Think optichannel, not omnichannel, for an effortless customer experience.

Connect’s Group CTO Martin Cross makes the case for looking beyond “omnichannel” to improve the customer experience

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of customers issuing RFPs for a new contact centre platform: specifically, a cloud one. That’s understandable: they’re looking to move from on-premise technology to the cloud, to increase flexibility and to support a hybrid working environment. 

But what strikes me is how many of these RFPs also include requests for features and capabilities that the company actually doesn’t need, will increase their costs and ultimately, probably deliver a worse customer experience. 

What channels do your customers actually want?

Let me explain. They’re looking for extra channels, automation, and then tools like sentiment analysis. All of these have their place and value, but for many businesses, that full suite of latest technology is far from essential. Furthermore, by focusing on adding all the latest technologies, to provide an omnichannel solution that they can nod to in their marketing, they’re often missing a fundamental point. Hardly any of their customers will want to use some of those channels. 

If I am being brutally honest – as many of Connect’s customers will know I’m happy to be! –  too often it feels that these RFPs are being driven by technology vendor marketing, rather than a real understanding of what their customers want and need.

For me, the truth of the matter is that striving for an omnichannel experience is often counter-productive. It leads to too much choice, with customers channel hopping in a bid to get questions answered – but often finding several slightly frustrating experiences rather than one good one. 

Choice creates complexity

In his excellent book “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty”, Matt Dixon reports that only 16% of customers prefer choice of channel over ease of interaction. Put another way, 84% would just prefer something simple. They want the easiest way to fix their issue, and don’t care what it is.

If you’re not familiar with Matt’s book, this webinar is a great introduction:

My advice is that before investing in multiple new channels, organisations would be better served by thinking through the customer journeys and the issues that typically lead customers to contact them. Then, determine which channel would be best suited to solving those issues. 

Instead of omnichannel, think optichannel – and you’ll make big strides towards an effortless customer experience. Let me offer a couple of examples.

Optimising customer journeys

More and more organisations are looking at increased automation in their contact centre – with chatbots answering a growing proportion of calls. These go further than traditional IVR systems, and can do more, but in all too many cases, their default answer remains to point callers to the website.

But this is poor logic. Customers are, increasingly, attuned to self-service. Many – most, even – will have started on the website. They only called because they couldn’t find the information they needed online. In fact, Matt Dixon’s research found that 35% of callers are actually still on the website, while on the phone to you. Telling them they need to go back online is not just unhelpful, but infuriating.

An optichannel approach here seeks to learn, from previous interactions, what the specific problems are that result in customers calling up. Then, rather than deflecting the calls at the point of arrival, the focus should fall on reducing the need for them. That may be a service issue; often, though, it can be as simple as adding a new section to the FAQ page of the site. It’s lower cost, and far more effective for the customer.

Look inside, as well as out

Of course, there are some interactions which do need more assistance – but again, the AI-powered chatbot may not be the best answer, especially for a stressed or upset customer. Instead, the optichannel ethos puts those customers quickly through to an agent… but one who has AI on their side. Rather than the expense of a glossy interface for the user solution, the agent-assist platform helps find the right answer and present it to the agent’s desktop, solving the customer query swiftly and comprehensively. 

These approaches are focused on taking the effort out for the customer, not by adding channels but by using existing ones more effectively. They create a better customer experience, because queries are more likely to be resolved at the first time of asking.

And to return to the RFPs I mentioned at the start, instead of following trends and tech vendor promises, they’re built on an understanding of what customers really need – which will be different from one business to the next.

Think optichannel, not omnichannel, for an effortless customer experience

If you’re serious about improving the CX, and making it effortless, my advice is think optichannel, not omnichannel. It may take more effort upfront on your side, to map those customer journeys, but in terms of the cost to the business – and the potential ROI – it’s a far more effective approach.

To discuss your channel strategy before you issue your next RFP, get in touch with us today for an independent view of what technologies would best suit your needs.