Plenty of organizations are struggling with implementing omnichannel communications for customers. While they may understand the need in the abstract, they still aren’t seeing a good enough picture of the customer journey to help them anticipate customer needs. As a result, there may be multiple channels available for customers, but they’re likely poorly integrated, or have varying levels of responsiveness. Customers today have short tempers, short attention spans and low levels of loyalty. Running into a single barrier in communications can be enough to put them off the company entirely.
For companies to comprehend how customers want to interact with them, it helps to think about how they themselves use social media. In a recent blog post, Aspect’s (News - Alert) Maddy Hubbard recounts an instance of playing Words with Friends.
“Last week, I was in the middle of a game with a friend,” she wrote. “After a triple letter, triple word, high-scoring move, I sent her a message in the app to congratulate her on the score-crushing play. After I sent the message, it occurred to me how ‘omni-channel’ we were. Within a 72-hour period, the same friend and I had communicated via voice, email, SMS, instant message, Facebook (News - Alert) Messenger and Words with Friends chat.
That is precisely what customers today are looking for. They want to keep the context of an exchange with a company in place but have the freedom to wander in and out of channels at will.
“Our conversation was seamless and flowed naturally from one channel to another,” wrote Hubbard. “These kinds of conversations should be the goal for any customer service organization. When I think of my recent customer service experiences, seamless interactions would be a welcome change.”
Too many companies are still putting parallel communications channels in place but building in little opportunity for customers to “cross over.” While it’s certainly multichannel, it’s still not omnichannel.
“Multichannel customer service checks the box for offering options that go beyond voice; however data and information is generally siloed, meaning if I move from self-service to live service, I’m forced to repeat information I’ve already entered and explain what I’m trying to accomplish,” wrote Hubbard. “An omnichannel experience would allow me to seamlessly continue receiving assistance when I cross channels, including providing context to live agents.”
Imagine that a customer has a problem with a digital camera: the battery door won’t quite close, and the camera is flashing a mysterious warning. The customer takes a photo of the camera with his or her smartphone, and uploads it to the Facebook page of the store that sold it to her. She adds a comment: “Has anyone else had this problem?” If no one from the store responds, she’s stuck having to pick up the phone and dial, explain her problem and perhaps email the photo to a representative. If she’s transferred to a technical support line, she may have to explain her problem all over again and resend the photo.
Now imagine that someone from the store’s customer support center spotted the Facebook post and responded to it in a timely manner. That agent could initiate a live chat through FB Messenger with the customer, and they could both look at the photo while the support rep – the right person to answer her questions – explains to her how she could try and solve the problem.
This is the difference between multichannel and omnichannel. Once upon a time, companies believed they had to build an omnichannel approach to compete with the market leaders in their industry. This is no longer the case: companies today have to compete with real life. Today’s customer is programmed to think in omnichannel customer engagement mode, and expects the same from companies.