you’re doing. Collect customer data and survey your customers’ experiences to continue to meet your customers’ needs. Over time, you can add (and integrate) more digital or live channels, especially if you see your customers’ needs evolving.
Keep in mind that the Disneys and Starbuckses of the world didn’t become omnichannel legends overnight. The same holds true for your business. Your omnichannel vision will take time and effort to implement. So, begin with your customers and their needs. Then, implement tools and strategies to help you make the journey—wherever it begins and ends—a seamless and positive experience for those customers.
Delight your customers on every channel.
Ruby grows your business by building lasting connections with the people you serve. With an award-winning team on your side, your customers will experience personalized service and a genuine, human conversation across channels.
Ruby creates meaningful customer experiences online and over the phone, empowering you to deliver the omnichannel future your customers expect.
Discover how it works at ruby.com.