Omnichannel Strategy: How to Identify and Prioritize Customer Channels
Illustration by MATT BROOKS

Last month, we shared insights from industry solutions providers about the top challenges that contact centers face when transitioning their strategy from multichannel to omnichannel, as well as the important first steps to take on your journey.

In today’s post, our panel of experts offers useful advice about how to identify—and prioritize—the customer channels on which to focus your efforts and resources.

Chief Marketing Officer & Executive Vice President of Strategy, OpenSpan:

With any initiative that involves your customers, it’s important to listen proactively to get ahead of what your customer base desires and how they want to communicate with you. Not all channels are created equal and some are much better suited to some transactions or customer profiles than others. Routinely evaluate what your customers are saying, analyze trends of your existing channels and pay attention to the market. My customer service experience at my bank is not evaluated against another bank, rather, it is evaluated against my personal experience with my wireless provider, or my last online retail experience.

The most important part of having an omnichannel strategy is to give your customer the right choices for the transactions at hand… and make sure it works! Make doing business with you effortless, but keep intelligence at the forefront. Always have the ability to understand what is taking place across all channels… Transactions are the heartbeat of your enterprise, so you’ve got to monitor the pulse to keep all channels in an optimal state.

MICHAEL GREGORIO Director, Product Management, USAN:
Many organizations believe they need to engage in all channels for the “ultimate omnichannel experience,” and that’s just not the case. It’s about quality over quantity—focusing on the customer relationship rather than the actual channel is key.

There is also an added dimension of—and complexity of—growing channels. Many organizations are scrambling to accommodate them all. Yet, a recent Forrester survey (“Q1 2015 U.S. Top 50 Brands Social Web Track”) found that just 0.22% of the top brands’ Facebook fans interact on that channel. On Twitter, Pinterest and Google+, that interaction rate is below 0.05% and falling fast.

To break through this noise, an organization needs to identify and prioritize where to orchestrate engagement across channels, including the fusion of inbound and outbound communication. For example, customers rarely use just one channel to complete an interaction, and many end up in the contact center. The majority of inbound calls to the contact center come from customers who first attempted to resolve an issue on a company’s website, while many callers are still on the company’s website as they are speaking to an agent.

Understanding your audience is one thing; knowing where customers will engage at multiple steps in the journey is another critical part of an omnichannel strategy.

Vice President & Practice Leader, Customer Experience, Verint Systems:

First, make an inventory of the channels that you’re using today across the organization. We often see “disconnected listening” in organizations. The contact center may be handling telephone, while a technical support team within the organization may be using chat that you didn’t know about, and another area has suddenly decided that they’re going to allow customers to text them.

Then identify how you are listening and interacting with your customers across all of those channels. This gives you an opportunity to determine who’s doing what, how they’re doing it and how it intersects with what you’re doing within the contact center. Are there some best practices that you can pick up from other groups in the organization? How do we identify a customer in each one of those channels? Are other groups interacting with customers on things that the contact center is already doing? Are we duplicating efforts and increasing our expenses or causing confusion for customers about how they want to interact with us?

Next, very simply ask your customers what their preferences are for interacting with your company in some sort of descending order. Be sure to honor those preferences as you move forward. Many companies forget to ask, so getting your customers to identify how they like to do this is an important point and can save you a lot of time. Then you can start looking at how to connect the dots and bring some of those touchpoints together.

Vice President, Product Marketing & Solutions, Five9:

Creating a customer journey map will allow you to view the entire customer journey—from the first time they hear about you through evaluation of the product, sales and post support, and all the touchpoints that a customer would use for each of those.

Perform a gap analysis: Create a two-dimensional graph by plotting your customer journey along one axis and, along the other axis, how important that channel is to that customer at that point in time. By looking at and rating the channels, you may find that there some channels your customers are using, but which are not that important to them.

I recommend surveying your customers to find out what their preferences are, as well. There is a lot of great benchmark data available that will give you additional insights into general consumer preferences. For instance, Dimension Data publishes a benchmark survey every year. They offer a free summary that provides quite a bit of data about consumer channel preferences by age. You can put all of that information together—the general preferences along with the specifics for your customer—to identify and prioritize the channels.

Vice President, Corporate Marketing, Genesys:

Look at the entire customer journey and think through the interactions that customers are most likely to need at each step. In some cases, it might be that proactive notification becomes a key channel that contact centers can use at a certain part of the journey, rather than a traditional voice interaction. For example, at account renewal, proactively reach out to customers with an SMS or an outbound call instead of waiting to save a customer when they sign off of an account.

When you look at interactions in a journey context, you can start to be very intelligent about how you manage and prioritize them. Oftentimes, when the phone call comes to the contact center, it’s too late: A customer has had a billing issue, there has been an error in their account sign-up and their name is misspelled, or they’ve just come out of an IVR where they have tried unsuccessfully to enter their account information several times. That call lands on a contact center agent who has a very small chance of making it a good interaction.

In a journey-centric approach, customers would receive a proactive phone call or notification before they realize there is a problem. For example, “We apologize for a billing issue that occurred. Can you arrange a time to talk to us so we can sort it out?” And then the contact center agent can provide a credit to turn those negative experiences into wow moments that build loyalty. That’s the journey promise.

Director, Global Contact Center Consulting, Interactive Intelligence:

Survey your customers. Ask your QA team for input. Conduct agent focus group sessions. They know more about your customers than anyone in the company. Pilot new channels to validate your strategic assumptions and make necessary adjustments before rolling out.

To read the full Q&A panel with more insights on the omnichannel evolution and how it will impact your center, download the article here.