Andrea WilliamsAndrea WilliamsJuly 3, 2019
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8min1630

When it comes to Customer Experience, “omnichannel” has grown to be one of those inescapable buzzwords.

So, what does the term mean, exactly?

HubSpot’s definition states: “Omnichannel experience is a multi-channel approach to marketing, selling, and serving customers in a way that creates an integrated and cohesive customer experience no matter how or where a customer reaches out.”

The “integrated and cohesive” aspect is probably the most crucial element of the definition. Another major point is the fact that the experience must be the same “no matter how or where a customer reaches out”.

You might say: “Great! My customers can buy my product or service on different channels and my marketing team sends out communications in more than one way. I’ve already mastered the omni-channel approach.” 

Not so fast.

OmniChannel vs Multi-channel

Omni and multi-channel are two entirely separate approaches.

Multi-channel involves reaching customers in a variety of ways, be it in-person, online via websites and social media, or on the phone. This approach is designed to unify sales and marketing processes. In other words, you’re providing customers with many opportunities to engage. It’s not necessarily about aligning all the different channels; it’s simply making them available.

Omnichannel, on the other hand, takes the “multi-channel” approach one step further. Both digital and physical channels are merged to create a single, cohesive, and seamless brand experience. The distinctions and separations between different channels disappear. Think of it as the more “customer-centric” option out of the two formats.

 A customer might begin communicating with a brand representative via live chat like Facebook Messenger or an on-site chat platform. Once the conversation evolves to a more advanced stage, it can then move to direct email or even phone conversations, retaining all the context of former conversations.

Beyond that, experiences a customer has with a brand in-store or on-site are preserved and then carried on to other digital channels. Social media reps communicating through DM, for instance, might be able to see that the customer they’re talking to has visited a local store. In an omnichannel system, complete customer histories are easily accessible. During the brand “conversation”, the customer should never have to repeat themselves.

This kind of cross-platform strategy can also be referred to as an experiential marketing campaign. You’re building an entire conversation around the experience itself, which spans not just multiple platforms but multiple talking points, as well as digital and physical interactions.

Why are omnichannel experiences so important?

Back in 2014, Gartner predicted that over the next two years (by 2016), 89 percent of companies had expectations to compete mostly on the basis of Customer Experience. That prediction was for three years ago. CX is now a differentiating factor.

When it comes to CX, without a solid understanding of omni and multi-channel concepts, business leaders are setting themselves up for disappointment.

Since an omnichannel approach is customer-focused, it means that the mindset has to be developed foundationally, starting with company culture and radiating outwards. Executives and management should set the example, with support trickling down to the service reps on the front line.

Omnichannel should be the main goal of a business’ entire digital strategy. In fact, it is one of the most crucial elements of modern digitisation, or the company’s digital transformation.

Creating a brand hub

Of course, an omnichannel approach isn’t possible unless the company brand has consistency. The message, voice, and overall user experience must feel part of the same “conversation”.

Many organisations are taking notice, consolidating their digital presence by building “communities”. Eight-one percent of companies already have an online support community in which customers can ask other customers for technical help and troubleshooting. Online communities that offer mobile and desktop experiences, shopping, social networking, learning, and even entertainment such as games are becoming the go-to brand destination. Consider that 77 percent of companies believe that an online community significantly improves brand exposure, awareness, and credibility.

What now?

Now that you understand the difference between omni and multi-channel experiences, and why they matter, it’s important to spread the message within your organisation. You simply cannot afford to put off adopting these customer-centric approaches. Find a way to incorporate them in your current processes and strategies, or else you’ll find your organisation is unable to compete.

 


Andrea WilliamsAndrea WilliamsMarch 22, 2019
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9min1104

If you’re reading Customer Experience Magazine, then you’ll be aware that CX is a much talked-about business concept.

According to Forrester, it can be defined as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company”.

This is a concept with a very long history – it’s just never had a catchy name before. Customer Experience has had different forms, as it’s been influenced by technology and the prevalent customer preferences of each generation and era over time.

It’s hard to pinpoint where it all started. We know that on January 1, 1876, the red triangle of Bass Ale became the UK’s first official trademark. While businesses had been marking their products to show origin since time immemorial, the modern understanding of branding was arguably born alongside that first trademark. Even back in the 1800s, the idea of branding was an implicit recognition that the customer was on some sort of journey of research and discovery before making a purchase.

Let’s travel back in time and explore the transformations that shaped CX…

Everyone knows your name

The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, once said: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.” It’s an analogy that works as well today as it did in the past. It’s up to the host to be gracious and make guests comfortable.

Back in the 50s, there was no “customer experience”. No fancy business lingo – just service. This was the age of genuine, low-tech personalisation. Business owners chatted with customers and remembered preferences.

Have you ever watched the hit TV show Mad Men? If so, you know that when housewife Betty Draper wanted to go out shopping, she got the royal treatment. Salespeople remembered her, greeting her by name, inquiring about her family and making tailored product suggestions.

Indeed, the shopping experience of the 50s was familiar and comforting. That’s because it was a social experience; as a customer, you likely got to know the owners and employees of companies you interacted with on a personal level.

Don’t get too nostalgic, though. It gets even better…

You can shop on ‘The Internet’

Today we don’t even think twice about “going online”, but back in the early 90s it was a big deal! In this era the internet became commercialised; Amazon started selling books online and Pierre Omidyar founded eBay.

 This decade was characterised by excitement (perhaps with the exception of the Dot Com bust, which wasn’t as amusing). Online shopping made it possible to buy goods at any time, regardless of ‘store hours’, without even leaving the house. Ecommerce also brought with it the opportunity to order far more than what one could find on a store’s shelves.

On the other hand, the focus on service didn’t seem as important.

