Beyond Multi-Channel: What’s an Omnichannel Customer Experience and Why Does It Matter?

June 28, 2019

Businesses that create a true omnichannel experience can exceed customer expectations and move ahead of the competition. At the heart of it, omnichannel is about using customer (and potential customer) data wisely to create a seamless customer experience, regardless of how the customer chooses to contact the brand.

There are a few good reasons that marketers should be leading the charge to omnichannel. First, the marketing department is responsible for many of these channels, including email and social media. Second, a great deal of the data that makes omnichannel work really lives with the marketing department.

To help guide the organization to a more profitable customer experience, marketers need to understand true omnichannel: what makes it work, how it differs from multichannel, and how to upgrade from one to the other. Read on to get started.

What Does Multi-Channel Really Mean?

Multichannel customer service means that customers can communicate with your business in a variety of different ways. They can send an email, call you on the phone, text you or tweet at you and expect a prompt response.

This type of availability is a good place to start. It’s certainly an improvement over insisting customers use fax machines or landlines to get ahold of your business. But, just being available on multiple channels doesn’t guarantee a consistent customer experience across them.

In practice, customers often feel like they’re starting over whenever they switch channels. The person answering email doesn’t know about the phone call with customer service. The phone bank has no access to the customer’s chat history. It all adds up to a frustrating experience that is only multiplied with each new channel.

What Is an Omnichannel Customer Experience?

Omnichannel marketing is a step up from multichannel. It goes beyond being available on multiple channels; instead, the goal is that channel shouldn’t matter to the customer experience. Regardless of how a customer chooses to contact your business, they can pick up the conversation where they left off. Think of it like a home entertainment system that lets you move from room to room, watching your shows on whatever connected devices are there, flipping from device to device.

Customers prefer this type of seamless customer experience, but they rarely get it. Think about your experience as a customer: Aren’t you pleasantly surprised when you don’t have to repeat the same information ad nauseum? Most businesses struggle to retain information on the same channel — for example, across multiple phone calls — to say nothing of maintaining consistency across all channels.

Imagine if the next time you called a customer service line, they greeted you by name, knew all about your order history, and had a record of every previous interaction. That kind of personalization, that level of customer care, is what inspires raving fans. And that’s what true omnichannel really means.

Upgrading from Multichannel to Omnichannel Customer Experience

At the heart of it, omnichannel means a shift from an incident-based system to a customer-based one. This may seem like a daunting task. But with the right change in mindset and some minor investments in resources and technology, it can be done. Here are the crucial considerations for developing omnichannel in your customer experience:

  • Data Management

First, you have to know who your customer is, what data they’re generating, and where it’s stored. It’s important to have a complete picture of your data landscape to start breaking down silos and making customer data seamlessly available across customer service. Companies already using a CDP have a real advantage here, since they’re already collecting and integrating data into unified customer profiles that can be used for targeting, segmentation, personalized offers, and more.

  • Single View of the Customer

Once you have mapped your data landscape, work on bringing data together into a single dashboard. The right data management software can help you create a holistic view of the customer for every individual customer journey, uniting channels into one seamless conversation.

  • Organizational Buy-In

Once you have customer information consolidated and readily available, it’s important to make sure the team has a will to use it. From leadership on down, it should be clear that the organization prizes an omnichannel customer experience, and that everyone should use the available tools to achieve it.

  • Focus on Customers, not Channels

In the end, how the customer chooses to interact with the brand will almost be irrelevant. Anywhere the interaction takes place, the data will be added to the conversation. Your team can view each customer action in full context, not as a series of isolated issues.

Start the Omnichannel Conversation

Is your customer experience omnichannel, or just multichannel? It’s a crucial question. By the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator for businesses. It’s high time to map your data landscape, break down silos, and create a consistent customer experience on every channel.