What does “omnichannel” really mean? And is it a viable strategy for customer experience professionals?
For customer experience professionals, omnichannel — the popular buzzword used to describe a company’s efforts to wrangle a consistent experience across all channels — is already legacy thinking that represents a limited approach for designing and delivering services. Instead of thinking about all channels, companies should focus on designing content and services delivered in specific touchpoints — the touchpoints that align with customer needs and the business' strategic goals.
This requires new thinking about the ways that customers interact. Companies must:
Understand target customers and their real goals. Using ethnography and other exploratory techniques, customer experience professionals can get to the bottom of how customers operate and what they really care about, which ultimately determines what they need and where they need it.
Design services first. In a recent conversation with a large financial institution, we learned that the bank does not have separate touchpoint teams. Instead, it has a deposit team, for example, responsible for all related services and deployed appropriately across relevant touchpoints.
Deliver in the right touchpoints for target customers. Giffgaff, for example, doesn’t have phone support. Its model is based on an active community populated by a very specific type of user.
We’ve probably all heard some story about over-the-top customer experience in our day. Like the story about the family on vacation at the Ritz Carlton, Bali. The family of a child with a severe food allergy was on vacation. The food they’d brought for their child spoiled en route. When they arrived, the manager of the hotel consulted with his executive chef who was unaware of any shops on the island that stocked the specialty items that had spoiled. But he did recall a shop in Singapore, where his mother-in-law lived, which stocked food the child could safely eat. So what did he do? He called his mother-in-law had her get the items and jump on a plane to Bali. For those of you who are curious, that’s a 3-plus-hour flight!
Stories such as these stand out for obvious reasons. But they don’t scale. That’s why companies need to focus on delivering great experiences, day in and day out, with products and services that meet customer needs, are easy to use, and are enjoyable.
It’s this last piece — enjoyability — that’s so hard to pin down. Why? First off, enjoyability is subjective. What one person thinks of as fun, another person thinks of as foolish. Skydiving, anyone? (I’ve tried it and think it’s kind of cool, but maybe it’s not your thing.) What’s more, many of the things that we think benefit customers, such as providing seemingly unlimited product configurations or service choices, are actually the opposite of enjoyable because they cause anxiety and hurt the decision-making process. And to top things off, it’s hard to sustain an enjoyable experience from start to finish. Ever been to a theater to watch an otherwise-satisfying movie only to be disappointed with the ending? How about being treated like royalty when considering signing up for a service only to be disappointed by how you were treated once you became a paying customer?