The concept of omnichannel customer experience – in which companies aim to provide a set of seamlessly integrated channels that cater to customers’ preferences and deliver the most efficient resolution – has been around for over a decade, yet many brands fail to deliver an effective omnichannel experience for their customers. Now in the wake of a global pandemic, excelling with omnichannel is non-negotiable. A 2020 McKinsey report shows that more than half of customers engage with three to five channels during each journey they take toward making a purchase or resolving a request. In hospitality, the average customer looking to book a reservation online switches nearly six times between web and mobile channels.
Economies may be reopening, but many customers have grown accustomed to the ease and convenience of digital service channels having no choice but to adopt them during the pandemic. Omnichannel will continue to permeate organizations as customers weigh their options moving forward. Some will continue the habits they picked up during COVID, using multiple different channels for brand engagement, while others with underlying conditions will have no choice out of an abundance of caution.
To connect with customers and win loyalty, businesses should reevaluate and enhance their omnichannel approach. Here are two things to keep in mind:
Understand your customers’ propensity to use multiple channels. Companies need to use data to understand which customers are most likely to engage in cross-channel service journeys – now more than ever given the changes brought about by COVID-19 – and what those journeys look like. Research shows, for example, that 47% of U.S. Gen Z customers research items on their mobile devices while shopping at brick-and-mortar locations. Older generations accustomed to simply picking up the phone have had no choice but to adapt to new digital service models, including several new steps in the customer experience. Grocery shopping is a perfect example: by the summer of 2020, 68% of customers were ordering groceries online for home delivery with many of these people being part of older, more vulnerable populations. Today, customers can choose from tens of channels for connecting to a services or sales organization, hence meeting the customer where they are is crucial. It’s not just voice, chat or email anymore; it is mobile messaging too, and this proliferation has no end in sight. Research shows that there are 1.3 billion FB Messenger users globally, and more than 20 billion messages are exchanged between businesses and users monthly on the platform. The capability to keep adding channels for your customers will remain front and center.
Identify the two or three most important cross-channel customer journeys for your business, then build from there. According to McKinsey, an omnichannel approach that focuses on top interaction models – versus offering the widest range of interaction options – can accelerate resolution times, create those “moments of delight” that keep customers coming back, and increase employees’ satisfaction and success rates. Some of the top cross-channel customer journeys today include online chat (live or AI) to phone, mobile app to phone, and SMS (text) to web. Another big trend we’re seeing is the de-escalation of a phone call to a mobile or digital alternative for self-service, otherwise known as digital redirection. In this way, companies can detect when a customer is calling from their mobile device and offer them the option to instead be redirected to a mobile or digital self-service experience versus waiting for a live agent. The self-service experience can be escalated back to a live agent at any time, with the agent receiving context on the self-service experience along with all other important customer data.
Customer journeys are nonlinear and unpredictable, now more than ever with the impacts of COVID-19.