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What are the benefits of an omnichannel customer experience?

Omnichannel benefits

The way people shop and do business has changed rapidly over the past decade. Bricks and mortar retail, for example, has experienced what can only be described as an apocalypse in recent years. A crash in highstreet shopping has resulted in many well-known brands closing all of their offline stores, or in some instances closing completely. 

The decline of several major retailers appears to have been the result of several factors. In some instances, the in-store experience was not up to standard and was outdated compared to brands such as Apple. In addition, their online offering and eCommerce stores could not compete with Amazon. Finally, the vast majority of retailers who have had to close their doors did not adopt an omnichannel approach to customer service & experience. In a world full of impatient and busy consumers, fluid and personalised customer experiences are vital.

What is an omnichannel customer experience?

With an omnichannel customer experience, every communication channel and consumer touchpoint provides fluidity and continuity. This speed and connectivity makes shopping and interacting with businesses quicker and more enjoyable for the consumer. A channel is simply a medium through which a company can communicate, interact or transact with a consumer. With an omnichannel experience, social media channels, company websites and eCommerce sites, and highstreet stores all have access to the same customer data and provide a personalised service. All channels can integrate and relate to one another so that the consumer can switch channels seamlessly.

A good example of an omnichannel experience is when consumers choose to buy online and pick up in-store. Consumers can use an eCommerce store to make a purchase and then go to a local store to collect the item. Consumers like to use this method of shopping as they can pick up their products the same day and avoid any shipping costs. “Click and collect” or Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) is also a lot quicker and more reliable than a traditional in-store shopping experience.

Omnichannel vs. multichannel

The main difference between omnichannel and multichannel is the relationship between each channel. With a multichannel experience, the processes, the systems, the data and the people are not all synchronised to provide a fluid experience. With multichannel experiences, each channel exists within its own separated silo. 

For example, suppose a customer visited a company website and asked a question on live chat; then the next day goes into the local highstreet store. With a multichannel experience, the sales assistant in the store would not have access to any information or data regarding the live chat. However, with an omnichannel experience, the sales assistant would have a device to access all relevant information about the customer, including past live chat conversations. The sales assistant could then carry on the conversation and sales process from the point at which it was left at the end of the live chat.

Typically, this will mean that the consumer will have to repeat themselves several times. This stop-start experience is frustrating for the consumer and can make them feel like they are not appreciated or even acknowledged as an individual customer. Instead, they will often report that they feel like they are treated like a number rather than a person.

“Omnichannel is quickly becoming the new competitive imperative.”

Quote source

With an omnichannel experience, all channels are connected in the background. This structure allows the channels to have access to the same data so that if the consumer leaves the company website and then goes to the company app later that day, they can start from where they left off. Rather than a stop-start experience, where the consumer may have to start the whole buying or customer service process again from the beginning, with omnichannel, the consumer can start where they left off. In addition, with an omnichannel experience, all personnel will have access to the consumer’s data, meaning that the consumer will not have to repeat themselves at any point.

Information management systems

One of the essential requirements for providing an omnichannel experience is having the right information management systems or product management systems in place.

If data and intellectual assets are stored on different computers, using various systems and databases, then they cannot be accessed by employees across the company. However, with a central hub or database of information connected to employees and used to deliver a tailored experience on a website and mobile phone app, the company has the foundations for providing an omnichannel experience.

A successful omnichannel customer experience model requires high-tech software and infrastructure, supported and collaborating with polite and friendly personnel. It is crucial that the software and the personnel can provide a consistent and contextual experience to the client or customer.

Collecting and harnessing key information gained from every interaction and touchpoint across all channels is key to providing an omnichannel experience that can create stronger relationships and drive more sales.

Human connection aligned with technology

When a company can create a human connection rather than an emotionless digital experience, it brings an entirely different meaning to customer relationships.

Adding meaningful human interactions to the buyer’s journey can help a company build long-lasting relationships with its customers and clients. In addition, combining positive human interactions with an omnichannel customer experience model can provide a fluid and gratifying level of service.

For example, if a busy businesswoman wants to apply for a home improvement loan, she may go to a bank’s website and start a live chat conversation with an agent. The following lunchtime, she fills in the loan application that the live chat agent had emailed her and submits it online. 