Because these technological developments were so new and intriguing, the loss of that special personal touch went unnoticed. Web ‘pages’, as they were called back then, were barely functional, much less optimised for the user’s enjoyment. It would take a while for the notion of ‘user-friendliness’ to gain traction. Yet even though there was no personalisation, there were cool new things to click.

After all, you don’t expect the royal treatment when you’re an adventurer heading off into the unknown – which is how people felt venturing to buy via personal computers.

Tech that ‘gets you’

Today we take all the convenience of technology for granted. In fact, we’re likely to get upset when things don’t work instantaneously and seamlessly (“This web page is taking more than five seconds to load…I’m outta here!”).

Yet we’ve also missed being remembered by companies; being treated with special care. That’s where modern Customer Experience enters the scene. Research from Salesforce estimates that 75 percent of people now expect a consistent experience wherever they engage with brands – be it through social media, mobile, or even in person.

CX has become all about providing both intuitive technology and automated personalisation capable of remembering preferences, making recommendations and offering help.

 Customer Experience has essentially come full-circle: it started out as an emotional experience, transformed into a display of ‘cool’ technology, and now it’s back to being people-focused. The question modern companies are asking is: “How do we apply all the tech at our disposal to delight the customer?”

Businesses want to forge personal relationships with customers again – albeit in the digital space. Business consultancy Walker suggests that by 2020, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. No wonder everyone’s talking about it.

Must everything change?

While technology has raced ahead, people have remained relatively unchanged. No matter how much time passes, the customer still desires to feel special and valued. Making them feel like they got away with a great deal is never going to get old.

We may have moved past the quaint days when shop owners greeted us by name, but when we get the sense a company sees us as just a number, we’re quick to take our business elsewhere. Today we enjoy the best of all worlds: the customer comes first, and businesses have the technology to craft remarkable experiences. With the rise of omnichannel – another one of those hot buzzwords – service expectations have increased. Modern customers fully expect the royal treatment, anytime, anywhere.

What’s next? New experiences that fully merge physical spaces with digital tech. Future CX-obsessed companies will ensure the customer journey is always on and responsive to a customer’s location and overall context.

Told you it gets better!


Andrea WilliamsAndrea WilliamsJanuary 29, 2019
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7min1740

According to the Harvard Business Review, the seemingly-elusive definition of Customer Experience is “the quality of all of a consumer’s encounters with a company’s products, services, and brand”. 

Of course, you want your company to be the best – have the greatest products, most engaged employees and stellar Customer Experience. But many firms get lost in the process of crafting a competitive CX program. It’s not always straightforward, so, how should you start?

Savvy businesses have discovered the need to focus on the new frontier, namely digital Customer Experience – defined as “only (things) experienced through a digital interface, like a computer, tablet, or smartphone”. It’s important to understand that Digital Experience is not a subset of CX, but rather the area where you’ll likely get the most return on your investment in today’s business environment.

Why? Imagine that you’re out shopping and need to ask a question, but the salesperson is helping another customer at the moment. You likely won’t mind waiting a few minutes for your turn. On the other hand, if you’re trying to buy something online and the page is taking forever (more than 10 seconds) to load, you’re immediately outraged.

As a consumer, you already know this: interacting with a firm online is very different from visiting a business in person. The standards for customer service in the digital world are much higher.

Online customers will quickly write a business off if they have to jump through any hoops when requesting help. If your technology doesn’t deliver, if the technical functionality isn’t there, your company loses the opportunity to establish a positive relationship with that customer – and other elements such as quality of the product or the use of creative design won’t make up for that defeat in the long run.

Even businesses with big budgets routinely fail to prioritise the technical functionality of Customer Experience. This brings us to CX tech solutions that facilitate a digital Customer Experience program. Investing in this type of software offers a juicy competitive advantage. The field is wide open.

How many times have you tried to complete a routine digital interaction with a large company and thought “Wow, considering this is an industry leader, it sure is a nightmare booking a vacation / accessing my bank statement/ finishing new hire on-boarding …?” If, as a smaller company with a “shoestring budget”, you focus on really getting the technology solutions that best fit with your industry and target market needs, you’ll already be ahead of the curve.

CX tech is a growing niche. There are lots of available tools, whether it’s mobile platforms, chatbots, online communities, location services (beaconing), and many personalisation strategies. It’s up to you to test these many offerings and select the vendor(s) providing the best partnership for your company.

As you tackle this decision, keep in mind that the greatest bang for your buck could come in the from delivering Digital Experience from a mobile mindset. Here is why:

• A mobile system is accessible anytime, anywhere – both for team members and customers

• Each company is different, and requires the right tools, not all the tools – mobile platforms can be customised through third party integrations

• Fit with the modern business climate – it’s a cliché, but everything changes in an instant today. Mobile apps are constantly being improved upon and updated

• Resonates best with modern customers – people check their phone every 12 minutes on average or around 80 times per day, which means asking them to get on a desktop computer to connect with your company is already poor Digital Experience

But of course, don’t take our word for it. Explore various options while monitoring your own preferences as a consumer. Think about how a seamless experience on mobile influences your habits when choosing one company over another. After all, isn’t that how you ended up with those glow-in-the-dark holiday socks from Amazon?

The same processes are at work in the B2B arena. Quality Customer Experience tech will make it easier to understand your company’s brand, not just for customers, but for partners and employees as well. For instance, many businesses have already established online brand communities where they share news and updates while strengthening their image as industry experts.

Great CX is all about making a connection; having helpful, memorable interactions with customers. For B2B companies, this can encompass everything from sending out personalised notifications to providing turn-by-turn directions inside a convention centre  to automating the registration process for guests at the corporate headquarters.

The real value of CX tech is only now beginning to be understood.




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