Jennifer Bowden is a customer service specialist currently contributing on behalf of numero, a world-class software solutions provider.
The unrelenting emergence of new technology means that brands now need to be everywhere, all of the time. These days, it’s just not enough to have a dedicated call centre ready and waiting to take customer calls and complaints, brands must to be actively available via all forms of media.
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
Why? Well, if a customer wants to express their disappointment with a product or service via Facebook or Twitter, they will, regardless of whether the brand is there to respond. So it has never been more important to turn up to the party.
One of the biggest problems facing brands since personal technology decided to up its game during the last decade has been maintaining uniformity across channels of communication, prompting CRM specialists to develop omni-channel technology.
Omni-channel communication is all about four fundamental types of experience: personalised, consistent, accessible and efficient.
Omni-channel engagement facilitates brand communication across all media channels – be it phone, text, e-mail, a chat facility, or social media – from one unified interface. In turn, this gives way to a much stronger overall identity.
A greater sense of consistency means that a more meaningful relationship can be forged with the customer, where previous customer relationship management strategies have failed. This is built on an overarching understanding of how customers interact with brands, including:
- The multitude of accessible channels and tendency of consumers to shift between them to perform different tasks
- The expectance of a consistent brand experience across all channels
So just what does the omni-approach offer in terms of an enriched digital experience for both brand and consumer?
Omni-channel interfaces build a profile of data for each customer, consolidating all channels of communication for a more seamless customer experience and the generation of targeted marketing campaigns.
When customers interact via social media, businesses are able to capture customer data that significantly enriches their records and paves the way for a much closer and personal service. If information can be gleaned to detect specific latitudes and longitudes about a person, it becomes possible to push adverts for certain products over others.
With over 60 percent of consumers indicating that they agree with the use of personal data for faster and improved purchase possibilities, this is likely to be a welcome improvement to the customer experience, whilst creating a vast amount of sales opportunity for brands.
Effective omni-channel engagement puts companies where the consumer is in a virtual capacity, meaning they can identify and actively respond to consumer demand in a matter of minutes.
Not only this, but they can tailor communication to their audiences, so they become a valuable source of information.
A good example of this is practice is at Cable & Wireless’ ‘LIME’, in the Caribbean. LIME uses both Facebook and Twitter as outlets for its customer service operations for quickly spreading the word about things such the impact of extreme weather conditions on services.
Finally, omni-channel engagement affords brands the ability to track Web activity. This insight in turn allows them to craft a customer journey that is guaranteed to satisfy a specific demographic of consumer.
This really comes into its own in the instance of dropped basket cases. Consumers inevitably visit retail sites and leave without buying anything.
Often, this could be because they didn’t find what they were looking for, they weren’t really in the market for making a purchase anyway, or their conscience got the better of them.
However, what does need to be picked up is when customers get to the checkout with the intention of buying and then for some reason, decide not to.
It could be that their card details wouldn’t process, they were distracted and didn’t get chance to complete the transaction, or simply that they felt the transaction process was too much hassle.
Abandoned purchases like this are estimated to cost UK retailers approximately £1bn every year. Omni-channel software solutions can flag this up to a customer service operative, who is then able to retrieve that shopper’s information, reach out to determine their needs, and help them to complete the transaction.
Forward thinking enterprises are even attempting to perfect the customer experience by making use of behavioural data gleaned interactions with their various channels. For example, by tracking a user’s Web analytics, brands can evaluate what a specific visitor hopes to get out of their interaction with the brand and use this to actively route their journey in a particular way.
Omni-channel solutions are busily creating the potential for brands to offer revolutionary service by switching the focus of contact centres from one-dimensional operations concerned with call times and queues, to customer relationship centres providing continuous consumer engagement.
What do you think; should brands be making a concerted effort to form meaningful relationships with their consumers, or is the prospect of personal advertising all a bit too “Minority Report”?