Omnichannel

Moving From Omni-Channel To A Channel-Less Customer Experience

I write on customer service, customer experience and related topics.  

Frankly, I’m tired of the terms omni-channel and multi-channel. For several years everyone has been talking about omni-channel support or multi-channel support. Being able to connect to a company on the customers’ preferred channels is important. Do they want to contact you through email, a social media channel like Twitter or Facebook, a review site, the traditional way via phone or even in person? Do they want to buy online, onsite, in-store or over the phone?

So, what exactly is omni-channel? A Cloudtags article titled What Is Ominichannel?, had some interesting information. The word omni comes from the word Omnis, which can mean “all” or “universal.” Some people use the term multi-channel, and the word multi comes from the word Multus, meaning multiple or many. So, whether it is all channels or multiple channels, does it matter?

According to Kevin Gavin, CMO of Five9, a leading provider of cloud software for the contact center industry, the only thing that really matters is the customer connection. He says, “Omni channel enables enterprises to seamlessly engage with their customers across all channels. It greatly improves the customer experience by ensuring that as customers move from channel to channel, their context and history moves with them. Consumers today expect this type of seamless experience from the companies they interact with most frequently.”

So, consider this. In the end, the customer doesn’t care about how many channels you make available to them. They just want to buy the way they want to buy, have their questions answered, their problems solved and their comments acknowledged. It doesn’t matter what channel. So, why do we keep talking about different channels? It’s really about connecting and responding to the customer.

For the customer, these channels are simply a way to communicate. They don’t have to think about it. They just jump on the channel of choice and interact with the company. So, what channels should a company be on? All of them? Maybe. At a minimum, at least the ones where the customers are.

Scott Horn, CMO of [24]7, an AI-driven customer engagement software and services company, understands the problem. He predicts that channels will blend together. Switching from one channel to the next, or handing off the support inquiry from computer to machine will be seamless. He says, “Rather than adding more channels, companies will begin to orchestrate the customer experience by pairing channels to make a consumer’s experience easier. Companies will do a better job of choreographing a consumer’s experience within and across channel pairs, such as chatbot to live chat.” I’ll take it a step further and say it won’t be just pairing. Pairing is the start. There may be three or four channels that blend together.

Horn’s prediction of channel blending is already happening. I recently had a conversation with Jeff Nicholson, VP of CRM Product Marketing at Pegasystems, which is working to simplify this. Pega is a software company dedicated to delivering better business outcomes by enabling greater customer engagement and operational efficiency. Nicholson gets this concept and knows what customers really want. They don’t care about multi-channel or omni-channel support. Instead, he says what they really want is for your business to become Channel-less.

Channel-less is not only easier for a customer, it’s also an easier concept for companies to grasp. That’s why Nicholson is excited about the Pega Customer Decision Hub. It moves companies from an omni-channel strategy to channel-less strategy. The “Hub” brings the experience of all the channels together by powering all engagements from one central artificial intelligence ‘brain’. This removes the onus upon each channel to understand each customer moment or possess complex logic. It allows channels to function ‘contiguously,’ enabling each customer to move from one channel to the next without missing a beat. The system recognizes that even though the customer may be communicating through and across different channels, it’s still the same customer communicating with the company.

It also allows concurrency, in which a customer can be interacting on multiple channels at the same time, but it is as if he or she is interacting on one.  In a very simplistic example, a customer can be in front of a computer filling out a form on the company’s website, while at the same time talking to a customer service rep from that company on the phone. Before, these channels were separate, but now they work together seamlessly, sharing data, insights and context, as just one interaction.

The Artificial Intelligence in the Pega Customer Decision Hub enhances the customer experience by refocusing the interaction around the customer, not the channels… And by knowing the customer’s interactions across all channels, including sales, marketing and customer service, it can intelligently determine the next-best action the company should take for that individual.  The system can even predict what the customer will need or ask for next. Nicholson summed it up by saying, “When all of these interactions are in one place, you can get a better sense of a customer’s needs. As a result, you can be not just proactive but pre-emptive, reaching out to customers to solve a problem even before they know they have a need.”

All the customer wants is to connect with a company. It’s not about a channel. It’s about making a connection. So, make it easy. Make it seamless. Make it ubiquitous. Make it channel-less!

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