Omnichannel: 4 pillars of a purposeful omnichannel customer service strategy

Posted March 31, 2016

By Michael Ringman, CIO, TELUS International

Adapted from a keynote presentation at Cisco’s Driving Customer Loyalty in a Digital World event.

In the 20 years that I’ve been in the contact center business, I’ve been fortunate to witness the industry grow and evolve. You might assume my excitement and passion lies with the innovation in technology, but what I find truly exciting is that in 2016, we finally have top executives across the organization saying that customer service actually matters. In fact, it not only matters, but is critical to a successful omnichannel strategy.

Customer service evolution

The customer journey is no longer a simple process with a clear beginning, middle and end. Thanks to a little thing called the internet, purchasing any given product now involves online comparisons, reviews, blog posts, tutorials, user guides, and Facebook likes.

The new customer journey
The new customer journey

Customer service has also evolved, moving beyond just the traditional brick and mortar interactions. Technology has added new levels of engagement, creating a multichannel approach where the customer has access to kiosks, online chat, email, help lines and more.

The challenge is that not all individuals in a multichannel organization are on the same page. There is no unanimous agreement on what constitutes a world-class customer experience, or a clear vision for execution. But this understanding is the basis in a purposeful omnichannel strategy. It’s not just about technology but the overall commitment to delivering exceptional customer experiences at all touchpoints in the customer journey.

From Multichannel to Omnichannel CX

A checklist to assess organizational readiness – with Everest Group

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Four pillars of building a purposeful omnichannel strategy

A purposeful omnichannel strategy really starts and ends with the customer, focusing on delivering effective experiences in an increasingly connected world. There are four key components in the development of a purposeful omnichannel strategy:

1. Connected – It’s the realization that every customer interaction needs to effectively deliver exceptional service through each channel in the business. Whether via chat, email, phone conversation, store front or text, a customer should have a consistently positive experience regardless of the medium. Everything is connected and sharing information across different business units is integral; a simple concept that’s difficult to execute.

Four pillars to a purposeful omnichannel strategy
Four pillars to a purposeful omnichannel strategy

2. Customer First – This requires an organization-wide realization that the customer is more important than the services or the solutions that your company provides. Of course you need a good product, but without the customer, there is no one to purchase your great product and thus no revenue. The focus needs to shift to the customer profile, loyalty and preferences.

Putting customers first
Putting customers first

Customer interaction is complex but technology can assist through the design of customer care processes that center on consumer needs and tasks, not channels. Many companies are still using different and disconnected software applications to manage interactions across different mediums. Consolidation allows for the delivery of exceptional customer service through a frictionless experience. Ultimately, agents should be able to conduct a call, chat with a consumer, reply to email and respond to a post on Facebook using one single tool.

3. Outcomes – To quote Steve Jobs: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology.” Businesses need to focus on the outcomes to delight customers throughout the customer journey. Omnichannel provides content at every point of the customer journey and customers expect each engagement with an organization to be effective and on their terms. Customer acquisitions starts right at the beginning of a customer’s ‘buying journey’, where they will research online or follow on social media to learn more about any given product or service. They will make their buying decision based on pricing, terms and conditions and their interaction with the enterprise thus far.

As they embark on their ‘owning journey’, they already have some degree of expectation based on their buying experience. The responsibility is on the organization to then reinforce that they made the right decision through customer support.

Customer journey outcomes
Customer journey outcomes

With multiple channel options at their fingertips, customers expect a level of service and information as they move them from one step in the journey to the next. We often refer to these steps as “customer moments of truth” because if there is a bad experience at any one of them, the organization could lose the customer, as well as future growth in their business.

4. Business Intelligence – Omnichannel is able to derive a goldmine of actionable information for an organization. Despite our best efforts, we know not every customer interaction is going to be positive, but those moments of truth serve as an important learning opportunity that can drive improvement across the entire company.

Customers matter most

Researcher Brené Brown said it best: “When you own your story, you get to write the ending.” And the same holds true for owning the customer experience. When you know the expected customer outcome – whether it’s through Facebook, chat, web, e-commerce, mobile or store front – and have an organization that’s aligned with that customer first mentality, you’re ensuring a much more enjoyable business outcome for your organization.

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