Omni-Channel Customer Engagement Article

Retailers Need to Update Logics Strategies for Omni-Channel

April 22, 2016

In “the olden days” of just a decade ago, the flow of goods from manufacturers to distributors to retailers’ warehouses to stores happened largely out of the eyes of consumers. The only thing most of us knew fulfillment and shipping logistics was that it put lots of trucks on the highway. “The last mile” of the journey was generally accomplished by customer purchasing items from the store and driving them to their homes. Aside from a small number of mail-order purchases, most goods were delivered to their final destination in the trunk of a car.

Today, the retail business is in trouble, a fact that can be garnered from glancing at the business news headlines. The industry is trying to reinvent itself as an omnichannel provider of convenient options such as “buy online, pickup in-store,” or BOPIS, but it’s getting uneven results. Low-paid retail workers simply aren’t trained to provide the kind of parallel channel customer service companies are touting. (See Computerworld’s excellent article, “Walmart Buy-Online-Pick-Up-In-Store Train Wreck.”) It turns out that putting part of your company’s omni-channel marketing strategy into the hands of minimum wage workers isn’t such a great idea.

Logistics strategies also haven’t been updated for an omni-channel customer experience, according to a recent blog post by Aspect’s (News - Alert) Ayesha Borker. In many cases, neither have contact center services or self-service. The result is a giant customer support mess.

“Most players in this arena suffer due to lack of cutting edge innovation in their customer service channels,” wrote Borker. “Majority of them are using longstanding systems, having scalability issues while also being stuck with traditional IVRs that do not serve most of their self-service needs. It is quite common to find message boards of their sites filled with complaints of unpleasant agent experiences. These businesses have an immediate need for a holistic and smart customer service model,” she said.

“Omnichannel” doesn’t mean offering customers a lot of disconnected channels running parallel to one another. It means building a strategy across retail, ecommerce, mobile app, contact centers and self-service that allows customers to cross each channel easily, bringing their customer information and their questions or problems with them. Cloud technology may be the only way to build a comprehensive omnichannel customer support and marketing strategy. The strategy also needs to be anchored in the contact center, not with a revolving workforce of retail employees.

“Cloud technology works towards hassle free speed to market and minimize ownership stakes from a contact center point of view,” wrote Borker. “It would allow these businesses to turn their cost of ownership into the cost of operations/productivity. Most firms are quickly expanding across regions to cater to increasing demands of delivery. Ease of scalability would ensure quick contact center expansion. Most importantly, cloud allows smaller players access to modern technology as well.”

Self-service is a really important part of the strategy, as the millennial generation gains buying power. These consumers are tied to their mobile devices and willing to use any strategy (retail or ecommerce) that works to their advantage, and they have high expectations of being able to transition from self-service to live service with no loss of knowledge. When it comes to self-service, it needs to be about more than voice IVRs.

“Using a natural language processing (NLU)-based bot or a disposable app could go a long way in reducing load on agents and increasing contact center productivity,” wrote Borker. “It is also an easy way for customers to have their queries addressed as most people today prefer to ‘see’ their answers than ‘hear’ them.”

It’s the place where self-service meets mobile devices, and the expectation is that it will be bolstered by live service, if necessary. Is your organization ready? 

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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