Omnichannel customer service is assistance and advice for customers across a seamless and integrated network of devices and touchpoints. Businesses with robust omnichannel customer service can maintain consistently great experiences for their customers regardless of the communication channel.
The growth of digital channels and new communication technologies has enabled businesses to adopt an omnichannel approach to customer support. In doing so, they can manage interactions across multiple channels such as call centers, webchats, SMS, messaging, email and social media. For example, a customer support conversation might begin on Twitter, then continue with text messages and end with a phone call—all in a seamless, connected experience. Customers don't have to stop and explain their problem at each channel interaction.
Customer expectations have also changed along with technological advancements. In recent research conducted by Forrester, by 2022 digital touchpoints will influence more than 57% of US retail sales. Today, customers expect efficient in-store interactions, seamless experiences regardless of channel, and rapid notification of orders and pick-up availability.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital across industries. B2B and B2C business alike have been forced to update siloed sales approaches and complex buying dynamics to provide fluid customer support and experience1.
A good customer experience is at the core of high-quality customer service. Ensuring customers can access their preferred channel and receive a consistent buying experience is at the heart of omnichannel customer support.
Consider the benefits that result:
When it comes to customer service, customers expect a single brand experience through all touchpoints. The omnichannel approach gives businesses additional benefits for customer service, including:
Successful omnichannel customer service is essential to buyer satisfaction and retention. Businesses that don't ensure continuity across digital and in-person touchpoints risk losing customers to competitors that do2.
According to “The Omnichannel Maturity Assessment” by Forrester, three dimensions are used to measure your omnichannel system's success:
Assessing your omnichannel system is necessary to establish what is working and where improvement is required. Creating a strategy will help businesses plan the next steps in omnichannel customer service.
When considering strategy, it's important to understand customer expectations and behavior. Customers not only want efficiency and convenience; they also want control of the entire engagement. In addition, customer behavior has changed alongside technology. Many customers begin their shopping experience digitally and through multiple channels and devices.
Businesses must contend with changes required to meet customer demands. A lot of these changes include managing inventory, training employees and transforming from customer-aware to customer-led.
Strategy for improved omnichannel customer service can include the following tactics:
B2B and B2C businesses in a variety of industries use omnichannel customer service. If you recently purchased an item via BOPIS, then you engaged in that organization's omnichannel operation. Familiar retailers such as Target, Amazon or Home Depot employ powerful omnichannel systems that include apps on your smartphone.
Other industries that utilize omnichannel strategies include:
Multichannel is a system for customer service and experience, and it consists of several communication channels. Two main factors differentiate multichannel and omnichannel:
Multichannel isn't inherently wrong because it does use various channels for businesses to connect with customers on their buying journey. However, research conducted illustrates customers will continue to demand a cohesive user experience (that omnichannel operations can offer).
Omnichannel operations can create challenges when used by retailers with highly complex products, making every avenue more difficult, from sales to customer service. Complex products typically require well-trained and knowledgeable sales reps to assist customers. However, using rich media such as video, 3D animation and augmented reality creates a way for businesses to enable customers to self-serve and increase engagement1.
Traditional retail sales and customer service methods are also a challenge when converting to the digital processes of omnichannel operations. The transition of the B2B world to digital systems inherently creates price transparency, and customers can check for the best prices and offers online while shopping in-store. If businesses don't maintain information consistently, they risk losing customers.
There are also organizational challenges related to inventory management and employee training, which also impact customer service. Organizations that attempt omnichannel services but keep their inventory siloed in-store and online will run into supply issues. Instead, they should take an enterprise-wide approach to inventory and order management.
Additionally, businesses struggle to train their customer-facing employees when implementing omnichannel strategies. While omnichannel customer service is beneficial, some businesses lose sight of customer-centric employees value in the customer journey. Because omnichannel allows for more customer self-service, there is the opportunity for sales reps and employees to provide greater customer experiences for those customers or purchases requiring more attention. Training those employees is an important aspect of omnichannel customer service that is often overlooked.
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