Today’s retail environment is a consumerist nirvana where shoppers can get whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want it. They're regularly switching from e-commerce sites to apps to physical stores, and using an average of five connected devices to access voice, email, chat, social media and self-service when conducting their research and completing purchases.
This dynamic between consumers and brands means that retailers must provide a connected end-to-end customer journey in order to remain relevant and competitive. An omnichannel strategy can deliver on these new customer demands. So, how do you get started? In order to create, implement and successfully execute an omnichannel strategy, companies must focus on three things: people, processes and technology.
People Who Need People
In the case of omnichannel, people take precedence over technology, and we're seeing the customer service agent’s star rising. Brands must change their mind-set from one where agents own a specific channel and rush to quickly address support tickets, to one where "universal agents" follow customers across channels and are encouraged to take the time to focus on what matters most: the complex, emotional work required to establish and sustain customer relationships.
To operationalize this mind-set, companies must seek to first hire employees with a high emotional and proficiency quotient, and then provide them with the training, autonomy and support required to help them own the customer relationship. This support includes fostering a caring corporate culture that engages and inspires, and where employees have long-term career opportunities. It also extends to providing the best tools and technology to help them succeed.
Using High-Tech to Be ‘High-Touch’
In order to drive the evolution of an agent’s role to a universal agent in an omnichannel organization, companies need to provide them with the entire context of the customer relationship in a single view. When they have a customer’s up-to-the-moment journey at their fingertips, they can deliver a personal, high-touch and rewarding customer experience in real time.
Sophisticated analytics programs can quickly aggregate and translate data from a myriad of channels. Used in conjunction with artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can also provide agents with data-based predictions on why customers may be calling or what personalized upsell opportunities exist. These types of predictive analytics help make every interaction seamless and relevant.
Changes in Processes Ensure Long-Term Success
It’s not just the physical setup that needs to change. How an organization thinks about, and in turn, manages its business needs to change as well. Companies need to embrace a customer-first paradigm shift. This includes the direct involvement and support of senior leadership, who can remove any silos that may exist, and extends to how companies recruit, hire, train and reward their employees.
Swapping out "unfriendly" customer service metrics for more meaningful and "human" metrics at the enterprise level is also key to implementing a successful omnichannel strategy. When agents aren’t rushed to end calls to meet unrealistic metrics, they have the time to fully address a customer’s issues. Average handle time is the antithesis of a human-friendly metric, and brands should instead focus on customer satisfaction and first call resolution, which give agents "permission" to take the necessary time to own the customer experience from start to finish.
Customer Experience is the New Competitive Battleground
In the near future, an omnichannel customer experience won’t be a nice to have; it will be a matter of survival for brands as customer service becomes increasingly prioritized by consumers. By focusing on bringing people, technology and processes into line as part of your omnichannel strategy, you can expect to drive an enhanced customer experience that will in turn drive top-line growth.
Michael Ringman is the chief information officer of TELUS International, a customer experience innovator that designs, builds and delivers next-gen digital solutions for global and disruptive brands.