Interacting with your customers through multiple channels is no longer enough. To stand out, companies must provide a seamless customer experience across devices and channels. Many businesses are still in the early stages of developing an omnichannel experience, but several strategies are beginning to emerge. A critical component of an omnichannel strategy is shaping the experience around customers’ preferences.
Businesses are struggling to keep up as consumers use a growing array of devices and technology like smartphones, tablets, mobile and web browsers, email, and social media in their daily lives. The challenge is how do you make those interaction channels available through your company and how do you give a consistent experience across those different channels?
Reading a newspaper on an iOS device versus an Android device, for example, can be a different experience even though both are essentially the same mobile channel. Not only do I have multiple mobile channels, but also chat, web, and email for interacting with you from a push perspective. And depending on what channel I use, as well as whom I’m dealing with, that could also be a different experience.
Business leaders should remember that customers do not think in channels. For example, a company’s online and customer care channels are traditionally handled by different functions of the business, even though the customer expects to be treated similarly by both channels.
So how can a company organize, connect, and tailor its customer experiences across channels? The first step is putting yourself “in the shoes” of customers and examining their needs before deciding which channels to focus on.
A few companies are getting closer to connecting channels like financial services company USAA, for example. Because it serves the military, USAA has a very mobile, globally dispersed customer base and the company has had to figure out how to create an omnichannel interaction method for its customers. The organization worked on its phone service, which is the channel that is easiest to use by a lot of USAA’s customers, and it is one of the first banks and insurance companies to roll out all kinds of mobile transaction tools such as being able to deposit a check by taking a picture of it.
Connecting USAA customers’ financial data through its mobile channel made sense after the organization analyzed its customers’ needs and realized that many people interact with the company through a mobile device. The goal is not to offer as many channels as possible, but to understand your customer base and the channels that they want to use to interact with you.
Various types of technology, data and platforms must work together in order for businesses to understand who their customers are and what they want and how to connect those experiences across channels. There are a lot of things that are happening under the hood. Organizations need the multichannel capability; they need the analytics layer, and also a routing engine and a listening engine. And, as companies gather more user data through social media listening tools, cookies, third-party data providers, and other sources, they are building more detailed customer profiles to provide more relevant messages and services.
Even though companies have a clearer understanding of what they need to provide an omnichannel experience, executing these strategies will take time. It’s awesome what these technologies are enabling, but I would argue companies are still far from successfully stitching them together. Omnichannel experiences are still aspirational right now, although we’ll continue to see developments over the next few years.
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