For the past couple of years I have been exploring both omnichannel and multichannel solutions for customer service as the adoption of social media channels have become more accepted.
It’s important to distinguish between the two terms though, as many commentators use them synonymously and that’s not quite right. Offering a multichannel service simply means expanding the number of ways in which customers can interact with a company. It used to be just by phone, then email, then chat, now you can add Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, blogs, forums, review sites… there are a lot of channels in common use now.
Offering an omnichannel solution means tying all this together. The customer that sends an email and tweets a message and later calls for help wants to see that all their various communications have been tied together somehow – the person answering the phone knows about the email for example. As you might expect, pulling all those channels together is a lot more difficult than just expanding the range of channels on offer.
An interesting feature recently in Essential Retail takes this idea even further (for the retail industry at least), extending the benefits of tying together the various channels into the overall supply chain.
Retailers are especially affected by the omnichannel concept because it is not just about a contact channel, they are also seeing shopping channels and behaviour change too. Customers may buy online with postal delivery, they buy instore, they buy online and request collection instore, they order more items than they need and return what they don’t want.
The communication channels have become more complex for everyone, but in retail the operational channels have also changed making the supply chain more complex than ever.
The answer is clearly improved analytics. All this data about customer behaviour and needs is there, but it has to be analysed quickly. I’ll blog next time about some of the analytics our team is exploring, but in the meantime please leave a comment with your thoughts on how the multichannel customer environment is changing your business – or tweet me on @matt_sims1.
Photo by Dysturb licensed under Creative Commons