The Death of Omni-channel and Birth of Any Media

Part I – Blog Series

The death of omni-channelCustomers really do see many different interactions with your company across many disparate channels as a single conversation with a single entity—regardless of how many departments or organizations those interactions represent within a company. Add one part millennial entitlement and it starts to bring a fascinating, new level of expectations to these customer interactions.

We are starting to now come to terms with the fact that multi-channel really does fall short of the mark. Omni-channel conveys a viable way to talk about smarter, more personalized interactions and how you need to serve customers as they move between channels. But the term is confusing and off-putting, and moves us further away from the conversation we should be having.

So perhaps there is something critical missing in today’s customer service equation.

It’s the Customer, Stupid!

My epiphany on the challenges of the term omni-channel came about during a sales training event—after explaining the term three different times and hearing my definition start to drift from one explanation to the next. I was literally losing my audience, as I watched the sales team chuckle and shake their heads. Epic fail. No compute.

So, let’s ponder the definition. Omni-channel encompasses a real-world phenomenon today that organizations are woefully unprepared to deal with—the seamless movement of customers from one channel to the next. The most common case of this is a customer who starts online but cannot solve their problem there. This happens during the sales cycle, and this happens when they need support. According to Forrester, 69% of online customers move to another channel because they are not able to solve their problem on the web. Or perhaps, a customer has spoken with someone and now they want to know that their package is shipping—a simple text message fits the bill there.

What about someone who is talking on the phone to an agent, and the agent can push web pages to them? Or send text messages with URLs? What about co-browsing? What about POS devices or stores or bank branches?

All of these fall into different definitions of omni-channel, and the complexity of the ‘what if’ game that goes with the term takes us away from what really matters—the customer.

What if we just agree that customers want to talk when they want, on the most convenient channel they prefer in that moment? And that every interaction should use as much context as possible to be as smart and productive as possible. Wouldn’t that be much simpler?

Now we can just focus on what customers want and how we can best accommodate them. That’s the objective of every business—not to mention the price of admission for loyal customers and a thriving, sustainable company.

Having the Right Conversation

If you want to deliver an amazing customer experience, you have to first talk about three things:

  1. A smooth transition between channels: Can I escalate from the web or a mobile app to a person who can help me and knows what I need?
  2. Smart interactions within a channel: When I call, do they know who I am? Can you connect me to the person I spoke with last time? Do I need to wait on hold or can you call me back?
  3. Responding to changing conditions regardless of channel: It’s contact center managers who are on the front lines of the customer experience. Do they have the tools to own and manage the customer experience themselves? Do they need IT or another professional services organization, and a two-week change order process to let customers know that you are aware the power is out in their zip code?

What matters to a customer is very simple: Can I get my issue or question resolved quickly and easily? This is what we should all be focusing on—this is the birth of the any media concept.

Any media means putting the customer in the center of all that you do—eliminating disconnects between different media, and giving customers a smart, efficient and consistent experience on the channel of their choice. Lest we forget, that includes voice, so don’t let all the noise about multi-omni-cross-channel distract you from providing good service on the channel that customers still use the most for service inquiries. If you make every interaction smart and efficient, you can truly start to build strong customer relationships that are memorable—which can ultimately be your biggest differentiator.

Until Next Time

In Part II of this blog series, I’ll address the three key facets of any media customer service, starting with an overview of an effective, logical approach to offer customers a simple, smart way to get help when they are lost online. In Part III, I’ll share my thoughts on treating customers right, even when they call you on the phone.

Max Ball

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Max is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for 8x8 Virtual Contact Center. [...] Read More >