Understanding Omni-Channel

Monday, 19 May 2014

Posted by: Jonathon Little, Strategy Manager, Stellar Asia Pacific

Interacting with your customers across several channels has become common nowadays. Once upon a time, we may have assumed that customers would interact with us either in-store, on the phone, or online, and that we didn't necessarily need to be too concerned about the customer experience being seamless across all channels. Time has proven this assumption wrong.

It has now become critical to be flexible in being able to respond to both your existing customers and potential new customers who are keen to explore what you have to offer across several channels, often all at once.

There is a lot of talk about the need to serve the “omni-channel” customer. The term multi-channel has been around for a while, but what about omni-channel? What is the difference? And why is it worth understanding for your business?

Multi-channel refers to offering services across more than one channel (e.g. a retail store, call centre, on the web, or on a mobile device). It has also been seen as a way to grow at least some of your sales and/or service online.

Omni-channel is an extension of multi-channel. It examines how customers interact with several channels throughout the customer lifecycle, from looking up product information for the first time, through to purchase and after-sales service. The key difference to multi-channel is that customers are now often using multiple channels at once, and are now expecting a consistent experience across each channel.

Here's a few things to consider when assessing how ready you are to serve the omni-channel customer:

  • Do you know how many of your customers interact with you across each channel?
  • Do you provide a consistent standard of customer experience across different channels? Are there any gaps in the products and services you can offer across channels?
  • Do you track your customer satisfaction / net promoter score by channel? If so, does it vary significantly?

The benefits of embracing an omni-channel approach for your customer interactions include the following:

  • Helping your customers save time in interacting with you, in turn driving an increase in the number of customers who are willing to promote your brand
  • Increasing your ability to convert sales across all channels
  • Reducing the overhead you incur in administering customer interactions across various channels

The key message of omni-channel is to deliver a consistent customer experience across every channel your customers want to use.  If you can deliver this streamlined consistency, you're going to have a lot more advocates for your brand.