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How to Determine the Most Suitable Omnichannel <br> (Part 2)


To understand how and where customers want to interact, retailers should develop an evaluation framework from the “outside in; prioritize contact points; create a channel roadmap; and then rationalize, migrate, and adopt new digital channels that advance business objectives.

When it comes to helping customers, how is better than more. In our view, retailers must broaden their view of omnichannels and focus more on steering customers to the channels that best suit their preference for engaging, communicating, and ensuring loyalty.

But before delivering a consistent level of service across channels, offering highly personalized, distinctive discussions that align with customer’ profiles, and knowing how, when, and where customers prefer to engage, retailers must evaluate their own channels with what’s available to serve customers’ needs. 

The first step is to develop an evaluation framework from the “outside in. Next is to prioritize contact points, followed by the creation of a roadmap for determining the best combination of channels. Only then can they to rationalize, migrate, and adopt new digital channels.

Of course, it is equally important to consider a customer’s industry before deciding upon a channel mix. For instance, Facebook campaigns work differently for different users, depending on the industry. What might work well for a consumer goods company might not resonate with fashion customers.

Making It Happen

Determining how and why customers move to different channels and how they prefer to engage at various touchpoints is crucial. Before developing a channel strategy, companies must:

  • Determine channel objectives.

  • Analyze the maturity of the desired channel(s).

  • Assess the effects of digitization on customers’ experiences and business success.

That said, customer service leaders need to examine several key areas that play a role in optimizing the channel mix and improving customers’ experiences. Answering the following questions can help determine where companies should focus and what they should do:

  • Strategy: What percentage of our customers will shift if we add a new channel? How will we move customers across channels? Should we add only self-service channels? Do we need to broaden our channel reach through self-service and reduce personal interactions?

  • Data: Who are our customers? What channels do they prefer? What channels do our competitors use? How will our tech-savvy customers interact on digital channels compared with less knowledgeable, late-blooming, and older-generation customers?

  • Reach: In what regions or market segments does our organization need to expand? Is there an opportunity to extend our presence geographically and reach new customers? Will adding channels supported by competitors help our customers — and the business?

  • Cost: What are the cost projections and tolerances? How much can our organization invest to train, support, and incentivize customers to use new channels?

  • Growth: What are our sales targets? What percentage of produced units does the company want to sell?

  • Compliance: Will adding a channel/channels involve new regulatory and/or other legal requirements? What type of information can be distributed on a particular channel?

  • Expertise: Can we support personalized interactions across channels and maintain their context within an omnichannel ecosystem? Do we need a channel that provides a specific level of product or service expertise?

  • Visibility: How visible are our existing channels? How do they perform from a customer perspective? What kind of marketing campaign should we execute to boost channel usage?

Analyzing Channel Maturity

While channels mature at different rates, each plays a critical role in determining an organization's proficiencies in serving customers. A maturity model can help enterprises analyze and evaluate channels’ current and desired capabilities across dimensions.

In today’s digital, cost-sensitive environment, however, splitting agent resources across channels can be a juggling act that can potentially undermine the effectiveness of individual channels. Hence, it is important to verify the touchpoints that customers are most likely to use. As a first step, organizations should:

  1. Assess the viability of existing as well as new digital channels.
  2. Analyze customer expectations across touchpoints.
  3. Map customer journeys to the most suitable channel.
  4. Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of each touchpoint.
  5. Assess the impact of automation on existing applications, such as CRM, contact routing, workforce optimization, knowledge management, and customer self-service.
  6. Evaluate how the considered channels can benefit the business.
  7. Allow for channel migration and help maximize ROI by steering customers to more profitable channels with which they can interact.

An optimal channel mix depends on a cohesive business environment; an advanced technology infrastructure; a strategy for continuous improvement; robust business rules; and synchronized, cross-channel processes that work in concert to provide continuous, seamless, and highly satisfying customer experiences.

In addition to balancing costs with returns, the main goal is to enhance contact-center capabilities to meet the aforementioned objectives. It is clear that businesses across industries must move beyond traditional channels and embrace an analytical (data-driven) approach that optimizes customer-service spend. The introduction of a new customer channel not only influences purchasing decisions; it also gauges the effectiveness of the channel in attracting customers.

What NOT To Do

In today’s rapidly expanding digital environment, a viable, value-focused channel strategy plays a fundamental role in achieving higher revenues, lower costs, and satisfied customers. While taking into account a company’s technological and business maturity, we recommend a sustainable, growth-focused channel strategy that looks at options from both the inside out (the organization’s needs and capabilities) and the outside in (customer expectations).

As digital touchpoints continue to grow, determining the right channel mix has never been more critical. When developing a channel strategy, companies must focus on more than providing an omnichannel experience and set their sights on identifying the channels customers favor. Whatever your approach, doing one or all of the following will never be in your best interest:  increasing your organization’s presence across multiple channels because doing so is popular;  failing to recognize your customers’ preferred channels; and  trying to do more with fewer resources.

Figure 1

To learn more, please read “Beyond Omnichannel: Determining the Right Channel Mix,” or visit the Retail section of our website.

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