As more and more customer service channels become available, there has been some confusion over the difference between a multichannel customer experience (CX) and omni-channel.
Defined simply, I would say that managing a multichannel environment literally just means that you have the capabilities to keep adding new service channels. If customers want to use Whatsapp tomorrow, and you are not offering it today, then your ability to integrate these new channels means you can claim to be offering a multichannel CX.
But omni-channel implies that there is just a single experience – presumably always good or great. Whatever the digital or physical channel being used to interact between customer and brand, there should always be a similar experience. For example, a brand claiming to offer omni-channel service has to actually help a customer tweeting a question – not just reply with an automated tweet saying ‘please call this phone number’. Regardless of the channel, the experience needs to be the same.
I was thinking about some of the difficulties faced by brands that want to implement a truly omni-channel environment when I saw some recent research by McKinsey that describes how many brands are themselves confusing multichannel and omni-channel. It’s no surprise that some companies have struggled to get their omni-channel initiatives off the ground. However, omni-channel is a strategy being demanded by the customers so I know it will happen and those who get there first will reap the rewards.
If you look at a market like USA, retail is still largely done in person. Yes, in-app and online purchases are growing fast and people love shopping at Amazon, but in the USA 92% of retail is still in-person. Yet, many brands are focusing their entire attention and innovation budget on the online experience. What is really needed is a focus on drawing offline experience closer to online.
A regional American bank that McKinsey worked with managed to increase the sale of current account products by 38% in six months just by focusing on how to make the links between in-person and digital channels tighter.
McKinsey research highlights that many brands fear omni-channel because it’s seen as big and complex. Executives often feel that it requires analysis and Big Data systems to get right. Of course, in many cases IT systems are needed, but as the example with the bank shows, just taking a different approach to the channels you are already managing can make a big difference. This can then be the first step on the way towards a bigger and better support for omni-channel service.
Have you heard claims that managing omnichannel service is too complex? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.