If you think being multichannel means being omnichannel, think again

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fotolia_80218430_subscription_monthly_mI recently purchased a mobile phone and wasn’t able to get some of the functions to work with my smart watch. Since both devices were sold by the same manufacturer, I figured it would be an easy fix if I made my way down to the brand’s retail store.

I explained the issues I was experiencing to the consultant at the retail outlet, but he also was unable to resolve them and suggested I searched the company’s online FAQ or called the customer hotline for some troubleshooting advice.

After spending some time online and failing to find a resolution, I finally picked up the phone and called the manufacturer’s customer hotline. I spent the first five minutes repeating the issue and several more minutes waiting on the line while the call agent attempted to identify a possible resolution. Long story short, after spending a good full day and addressing the same issue to multiple personnel from various departments, I finally was able to get my two devices to work after they finally connected me with the right experts.

My experience of that long-drawn episode is a common occurrence that persists today because contact centres are unable to effectively follow the customer experience journey, from start to finish.

How often is this heard from customers:

“I’ve already explained the problem to your previous call centre agent!”
“This is the 4th time I’ve had to describe the incident. Doesn’t your system already capture those information?”

Most people expect to be able to interact with businesses through a communication platform of their choice—be it in person (over the counter), mobile, social media, or telephone. When they find themselves unable to do so, due to a disconnected customer journey, their frustration will lead them to the competition or, worse, broadcast their experience on social networks.

It is important to note here, too, that simply providing multiple customer touchpoints doesn’t equate to an omnichannel customer experience. There are stark differences.

Broken multiple touchpoints just as bad

Some organisations believe it’s enough to deploy multiple communications platforms such as voice, email, and web chat. However, if they fail to ensure there is proper integration in the backend connecting all these different channels, it is as good as—or rather, as bad as—operating a single-platform call centre.

Simply adding on more and more channels may offer different touchpoints, but does not establish a holistic customer journey. It does not guarantee consistency and integration between the different communication platforms, which will result in businesses losing context and sight of the customer journey. Imagine sending an email and not getting any reply, or calling up the organisation’s helpdesk only to speak to a call agent who has no clue you sent an email three days ago.

It also doesn’t help that many companies today outsource the management of their social media platforms to an external service provider and overlook the need to ensure such third-party vendors are working in tandem with their contact centres.

The dots have to be connected. That’s the key difference between multi-channel and omnichannel.

Omnichannel customer engagement establishes that big picture, that able to deliver coherent service across all channels, as well as switching between the various platforms seamlessly. The entire customer journey, regardless of whether it starts from an email or a text message or voice call, should be immediately accessible to all contact centre agents.

An integrated view that cuts across multiple communications platforms will enable businesses to know how they can best serve their customers right from the first point of contact.

A 2015 Fifth Quadrant survey revealed that 76% of Asian consumers would switch brands after a bad customer experience. Another 72% would advise their family and friends to do likewise, according to the study, which polled 2,538 consumers in Singapore, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It further revealed that respondents, on average, used three channels to resolve a query and preferred to do so on their preferred platform without having to move to an alternative channel.

According to a Forrester Total Economic Impact study, businesses that invest in an omnichannel strategy will clock returns of up to 158% over a span of five years. They are able to so from achieving better business efficiencies and higher online sales conversions. Companies also can churn an additional US$1 million in sales due to higher conversions from both online and voice agent calls that have been enhanced with intelligent routing features.

If the manufacturer of my mobile phone and smart watch had operated a truly omnichannel infrastructure, consultants at the retail store would have been able to immediately input my issue into the system. This would then automatically trigger an alert to the respective technical experts who would then work to identify a resolution. Once this had been established, I would be notified and receive the solution via the communication channel of my choice, be it a phone call or email or text message.

That would have been a much more positive customer experience and valuable for brands, especially now when all it takes is just one negative encounter for customers to take their business elsewhere.

Take the Forrester Omnichannel Customer Service Assessment to help you to identify the strength and opportunities for your organisation to grow.

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Vikas Kumar

About Vikas Kumar

Vikas Kumar is the Solutions Leader for Multimedia Routing and Analytics in the Asia-Pacific region at Genesys. Vikas has worked with customers across the region to help them define their technology vision and strategy and managed successful projects by helping them identify and deploy cutting edge technology in the area of customer interaction management. Follow him on Twitter @vikasism