Speaking of 30 or 40 years is extremely significant in the life span of any person, but this does not apply as significantly when we deal with the life span of an organization, company or public institution. If we look back 3 or 4 decades we will remember that the attention to customers (member, subscriber, or user) was uniquely associated to the service provided at the attention office, which is nowadays referred to as the Service Area.
These days, communication channels have multiplied so even the smallest SME makes use of a variety of direct contact channels to answer all of customers’ needs, inquiries, and questions. Practically all organizations are present not only in physical interaction channels (e.g.: offices, call centers) but also in virtual channels (e.g.: websites, social networks).
Within this new reality involving the organizations’ communication and interaction channels, there appears a consumer who has now access to a multiplicity of technological options to reach a company or organization: mobile phones with Internet access, laptops, desktops, tablets, smart TVs, and other devices that ensure connectivity and 24-hour service accessibility.
Indeed, it is worth stressing that such multiplicity of communicating options has not replaced customer-company physical interaction; on the contrary, it complements and integrates it so as to provide more and better customer satisfaction and to match expectations. At least, that’s how it should work.
At the same time, customers’ loyalty is a remarkably more volatile variable. This is even true for those industries which have historically hit the highest loyalty rates. According to Bain’s Financial Services 2013 research on 27 countries’ banking sectors, customers who change banking companies outnumber new customers initiating operations at a bank for the first time.
This difference represents 3% in developed countries and 6% in developing countries.
Both new channels and technologies also involve new risks that must be managed. Today, any customer’s negative experience is spread and disclosed at an astonishing speed through the same tools of communication used to interact with the company (websites, instant messaging, and social networks), which in the long run brings about other customers’ migration.
Consequently, companies that offer multi-channel attention face the urge to set a unified strategy that guarantees an equally satisfying customer’s experience at each and every channel of communication. Such unified strategy, that is the attempt to achieve a strong synergy between physical and virtual channels of attention by means of clear, definite, and coherent policies, is what we refer to as Omni- channel which may become any organization’s essential ally to revamp business results.
If we pause for a few seconds, any one of us will easily recall interacting with an organization through a number of channels and feel as if interacting with totally different institutions. This multiple personality syndrome is the commonplace pathology of companies that offer Multi-channel instead of Omni-channel attention.
Understanding that there exists a relationship among the diverse channels, that such a relationship must actually exist, is the first necessary step to offset previous mistakes and begin to show similar identities, with the sole objective of achieving the one and unique organization’s identity.
One more key component of Omni-channeling has to do with understanding customers’ expectations of each channel. Although it is true that online transactions are increasingly becoming the preferred choice and that many customers have migrated to online interaction, it is also true that the Service Area is still the only space with the ability of bring about unforgettable experiences (satisfying or not), since physical interaction is decisive.
Making sense of this reality helps each channel’s roles to acquire a different and distinct meaning. Those spaces where traditional transactional operations used to take place begin to migrate to new schemes where the provision of services becomes more relevant. A clear example may be observed at the banking sector whose traditional attention model has been changing to organize credit card offers, loans, and a number of commercial operations in a hierarchy. Within this context, the contribution of communication tools, such as signage, becomes prominent due to their ability to get across segmented messages according to customers’ profiles at the accurate place and time, which creates new cross-selling opportunities.
For an organization, the adoption of Omni-channel strategies is a maturating process that takes time, patience, perseverance, and ongoing customers’ feedback regarding their service experience. It is clearly a matter that involves the organization as a unity, responsible for its policies, the way it operates, serves, and understands.
Organizations count on a fundamental ally that may dramatically shorten the process of agreeing and applying coherent and consistent policies: technology. This tool is capable of not only gathering but also processing all the necessary information to get to know customers’ satisfaction rates throughout the channels in order to redefine the future of the Omni-channel strategy.