Possibly the most important change in retail and e-commerce in the last couple of years has been the adoption of omnichannel service. This began with the requirement to serve customers on many more channels than just the traditional voice and email channels. Customers demanded service via chat, and social networks and brands had to respond.
However, just answering tweets or engaging with customers on Facebook was not good enough – this multichannel service evolved into omnichannel because customers expect that same great service whichever channel they choose. Despite the complexity of connecting all these channels together to a complete view of the customer, it’s what customers today expect.
The easiest way to describe why this matters is when a customer initially contacts the brand. If a customer calls and says “I emailed you earlier” then there are two ways the conversation can go. The agent in most traditional contact centres will have no access to other channels and will simply say “you need to repeat the problem to me again.” As you might expect, this is likely to raise the stress level of the customer because they feel that their time is not being respected.
The alternative is for the agent to have oversight of all channels. The agent can say “I can see your email and here is how I can help you.” They might even add that they can also see a Twitter comment by the customer on the same issue. Immediately the customer knows that the brand respects their time and has all the required information – nothing has to be repeated.
But how many companies are really connecting all channels together and offering a truly omnichannel service? There are some. This excellent blog details five great examples of retailers making it easy for customers to hop from one channel to another, either as part of the sales process or when contacting the customer service team.
I liked the example of the British fashion chain Oasis. They give iPads to all in-store employees allowing them to easily contact customers and have oversight of all stock levels. It’s creating an environment where customers get the same personalised service on the app, website, and in-store. Chipotle and Starbucks are also great examples of restaurants that allow customers to use an app to track favourite orders and loyalty points, but importantly customers using the app can place orders and pay before they even arrive at a restaurant – a great way to skip past the line of people waiting to order a coffee.
Omnichannel retail is no longer an aspiration. Several brands are doing it well, and customer expectations are being raised. Whether it is the sales process or service, your customers expect the in-store experience to be as good as using the app. Omnichannel is no longer optional.
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