One issue consistently came to the fore at the 2015 Customer 360 Forum: siloed organisational structures are the primary cause of companies failing at delivering on their promise of a true omni-channel experience.
With more than 100 customer experience, marketing and commercial executives from industries as diverse as banking, travel, media, FMCG, and retail taking part in the nine roundtable topics on offer, attendees had the opportunity to listen to diverse and engaging aspects of customer experience in practice, and discuss the issues and challenges that were most relevant to them.
By the end of the day, there was little doubt that the implementation of omni-channel as a platform for delivering products and services to customers at anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and anyhow they wished to be served, was in deep trouble. In fact, no one who participated in these discussions indicated their organisation was doing a solid job in providing customers with great omni-channel experiences.
An ever-growing number of channels
On reflection, that outcome is not surprising. When the term ‘omni-channel’ was first coined in the mid–2000’s it seemed to make perfect sense. As customers moved from researching on websites to visiting a store or calling a contact center, smart businesses would use technology to track and recognise the customer as they moved across those channels and provide a level of personalisation that hitherto was unknown.
But what businesses didn’t plan on was the enthusiasm of customers doing their online research, and ultimately purchasing online, from an array of connected devices (desktops, laptops, smartphones, eBooks) across a variety of online resources (websites, apps, and social media), resulting in a proliferation of ‘channels’ (the web, the store, social, mobile, etc).
Each of these channels come with its own teams, infrastructure, and P&L. And as we move into the era of the Internet of Things, we are going to see more and more devices – from white goods, household appliance, business machines, automobiles and so on – equipped with the ability to connect to the internet and capable of conducting online transactions. How many more teams, infrastructures and P&L’s can businesses bear?
It is no longer about the channels, it’s about the relationships and the experiences businesses offer
To deliver a truly differentiating experience in which the customer feels respected and valued, businesses need to understand how customers use the various touch-points on offer and how to optimise those touch-points to drive engagement and loyalty. To do this, businesses must use customer journey maps, customer research and personas to understand the customer’s context, then align the organisation’s resources to deliver relevant, personalised and connected experiences along the length of that journey.
It’s time for companies to take an ‘outside–in’ view of their business.
But the challenge for customer experience, marketing, and business professionals who want to support their organisation in delivering experiences that win, serve, and retain customers is that they need to step-up and embrace digital as the new reality.
They need to become digital leaders and recognise that every business is now a digital business and that the shop front, the call center, the mobile app, are simply the user interface.
Tom McCann - Senior Analyst, Forrester Research
Tom is a senior analyst serving Customer Experience Professionals. He has over 25 years' experience in the research, analysis, and design of digital and physical world experiences across a broad range of industries and environments within Australia and the US. His research interests include user experience, customer experience maturity, customer research and persona development, the business case for customer experience, and the role of employee engagement in driving and evolving the customer experience.