By Raj Sivasubramanian
Director of Customer Experience Services
Omnichannel is an area where many organizations have been investing time and money over the last few years. By enabling seamless communication across online and offline channels, omnichannel strategies should equally benefit both companies and their customers. However, a common mistake many organizations make is taking a self-centric approach to the omnichannel versus a customer-centric one. They build their strategy around internal interests like targeted marketing or reducing contact center costs, and fail to consider the customer perspective.
Consider a recent self-centric omnichannel example from this past holiday season. One of the most sought after holiday items was Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition – a miniature version of Nintendo’s original video game console. Supply was limited as Nintendo underestimated demand for this retro device. I really wanted one for my daughter (and my own nostalgia) and prepared for the morning of its release. I checked online stock at several retailers and noticed one particular retailer had a store with more stock than others. This store was an hour away and while other options were closer, the quantity of stock was significant enough to warrant the longer drive as availability dwindled at closer stores.
On the drive down, I used the retailer’s app to continue to check stock and all looked good. However, once I got to the store, I was disappointed to learn the device sold out several hours earlier. I showed a store manager the app indicating stock was available and was told “those things are never accurate and don’t get updated in real-time.” As I was leaving—disgruntled about wasting over an hour of my time—I received a notification through that same retailer’s app about the latest deals on other electronics items in that store.
What I learned was the retailer wanted me to use its app to get me into the store. Once I was there, its omnichannel approach sent me a targeted ad. The problem with this is that it only served the retailer’s interests and not mine—and, it didn’t care enough to inquire about my in-store experience. Needless to say… I haven’t been back.
Another common, self-centric example of omnichannel is found in customer support, where organizations now provide service through a variety of channels: phone, email, chat, SMS, social media, mobile app, etc. In theory, this should create a better service experience by allowing customers to use the channel they prefer. However, it backfires for self-centric organizations that focus purely on cost-saving aspects. These organizations “offer” every channel, but make their more internally-preferred channels easier to find.
There is nothing more frustrating to me than being unable to locate a customer support phone number when I need it. A close second is attempting to resolve an issue through an online channel, failing to do so, struggling to reach a live agent, and then having to start over once I am able to finally connect with someone. A recent study points out that most customers still prefer human customer service interactions over digital alternatives, and aren’t fans of the companies that avoid posting contact numbers for service and support on their websites.
It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game between a company’s internal interests and the customer experience. The most customer-centric organizations are able to use omnichannel to drive revenue and lower costs, while also delivering a better customer experience. How do they do it? It’s actually pretty simple. They view every decision they make through their customers’ eyes and listen to their customers.
What leading organizations have in common is their commitment to engaging with customers. They capture feedback from customers across all of their channels which allows them to better tailor their omnichannel approach to the individual needs of their customers. They know what channels their customers prefer to use, are driving great experiences and which need improvement. As a result, they are able to realize all of the great benefits of omnichannel, while still delighting their customers.
If the retailer in the example above had asked for my feedback about my experience, not only would I have been more likely to return, but it also would have discovered an easily fixable issue with its omnichannel experience that was likely frustrating other customers as well.
Is your omnichannel strategy customer-centric or self-centric? If you’re not capturing feedback from customers across all of your channels, your approach may be more self-centric than you realize. Take that first step toward creating customer-centric experiences by listening to your customers. It may be the start of something amazing.
Raj Sivasubramanian is a Director of Customer Experience Consulting Services for Verint Systems. Prior to his current role, Raj was at eBay where he focused on enhancing Voice of Customer programs by driving a shift from just trending metrics to delivering actionable insights used to improve the customer experience.
Raj has worked across multiple industries in a variety of sales, marketing, consulting, and customer experience roles and the one constant throughout his career has been his passion for delivering great customer experiences. Raj is a frequent conference speaker and advisor on the topic of customer-centricity, metrics, and customer feedback. Raj holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.