ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


When it Comes to Omnichannel, Make Sure the Customer is Always Right

While customer experience leaders repeat the mantra ‘the customer is always right,' do you know who doesn’t agree – customers. Because they don’t always know the best channel to choose. The vast majority (87 percent) of consumers expect companies to direct them to the channel that quickly resolves their situation. And, they expect to be able to switch channels seamlessly for fast resolution. But, they are not getting the omnichannel service they expect, and only a minority of businesses are focused on providing such service. Instead, businesses are focused on optimizing individual channels.

Omnichannel customer experience

NICE inContact’s latest research, the CX Transformation Benchmark Study, found that consumers today expect businesses to provide a seamless omnichannel experience. Voice, chat, email, web, social presence – if it’s a channel your customers are using, they expect you to be there. Of consumers surveyed, 36 percent are more willing to do business with a company that offers more ways to communicate with them. Yet, only 25 percent of that same group strongly agree that companies make it easy to get their issues resolved in their preferred channels. Businesses can close this gap by building an omnichannel strategy that delivers a seamless, exceptional experience that solves customer issues, in the way they want to solve them. But, our study found that only 27 percent of businesses plan to add new services to enable channels to work together seamlessly in 2018.

Let’s look deeper and see where businesses are currently falling short in their omnichannel strategy, and consider some of the factors that can lead to success.

Seamless Transitions

From the customer perspective, regardless of channel, businesses are doing an adequate job of resolving customer inquiries – with an average of 60 percent first-time resolution rate according to our study. This means that no matter which avenue of outreach, the issue is resolved during that single engagement. But what about the other 40 percent? And, our study found that a full two-thirds of self-service interactions require a move to agent-assisted channels. What happens when a customer emails several times for support, but when they finally make the phone call, they have to walk the representative through the entire scenario from the beginning?

Many businesses misinterpret omnichannel to mean having a presence in several individual channels. For an organization to truly provide an omnichannel experience, the walls between each channel need to be permeable – customers want a seamless experience. And, customers want to feel that, throughout the service process, businesses are proactively sending them to the channel that will help them resolve their issues as quickly as possible.

But businesses continue to struggle to connect customer journeys in a highly personalized way across multiple channels. Many use disparate systems for different channels and lose the context of the customer journey. Unfortunately, that may not change soon. Of all the improvements businesses plan to make over the next year, the least reported priority (27 percent) is adding new capabilities that enable channels of communications to work together seamlessly. Rather, businesses are prioritizing improving website experience (50 percent), despite the fact that websites already have a relatively high Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a proven metric for measuring customer experience, based on whether customers would recommend products or services to others. This focus on website experience over creating seamless service across channels indicates a continued focus on individualized channels. If businesses want to deliver a customer experience that shows they understand the needs and expectations of their customers, they need to adopt the mindset of an ecosystem, not of silos.

New IM From: Your Customer

While chat first rose to prominence as an early form of consumer social media in the 2000s, it has matured to become a core collaboration function within businesses. Its proliferation continues, and many consumers opt to leverage chat to engage with customer service. In fact, 39 percent of consumers rated online chat as one of their most preferred channels, and chat has the highest Net Promoter Score of all channels. It is not surprising that chat performs so well with consumers, as it is a natural interface to blend self-service and agent-assisted (both humans and bots).

Despite consumers’ preference for chat, however, only 16 percent of businesses view it as a preferred channel. Here are a few of businesses’ reported reasons:

  • Chat can be very inconsistent; it can be time consuming and has a high drop off rate
  • Resolutions tend to come about when people are speaking with an actual person

We can draw two important conclusions from these reasons. First, “high drop off rate” is an indicator that, for consumers, in many cases, chat is the first touch point of several – reinforcing the need for businesses to prioritize a seamless jump from chat to other channels. Second, chat bot technology hasn’t yet reached the scale of success of its human counterparts. Still, consumers have spoken, so despite hesitations and reservations on behalf of businesses, they need to start planning for a future in which chat is king.

Think Omnichannel, Not Multichannel

The fundamental approach to customer service has radically changed. The journey is no longer linear, and customers are adopting new channels at an unprecedented rate. And, as we watch digital transformation unfold over the next few years, it’s likely that new channels will emerge. For businesses, this means adopting omnichannel strategies and technologies that provide fast resolutions within seamless channel transitions. The truth is, to live up to their mantra, ‘the customer is always right,' CX leaders need to help ‘make them right’ by guiding customers to the most effective channel to resolve their issue and making it seamless to switch between channels if their initial choice is not meeting expectations.

Stay tuned for my next article in this series, as we dive into where customer and businesses agree when it comes to delivering an exceptional customer experience. If you missed my first article, Are Businesses Overconfident in Their Omnichannel Customer Experience? Survey Says Yes, please check it out.