How to resolve omnichannel conflicts within your company

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We often hear a lot about omnichannel marketing from an external viewpoint, but I think it’s also important to look at it from an internal perspective. Is your internal communication structure helping to build consistent company messaging and culture or is there infighting about who handles what?

Before an organization can have an effective omnichannel marketing strategy, it’s important to examine the internal communication structure. I think the CMO should be heading this up, because brand messaging (whether internal or external) is really a marketing function, even though there are different departments that feed into it. However, very few companies have a CMO who has broad enough oversight of everything that’s happening within a company regarding brand messaging. They’re in charge of consumer messaging, but brand messaging also affects employees and vendors.

Reduce Internal Competition

How do you make sure that all parties are sharing the same message, culture and outlook? It can be tough. Marketing, PR, HR, Customer Service—all are going in different directions, and there’s also competition among them. For instance, there’s often infighting regarding the credit for the sale.

HR thinks they should get the credit because they hired the best people and managed them. Communications thinks they get it because they’re responsible for the PR and earned media. Marketing thinks they get it because they’re creating the message. Sales claims it because they’re the guys out there on the front lines making the sales. Who’s right? Well, nobody owns it outright—everybody contributes—yet no one wants to share the glory.

Internal conflicts about who owns a channel wastes valuable time. We most often see disagreements arise between marketing and sales, even though in the end they really want the same thing. However, one of the biggest lost opportunities I see across departments is the disconnect between customer service and marketing.

To me, customer service is the ultimate marketing opportunity because someone is calling you with a problem. And when someone calls because they want something from you, they listen carefully to every word you say. Many times people block out marketing messaging because someone’s talking at them, but here you’re talking with them, and they’re listening intently. So it’s a tremendous opportunity not only to build your reputation, but to have the customer’s complete attention—when they’re tuned into a conversation with you. Yet most marketing and customer service channels operate completely independently of one another. They have different goals and different reward systems, which doesn’t lend itself to a great customer experience.

Remove Barriers to Delivering Brand Promise

In order to erase these types of conflicts and work with a unified purpose, we need to re-think how we communicate and collaborate internally. An omnichannel approach to customer service can only be successful if traditional internal communication barriers are removed. So I think we have to start thinking about how to create channels where everybody gets a say, feels connected and, most importantly, invested in the brand promise.

How do you make that change in enterprise companies? How does the CMO work with the rest of the C-suite to make internal omnichannel work? The CEO just can’t go out one day and say, “We’re changing the organizational chart, and this is the way it’s going to work now.” It’s going to be a gradual process, which means getting leaders to fully understand that they need to work together if they’re to achieve success as a whole.

It’s not something that will happen overnight, but we’re starting to see companies experiment with developing this type of collaborative internal structure, and I believe we’ll see more following suit.

Who’s Moving in the Right Direction?

Walgreens: I first witnessed this through the Duane Reed subsidiary. They do a good job of combining PR, communications and social into the marketing side of things with consistent messaging. They care about the same things, and they’ve done a wonderful job of building a great brand, following and customer voice. Their Net Promoter score and Share of Voice have increased dramatically.

Jetblue: The airline industry is tough, and Jetblue has had its problems, but the airline is doing a remarkable job of communicating between customer service, social PR and marketing. Results from united messaging across channels has been phenomenal. I’ve been impressed with their progress, and I know that other airlines are using them as an example and trying to do the same thing.

Who Could Use Some Help?

I think some of the big retailers have issues with this. They’ve got one message going out in the store, another one going out online, and half the time the inventory doesn’t connect. Brookstone is a good example. They’re on social channels, but it’s hard to get them to communicate with you there. They’ve helped create a mindset in the marketplace that if you don’t get satisfaction from calling the customer service number, make enough noise on social and someone will eventually call you. It shouldn’t be that disjointed.

If you go through social, you should be fed to someone who can handle your problem on social. If you call on the phone, you should be able to get satisfaction there, too. The customer shouldn’t have to wait or attempt to communicate in multiple channels in order to be taken care of.

Resolving internal omnichannel conflicts requires turning competition into collaboration, and that will take time. However, I think we can get started by examining what we’re promising our customers, partners and vendors every day. Your brand promise and architecture traditionally comes out of marketing, but delivering on that promise requires insights from other teams like sales, customer service–even finance.

Get everybody on board by developing a cross-departmental team to work on that architecture, not just marketing, and shift your reporting structure to ensure that messaging and delivery are consistent. Once those barriers are removed, I think we’ll start to see improvements in internal and external brand relationships: better communication, more collaboration, and the best evidence of delivery on brand promise—loyal customers.

Ted Rubin
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51 shares
November 13, 2015
Ted Rubin

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