Key factors for a good omnichannel strategy

Whether you’re considering an omnichannel strategy for support, marketing, or retail sales, here are some tips to help make the transformation as seamless as possible.

By Suzanne Barnecut

Published October 10, 2017
Last updated September 30, 2020

When providing customer service, life can quickly become complicated when you haven’t thought through all the different ways that customers reach out for help, or anticipate and plan for how quickly your business might grow.

Scaling and providing consistency across channels, as many as you can offer, requires an omnichannel strategy that keeps the customer at the center of your business. Whether your focus is on traditional customer service or on omnichannel marketing and retailing, here’s how to get started.

What is a omnichannel customer service?

Omnichannel customer service enables customers to reach out for support through a variety of means: email, phone, chat, social media, and so on. No matter which channel customers choose, they can seamlessly continue their conversation with support even if they switch channels mid-conversation.

Map the customer journey

Begin by mapping the known points of interaction with your business.

Consider, for example:

  • Whether customers are visiting review sites before making a purchase with you
  • Whether customers have pre-sales questions

Then walk through the point of sale, and the types of post-purchase support that customers most often need. This is especially important for omnichannel commerce.

Which channels do you offer at each interaction point? What’s missing?

For example:

  • Is your team handling social media or comments on a review site as part of a separate, disconnected process?
  • Or, are there types of questions at a particular interaction point that might be better served by another channel?

Often, a support team may receive pre-sales questions by phone or email when perhaps a well-placed live chat widget might offer a faster way to offer personal, timely help that keeps the customer engaged within the context of their journey.

That said, the omnichannel experience isn't limited to support—it can be implemented for a retailer or marketer trying to drive sales, too. Here are a few other things to consider when starting to build your omnichannel approach:

1. Omnichannel retail

If you’re in the retail industry and have both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar options, think about customer needs. Your physical locations and online stores should be sharing shopper data, inventory information, and more.
An effective omnichannel retail strategy should, for example, enable customers to pick up or return online purchases at a physical store.

2. Omnichannel marketing

An omnichannel marketing strategy harnesses customer data to ensure that a marketing plan provides a seamless experience.

An omnichannel campaign sends customers only those offers that are relevant to their interests, and on their preferred channel.

3. Omnichannel support

The customer experience is king.

As Zendesk’s 2020 Customer Experience Trends report found, about half of surveyed customers would take their business elsewhere after a single bad experience. Adding just one additional poor support interaction makes that number spike to 80 percent.

When developing an omnichannel strategy, focus on how it can eliminate pain points for your customers, such as:

  • Having to repeat themselves
  • Long wait times
  • Lack of access to preferred channels

Lay the foundation

Once you have the lay of the land, it’s time to think bigger and ask yourself some What if? questions.

What if you could offer any channel you wanted?

With omnichannel, you're not limited to phone and email channels. You can bring social media, live chat, and self-service (more on that shortly) into your portfolio, which will please customers and help agents work smarter.

What if you could automate or solve time-consuming processes and questions with an intelligent knowledge base?

It’s worth looking at:

  • The points of interaction you’re not covering well today
  • Places where volume is high or resources are thin
  • Documenting your real-world baseline

It’s also worth considering what your support organization might look like in an ideal world. Or even in a year from now.

The value of an omnichannel customer journey is that it’s possible to integrate or turn channels on and off as needed. By contrast, adding channels and tools as you go creates disconnected customer experiences and operational challenges.

Think about how your customers will use your support—increasingly, they want to be able to move across channels seamlessly without repeating themselves or long hold times. And consider how an omnichannel strategy will help your support operation scale with growth so your contact center doesn’t become a cost center.

Invest in infrastructure

You’re ready to implement a solution once you have a channel strategy in place. This should be based on:

  • Where your customers are
  • What they need or want
  • How the channels you offer can aid conversion
  • How the channels you offer can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty

An omnichannel solution should allow you to:

  • Provide support through any communication channel your customer might use
  • Keep a record so that conversations always travel with the customer and agents always understand the customer within the context of their journey

When choosing an omnichannel solution, ask:

  • Does your software allow you to serve customers through all the channels your customers need?
  • Does your software allow you to integrate with other tools so that customer data never gets lost or siloed inside different systems?
  • Is it easy to implement and troubleshoot, without the need of hiring consultants? Does the provider offer robust professional services to help your business get the most out of the tool?
  • Will it provide the analytics you need to track agent efficiency and customer trends? Can reports be customized easily?
  • What about ease of use? That's key for agent productivity, as are collaboration tools and the ability to sync with third-party products.

Turning your omnichannel support strategy into a reality depends on choosing a solution that allows you to scale and shift in cadence with customer demand. If there’s a long lead time on getting a new channel up and running, customer data will be lost.

Make sure it’s mobile

Another key consideration is whether your strategy accounts for mobile-first channels like messaging or to seamlessly embed support within your website or app.

No one needs stats on how prevalent mobile usage is, but—consider that 63% of U.S. adults use mobile devices at least several times a month to seek customer support and, in addition to that, Software Advice found that 90% of survey respondents had poor experiences seeking seamless customer support on mobile.

For any business hoping to differentiate itself on the basis of the customer experience, it’s crucial that you bake into your strategy the customer’s mobile experience.

Sell the strategy up

Let’s face it, even once you’ve done all the work to design a thoughtful, tailored omnichannel strategy for your customers, it’s easy for someone at the top to say, “That’s great, but what’s the minimum viable option? Start there.”

The good news is that with an integrated omnichannel solution, it no longer makes sense to start small and offer just one or two channels when you could offer three, or more, with the same products and resources. The insight your organization stands to gain by integrating channels through a unified solution can be a literal goldmine and have far-reaching impacts. The more data you have about customer conversations, the more you can predict trends and optimize your support to focus on the highest-value interaction points.

Learn more about Zendesk’s omnichannel solutions

If you're interested in learning more about omnichannel support, check out the Omnichannel Revolution Webinar series

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