However, the bank clerk who receives the application notices that a piece of information is missing. The customer is alerted via an SMS message. The text message contains a link, which can be clicked to directly call an agent who is aware of the loan, the application and the missing information. 

The agent can then help the client to complete the application with the missing information or ask the client to resubmit it.

This example of applying for a loan involves a fluid customer experience, despite the number of devices involved and the different number of personnel required. With access to relevant customer information, the issue was resolved quickly and seamlessly, with no need for the client to repeat herself. 

With a multichannel approach, the customer would likely have received a notification via SMS that there was an error on the application, but she would have rung a generic customer service telephone number and had to explain the situation again to the call centre agent or bank clerk. The customer would likely have felt highly frustrated, especially if she was greeted by several automated messages and menus upon calling the bank. A fast and fluid omnichannel experience, coupled with positive human interactions, can make the whole process enjoyable rather than frustrating.

Customers want speed & fluidity

In this digital age, it is often said that consumers have short attention spans. That may be true to a certain extent, but people still binge watch a Netflix series back-to-back and listen to 3-hour podcasts. With this in mind, it may be more accurate to state that consumers are impatient and have higher expectations regarding speed and level of customer experience.

With a multichannel customer experience, customers will likely have to repeat themselves each time they are passed onto a different touchpoint or customer service agent. With an omnichannel experience, all employees and bots have access to previous conversations and interactions. As soon as they connect with the consumer, they know exactly what the issue is or what the consumer wants. A disconnected multichannel experience can cause frustration and annoyance for the consumer.

Omnichannel provides an excellent experience for the consumer and also for the employee. Employees don’t want to deal with frustrated and annoyed customers; it is much more enjoyable for your employees to deal with happy consumers and clients. Omnichannel is also great for repeat business. If the buying process is quick and fluid, consumers are much more likely to return to make additional purchases in the future. A great customer experience is also great for your brand and marketing efforts. 

If you can surprise your customers with a customer experience that goes beyond their expectations, then there is a good chance that they will become “brand advocates“, who will promote your business to their friends and family members. Brand advocates are also likely to leave positive reviews on platforms such as TrustPilot and even on forums and interactive websites such as Reddit. Reviews and other social proof are crucial in terms of marketing, as people often research reviews and relevant websites and forums before committing to a purchase. In this sense, your omnichannel customer experience can also be a vital element of your marketing strategy.

24/7 UK-based live chat

A vital element of a seamless, engaging omnichannel customer experience is live chat. With 24/7 support and UK-based agents, Live Chat from Moneypenny can provide a key customer touchpoint on your website. Regardless of which type of customer experience model you have adopted, having a helpful live chat agent who can build rapport with your website visitors is a vital element of a great online customer experience.

Our research shows that 37% of consumers prefer to contact businesses outside of regular office hours, and Hubspot reports that 90% of consumers want immediate answers to their customer service questions. With gold-standard technology, you can customise your live chat experience to perfectly represent your brand and buyer’s journey most efficiently and consistently. Our hand-picked Live Chat agents can provide the warmth and level of service that can help your company build relationships with website visitors and help you generate sales while you sleep! Omnichannel is all about connecting with customers, and our agents are experts at engaging with your website visitors.

The right people make all the difference

An omnichannel customer experience is not suitable for every organisation. For example, it might not make sense to integrate your CRM with your customer service software if you are a small accountancy firm. This doesn’t mean that you cannot provide an outstanding level of customer experience and customer service.

It is essential to keep in mind that customers and clients remember how an interaction with a company made them feel. If your callers, for example, are greeted by an automated voicemail message or can’t find what they want on your company website, they will feel frustrated. However, if every client has their call answered promptly by a polite and professional UK-based receptionist who knows the business and the important clients by name, the client is likely to feel appreciated and valued and have a much more positive view of the business brand. Similarly, if the website has 24/7 live chat support that can provide instant answers and help streamline the customer experience, the customer will be left with a much more favourable impression.

An omnichannel approach involving the integration of customer touchpoints is required for some organisations to provide the best possible customer experience. However, adding human warmth to relevant interactions is vital too. While automation and integration can make an experience smoother, to build genuine relationships with customers, there is no substitute for a human touch. For many companies, a great customer experience often begins with a polite and professional receptionist at the end of the phone. First impressions are important, and that’s why having the right receptionist can make all the difference.

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