A couple of years ago, I often got questions about what I thought about omnichannel. The other day one of our friends asked me "Why do you not want us to use the expression omnichannel?", referring to a meeting a while back when I said that I wanted them to stop using that expression.
What is omnichannel?
When our friend asked me, I googled the definition of omnichannel. I got answers like: 'Omnichannel is a cross-channel content strategy companies use to improve their user experience'. Another phrasing was: 'Companies use of omnichannel contends that a customer values the ability to engage with a company through multiple avenues at the same time'. I don't understand what this means and question the logic of the formulations.
Just a packaging by IT-companies
For me, it seems like using the expression omnichannel is yet another way for IT-companies to package their software and consultants. Usually, Omnichannel is presented as a massive technology challenge. Offered to give their customers a feeling of omnichannel as something new. And if these companies only had the right platform, tools and customer data, they would somehow build deep and more meaningful relationships with their customers.
Usually, customer expectations, engagement and satisfaction, is elementary in nature. Customers do not have time; they want a speedy response, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service. And they decide when, where and with whom.
I think what sometimes gets lost is why a customer should care about having a relationship with your company in the first place. You need to decide what's in it for them. And put some effort into how you shall treat them. Do you deserve to be more than transactional, like most companies?
Technology is more and more table stakes. Prospective and existing customers presume to be able to reach your company in whatever channels and trust points they choose or prefer. They expect your company to offer a seamless experience across those channels and trust points. They become very frustrated when companies fail to deliver or provide what they want. Or don't remember them, even though they have given a legal basis for a company to store their personal data.
I am sure that your company, like most companies, has a lot of work to do to deliver on those very basic expectations. Perhaps external marketers and salespeople spend a lot of time talking with you about delivering omnichannel customer experiences. However, much of what happens in practice is still what I would consider multi-channel or cross-channel at best.
Your company is present on multiple channels and trust points, and I am willing to bet that the experience is disjointed. Most companies have fragmented customer engagement channels. There are so many legacy silos in companies that don't talk to each other. Companies struggle to connect their channels and trust points on what they know about customers to deliver consistent, seamless experiences.
In a world where companies manage to close the technology gap, actual customer engagement is still something to be earned. Customers don't care where they fit in a company's marketing and sales funnel. They presume and strive for personalisation, effortless simplicity and relevance.
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