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Why Omnichannel Customer Experience Is Important

What it is -  and isn’t  – and should be!

When I was asked for my thoughts on why Omnichannel CX is important, the first thing I realized is that before I could begin to address that, I had to first establish what omnichannel CX is! 

And the best way to do that, I think, is to start with what it’s not.

Our industry is rife with the use and abuse of language. In this regard, marketing and CX professionals are easily amongst the most immature of modern industries, which breeds confusion. Massive, ridiculous, industry-wide, out of control, confusion.

Channel strategy is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Omni versus Multi versus Strategy

The term “Omni” has been used to describe God. That’s right, God, no less. The specific word used is actually, omnipresent. 

It means, quite simply, that God (in whatever form a particular faith may observe), is present everywhere, in all things, and at all times. 

It hails from the Latin, Omnis meaning “all”. 

So in truth, unless you are active on all conceivable channels, you simply aren’t Omni.

But if you’re into language and meaning in the marketing world, you’re in for a headache. It might even drive you to madness. And the next time some uber-cool kid from the digital department hails their “omnichannel strategy”, just because they launched a new website, you’ll be super tempted to snap. 

Or maybe you’ll just pat them on the head, tell them they’re “cute”, and hand them a dictionary. 

Nah. You won’t. You’re too polite and professional and all that. 

The reality remains though, that most organizations don’t actually have anything resembling omnichannel. More accurately, they operate in multi-channel.

Whatevs. Here’s the bigger issue.

Just because you have a car and a couple of bikes at home, doesn’t mean you have a “transport strategy”. In the same way, just because you have a few digital assets and some stores, doesn’t mean you have a “channel strategy”.

The presence of channels, and the absence of strategy, is commonplace.

Corporate Dementia and Bad Ideas

Now, you can tell brands that have channels, without a coherent CX strategy, by one simple tell. Without exception, they suffer from what I like to call, corporate dementia.

And you know exactly what I mean.

Like when you phone a call center and they ID you and then ask you how they can help, and then transfer to another department, who IDs you and asks you how they can help before they transfer you to another soul, who pleasantly ID’s you, and asks how they can help.

Like I said. Dementia. And that’s within one channel! 

But it doesn’t end there.

Assuming you ever get to the conversation you’re trying to have, why doesn’t the agent know that you were on the company website yesterday and what you were looking at, and that you were in-store 2 weeks ago, and on the chat 4 days before that? 

In other words, why don’t they know that your call to them, is in the middle of a conversation, not at the start of a new one? 

It’s like visiting an aged member of the family in a rest home and hearing the same stories, over and over and over, whilst their new friend asks who you are 12 times. 

Quite apparently my friends, this is accepted industry practice. It’s everywhere.

But why?

Well, one of the reasons is that brands are often only invested in thinking about their channels, but aren’t invested in thinking about their actual customers, who are, by the way, the consumers of said channels. 

Once they have made this mistake, the error compounds. 

They start to align with ideas that work in an isolated channel context but fail miserably in a customer context. 

For instance, there is a love affair with A B testing in many digital teams today, predicated on the idea that customers are operating according to the same individual context as each other. 

A typical A B test on a web asset forgets that the journey may have started with a Google search and then a store visit and only then a website visit for player A; but a store visit followed by a call to the contact entre before landing on the website, for player B.

The state of motivation can be anywhere from boredom or frustration, determination or excitement, and therefore intent and context will be unique to the individual. That also means that the likely next step in their respective journeys will be entirely different. 

Do we want to A B test that? Really?

Now, this stems from another broken idea. Specifically, that we marketers control the journey at all! 

Marketing teams are convinced — probably as a result of being trained by marketing cloud vendors and consultants— that they can dictate their customer’s interactions based on a left-to-right, sequential and linear journey map.

It begs the question, have these people ever met a real human? Geez. We just don’t behave like that. Not remotely. Humans are messy, biased, non-linear, and utterly self-determining. 

Real customers don’t give a yahoo about your “map”.

I could go on. I won’t. You get the idea. And so in returning to the central question (finally! — you are probably thinking). Why is omnichannel CX so important?

The answer is simple. Because we have to fix all of the above. 

Top 3 Reasons to Get this Right

The most important change we must make, is to shift our strategy away from channel-think. Instead, we need to focus on the human that is choosing to connect with us in whatever way they so choose, and whenever they choose to do so, for whatever reasons they might have at that moment, conscious or not, rational or not.

And to learn how to do that in real-time.

It is this, not the myopia of channels and campaigns, that real omnichannel CX strategy, is all about.

There are 3 key reasons that this is truly important to company growth.

Connectedness is increasing. First of all, society is adopting new social and other technologies constantly. If we think it is challenging to address all channels today, it is only going to get harder. So focus on the human, and your channel decisions will make a lot more sense (and save you a lot of money too). 

Trust underpins loyalty and spend. This is a big topic, but as trust has collapsed across all institutions over the past 20 years, brands that have been able to foster trust have truly massive competitive advantages. Most don’t understand this, but neuroscience tells us that we can embed trust via relentless delivery on our brand promise. In this context, customer channel execution is simply as critical as it gets. As I said, this is a big, big subject.

Economics. Building on the last point, the economic models (many defined by Dr. V Kumar, professor of marketing at Georgia State University), are simply beyond dispute. When you get customer engagement right, you drive demonstrable financial outcomes as measured using formulae such as Customer Referral Value, Customer Influence Value, Customer Knowledge Value, Customer Collaborative Value, Customer Brand Value, Customer Engagement Value, and of course, Customer Lifetime Value.

Omni-customer Strategy

I started this piece by having a little crack at the incessant use of the term Omni by folks whose strategy is about as “Omni” as chickens are dinosaurs.

But that is only true, because of the word we attached to it: Channel. 

In reality, it doesn’t matter how many channels you have, so long as they make sense to customer needs. It is much more important, how many customers you have, how you keep them, and how you maximize their lifetime value.

So, let’s replace “channel”, with “customer”. 

If you like the idea of engagement with your customers in an omnipresent, or omnirelevant way, then perhaps we should have an omni-customer strategy.

And you know what? Watch how quickly your channel decisions will start to be easier and make more sense! We will leave corporate dementia behind, and the bad ideas that permeate the industry will be easier to spot. And to discard.

Not only that, but data science will also have a true north.

If you want a world-class omnichannel CX strategy, then change the lens to the customer, and to their journeys. 

Not yours.

About Aarron

Aarron Spinley writes, consults, and speaks internationally about growth strategy and engagement economics, and has been rated by Thinkers360 as a top 10 global thought leader in marketing, customer experience, brand loyalty, and culture. In particular, Aarron is known for his work in “Digital Darwinism”, marrying the multi-paced evolutions of business, society, and technology, and drawing heavily on fields as diverse as economics and the social sciences. Aarron is an SVP at Thunderhead.

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