It’s a business challenge but not as we know it
Attracting and keeping customers is a perennial challenge for every commercial enterprise. Today's customers, empowered by technology and instant access to information, have greater freedom of choice and the ability to exercise it. Their expectations have also been shaped by digital pioneers, and they now expect a similar experience from any company with which they engage.
Consumers take these expectations into the workplace, and business-to-business (B2B) and even government-to-citizen organizations are expected to emulate the ease, simplicity, convenience, and reliability experienced when dealing with benchmark consumer companies like Amazon.
While conceptually easy enough to understand, making this omnichannel imperative real represents a root and branch organizational change.
A fluid and dynamic omnichannel experience is needed
Customer behaviors are constantly evolving, which means enterprises must also adapt continuously. Several factors make customer journeys more unpredictable than planners might like:
- Customer journeys vary depending on what the individual customer is trying to achieve and the channels that customer chooses to traverse, across various journeys.
- Customer journeys are often nonlinear and may appear haphazard, especially if customers start in one channel, then hop onto another to complete a task, or if they become temporarily distracted, returning later to restart the journey or pick up from where they left off.
- Customer perceptions are also shaped by the entire journey. Did they achieve what they set out to, and was it an easy or frustrating journey?
- Channel selection is also a function of familiarity and convenience, so that as customers become more comfortable with particular channels and the underlying technologies, their behaviors will change over time.
- The complexity of the customer's challenge also has an impact on which channels the customer will choose to use.
Ovum has identified four essential capabilities that are necessary if customers are to enjoy a positive experience consistently throughout every journey:
- Recognize the customer
- Orchestrate the experience
- Adapt to the customer
- Protect the customer
Recognizing the customer as a customer is vital to delivering a personalized experience. That may be achieved through authentication using a unique identifier such as a mobile phone number, login details, or biometrics, depending on the nature of the business and the level of security required. Personas, however, are typically recognized by their patterns of behavior. Where behavioral patterns match those of an archetypical persona, the relevant response can be triggered and the resulting outcome monitored through real-time analytics and machine learning. This is essential for responding in the right way to unidentified customers or, more commonly, prospects. In the early stages, personas may have been identified through CJM exercises, as a form of customer segmentation. Over time, machine learning can detect even more nuanced behaviors, creating microsegments or micropersonas, and even spot transitions from one pattern of behaviors to another.
Customer recognition goes deeper than simply identity; it must include insight into customers' implied intent, based on the nature of their interactions allied to historical data. The attribute "identify the customer" supports this basic requirement. Customer profiles can also be enriched from third-party data sources such as location, weather, or company data. The more advanced omnichannel orchestration platforms support dynamic profiling.
Orchestrate the customer experience
This is at the core of omnichannel management. The ability to orchestrate content, knowledge, and appropriate responses to customer interactions throughout their journeys and deliver a consistently positive experience at scale requires intelligent automation. This implies a high level of customer data integration, both historical information from CRM and back-office systems and contextual data gleaned through the customer interaction in real time. This drives real-time insight to trigger the right information and content allied to the next best action. To trigger the right response and deliver continuity and consistency of experience, the customer interaction data must persist across the channels customers use during their journeys.
Delivering the brand promise also means that the entire value chain, particularly fulfillment and logistics, is integrated and connected to facilitate demand-driven supply and transparency. The underlying interaction processes must also make it as easy as possible for the customer.
Adapt continuously to remain relevant
The omnichannel management customer experience must be continuously recalibrated to ensure that it continues to meet customer expectations and provides a real source of competitive differentiation. A robust voice-of-the-customer program includes feedback from all interaction channels and potentially machine learning, sentiment analysis, and increasingly the Internet of Things, which provides another feedback mechanism to assess the underlying experience.
Performance must also be monitored, and a broad array of customer metrics should be in place to drive continuous optimization.
Protect the customer
A core responsibility for every enterprise is to protect the customer's data from misuse. Cyber-attack is a growing threat, and as growth in online buying continues to accelerate, the potential threat is magnified. Recent very public cases of companies that have had customer records stolen or hacked illustrate the damage cybercrime has caused to their reputations and customer trust.