The Ever-evolving Challenge of Omni-channel Service
This article originally appeared in a special best practices issue of Destination CRM – The Omnichannel Customer Experience Imperative.
Great companies have ruined it for the mediocre. Customer-focused organizations (name your beloved brands du jour) have set the bar so high that buyers expect only the best service. There’s nowhere to hide. Customers know what’s possible and now all of us are expected to deliver on the promises of technology, big data, social media, mobile, and more.
More than ever before, customers know when they’re being under-serviced. When one organization greets you on the phone by first name, references your last purchase online, and suggests related items based on your history, it’s tougher to forgive the one who clumsily passes you to three phone agents, each of whom asks you to repeat your address, phone number, and the last four digits of your social security number. We all know that this is no longer necessary and get increasingly frustrated when exposed to this time-wasting, irritating exercise.
On the positive side, we live in a world that offers exciting new ways to create brand loyalty and excitement, attract ideal customers, and engage existing customers to buy repeatedly. If your organization can prioritize customer-centricity at all levels and utilize people and processes that ensure a positive customer experience, you’ll surely see an equally positive impact on the bottom line.
Recent studies show that customers now make buying decisions based more on customer experience than on product preference. In other words, they will discontinue their relationship with you, even if they like your products. It’s imperative to prove to customers that they’re known, heard, and appreciated. In short, they expect omni-channel access that doesn’t disappoint. Technology, communications channels, and people must be connected.
The challenge, of course, is that cloud software tends to create data silos by its very nature. SaaS usage has grown so rapidly that the market research can’t even keep up with the economic impact of cloud-based software on business. Because it’s readily available at a low cost, individual departments can adopt applications as part of key business practices without even consulting IT teams. Hello data silos. To avoid this, companies must have policies in place that regulate new applications to ensure they’re contributing to the 360-degree view of the customer.
Customer data & feedback in CRM
So, what’s the solution to rising customer expectations for seamless omni-channel service?
First and foremost, we believe in centralizing all customer information in CRM. This includes feedback from surveys, support cases, sales interactions, and data collected by marketing programs and social media. Any solution that captures customer feedback must integrate automatically with CRM. If left to manual processes, this will not allow for real-time access and may be fraught with errors or other inconsistencies.
Also, anyone who interacts with customers should have full visibility to the complete customer picture within CRM, so that they can communicate in-context – knowledgeably and confidently serving to meet each customer’s unique needs.
Think mobile & beyond
With the growing domination of smartphones and tablets, it’s no longer optional to optimize service options to be more responsive to mobile customers. This is not new news, but must be articulated because some companies are still dragging their feet. It’s inarguable that mobile is a key piece of the seamless omni-channel experience that customers expect. People are inseparable from their devices and this isn’t going to change.
Plus, the lines between personal and business technologies have not just blurred, they’ve blended into one. Most business people use a single handheld device to conduct all mobile transactions – whether for work or personal. Particularly B2B companies that formerly relegated these devices to the realm of the personal are now scrambling to make their products and services easily accessible in a mobile-friendly environment.
Beyond mobile, we all need to keep an eye on what’s to come, technologically speaking. Just when you “catch up” with the latest, the next piece of the omni-channel puzzle will surely emerge. Be sure that your organization’s systems and processes remain agile enough to embrace change because it’s inevitable. And, never stop asking customers for their direct input and experience. This is one of the best strategies for staying ahead of the curve. Your customers will tell you how they wish to engage and even if it’s something new, you’ll be prepared to serve them via their preferred channels.