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Say Goodbye To Omnichannel, Say Hello To Omnimoment

Brian Cantor

Thought leaders may speak extensively about cutting-edge digital channels, but customers continue to seek support the old fashioned way.

CCW Digital’s annual consumer survey reveals that adult consumers from all demographics still prefer calling for support. They want assistance from live agents.

Is it because customers enjoy the effort of locating a customer service number, dialing and then waiting on hold? Is it because they believe in-depth conversations are the best way to solve simple issues? Is it because they love speaking on the phone in 2018?

Not particularly.

Nearly 90% of customers reveal that they call because they believe it is the best way to get a fast resolution to their problem.

Think about that for a second. Digital platforms like mobile SMS, live chat and chatbots are supposed to represent quick, convenient alternatives to speaking on the phone, yet customers believe the phone is the faster option.

This reality offers two important takeaways:

-- Customers are not confident in digital channels. Digital advocates promise fast, easy pathways to resolution, but customers’ own experiences tell them otherwise. The digital experiences they know are slow, cumbersome, frustrating and ineffective and ultimately force the customer to escalate to a conventional voice channel. If a phone conversation is going to happen anyway, why waste time on the intermediate step?

-- Customers care more about outcomes than channels. Since customers routinely use web, mobile and social channels in their everyday lives, it stands to reason that they would prefer them for customer service interactions. They nonetheless opt to call support -- even when they have the option to use digital channels -- because they believe the voice channel will produce a better experience.  

In response to those takeaways, organizations must take two courses of action:

-- They must elevate the experiences within (and across) all channels. No touch point should feel inferior.

-- They must focus on overall outcomes. What are customers trying to achieve? What experiential factors matter most as they pursue those objectives?

By undertaking those steps, organizations will not simply deliver an omnichannel experience that offers a singular, consistent commitment to customer centricity across all channels. They will create an omnimoment experience that maximizes every moment of truth.

Channel Optimization

Based on their preference for voice channels in the digital age, customers clearly value outcomes over channel preferences.

That does not, however, mean they do not at all care about channels.

Customers still ultimately want to connect on their terms. They still want to define the type of experience they have with organizations.

More importantly, they want to feel confident that they will receive a great experience wherever they choose to connect.

Whether rooted in actual preference or the context of a particular scenario, customers will initiate engagement in non-voice channels. If this experience is frustrating, difficult, unhelpful, impersonal or otherwise ineffective, it will yield dissatisfaction. Worse, it will mar their perspective of the overall brand.

Even if they ultimately get their problem solved upon escalation, they will have endured wasteful hassle en route to that outcome. They will not be happy.

Mindful of this reality, businesses must invest heavily into each channel. They must ensure customers – whether via self-service or agent assistance – can receive a high-quality, high-value resolution at all touch points.

This optimization cannot, however, happen in a vacuum. While escalation never represents an ideal option, it will be inevitable in certain cases. That escalation process must be utterly seamless; difficulty switching to a new channel will only compound the customer’s frustration.

Integration, moreover, plays a vital role in improving the experience within each channel. If agents cannot access data or seamlessly communicate with customers in each channel, they will be unable to provide an optimal experience.

Live chat that lacks context about the customer’s past voice conversations, as an example, will be inherently suboptimal.

If an organization does not want customers to move to a new medium, it needs to ensure data always moves between channels.

Maximizing Moments

Customer-centric organizations cannot ignore channel preferences – or the experiences that occur within individual channels.

They must, however, understand why customers are really engaging. They must gain a true, outside-in perspective of what customers want at each actual and theoretical phase of the journey.

That information, quite frankly, represents the key to optimizing individual channels.

It, more importantly, helps organizations orchestrate journeys so that customers are always at the best touch point possible.

By spotting trends and patterns in behavior, organizations can either actively (through routing) or passively (through education) direct customers to the best channel for their particular issue. Make no mistake – this may be an omnichannel world, but some channels are better than others for certain issues. There is nothing wrong with driving customers to these channels: if the customer understands why the “right-channeling” is happening, endures no undue effort in the process and truly does receive an exemplary outcome.

The organization can also adapt conversations based on issues and personalities rather than channel conventions. SMS conversations may be brief and pointed, but if the customer’s “intent” is for consultative guidance about the return process, a customer-centric business will work to incorporate “human” elements into the conversation.

Moment maximization also involves identifying opportunities for enhancements. This may involve issuing relevant proactive messages in the right channels at the right time. It can include providing helpful tips (such as best practices for preserving battery life) for customers who are browsing the “battery” section of an electronics website. It can also include offering loyalty gifts based on some of the customer’s past purchases.

The point is that the business is not evaluating the experience on a channel-by-channel basis. It is evaluating the entire experience – including the different channels – in conjunction with each customer’s goals for the journey. It is constructing an omnimoment experience.

Constructing such an experience requires a robust journey map. The organization must understand how customers are navigating the experience, and how those routes can be optimized.

It must also leverage analytics and feedback with the specific goal of chronicling customer intent. Existing customer preferences, including channel selections, are merely “best guesses” for attaining the desired outcomes. If organizations identify those desired outcomes, they can reverse engineer an experience that is more fruitful and impactful for customers.