“The customer is king.”
We’ve heard this platitude so frequently over the years that now we tend to ignore it. But the truth of the matter is, there’s so much competition today, that if you don’t treat your customers like royalty, or make their buying journeys frictionless, they’ll likely leave you for a company that will and does.
In today’s digital economy, in which people, businesses, and devices are constantly connected, this means offering customers seamless omni-channel experiences. We know buyers expect to engage with your company across multiple channels, be it online, via a mobile phone, or in-store. And they expect you to offer the same deals, products, and service regardless of touchpoint.
If you can’t meet that basic demand, you’re at a serious disadvantage. In fact, companies with strong omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers, while companies with weak omni-channel customer engagement retain only 33% of their customers.
So what does weak omni-channel customer engagement look like?
Here’s a glimpse.
Communication breakdown: A mobile company fails to deliver
In early May, my wonderful wife, Linda, began looking into upgrading our daughter’s mobile phone plan. Coincidentally, in the midst of researching our options, she received an e-mail from a widely known mobile carrier promoting a limited-time, Internet-only offer to upgrade her mobile phone free of charge.
Since my wife is more comfortable speaking on the phone than navigating her way around the Web, I encouraged her to reach out to the company’s call center. That way, in addition to learning more about the deal, she’d have the opportunity to chat with somebody about disabling the numerous promotional text alerts our daughter was also now receiving.
When Linda inquired about upgrading my daughter’s phone, the call center rep told her it would cost $130. Obviously, my wife objected and told the woman on the other end of the line about the offer she had received online from them. Surprise! The call center rep had no idea what my wife was talking about.
Additionally, when Linda requested to have the text alerts that go to our daughter’s phone go to her phone instead – to have them, in essence, stop disturbing my daughter and targeting a minor with inappropriate messages – the young woman on the phone said that wouldn’t be a problem. Well, guess what: More than a month later, they’re both receiving the texts.
The call ended with the call center rep providing one more suggestion: “Can you visit one of our stores with the e-mail, so they can validate what you say is true and put a note on your account that you do, indeed, have such an offer?”
Seriously, I thought. You’re asking my wife to solve your faulty system disconnects?
If at first you don’t succeed …
With no luck on the phone, my determined wife decided she would visit one of the mobile company’s stores, located 10 miles away. At the store, an employee could take a look at the e-mail Linda had received, validate it, as suggested, and hopefully upgrade the phone and update our contract.
But when the employee finally logged into his system, my wife was informed that the upgrade would cost $130. Since the staff member couldn’t honor the offer, he updated the contract details with a confirmation of the e-mail and recommended Linda reach back out to the company’s call center.
Should you have to be so persistent to be loyal?
At this point, I was of the mind that we should just purchase a new phone for my daughter from another provider and cancel our current contract. However, days later, my persistent wife contacted the mobile carrier via telephone – again. And she inquired about the offer she had received – again.
Eventually, after much insistence and searching, a phone rep found the e-mail validation comment in his system after some 20 minutes. But the result of the extra effort Linda had gone through to patch up her customer journey was to no avail.
This time, the agent advised her the price had come down, but only from $130 to $110. While the $20 decrease was nice, it certainly wasn’t the free offer we had been promised originally. When Linda expressed this, along with her frustration, the customer service rep on the other end of the line simply hung up the phone.
Patience is a virtue …
At this point, we decided to register a formal complaint. My wife ultimately spoke to an individual in the complaints department who was empowered enough to make decisions that could fix the broken process. This particular employee apologized for the other rep’s rude behavior, and we were finally able to upgrade my daughter’s mobile phone for free – three weeks after receiving the initial offer.
At no point during this entire process was it ever easy. In fact, the purchasing journey was quite painful. Amazingly, we found it necessary to originate a customer service complaint process in order to recoup a simple marketing offer designed to retain our loyalty. In the end, this particular mobile company’s one-channel offer had ended up breaking our omni-channel experience.
Two tips on providing a seamless omni-channel experience
Modern-day companies are in a better position than ever to be able to provide seamless omnichannel experiences, thanks to customer relationship management (CRM) software, integrated commerce, learning, social, and community solutions, plus many other innovative technologies. These tools, combined with strategic communication and training initiatives, can help your organization deliver the omni-channel experiences your customers so desperately crave.
Here are two tips on how you can ensure the omni-channel experience you’re providing isn’t broken:
- Increase companywide, multi-channel visibility: In an ideal environment, everyone within your company, regardless of role or channel, would be knowledgeable about the enterprise’s existing deals and promotions. Your marketing, sales, and service employees must all have visibility into what the business is promising to deliver across any channel. More importantly, they need to know how to fulfill these promises.
- Provide clear instructions to employees: No matter which channel a product offer comes through, customers from other channels will inevitably emerge to take advantage of the deal. Your staff needs to know how to react under those circumstances. Perhaps there’s an additional small fee you charge. Or maybe the e-mail offer has alternative options in the event that your customers prefer in-store visits. Whatever the solution is, your employees must be trained on how to handle the situation, so the ultimate target result is achieved. In our case, it was simple: Prevent customer attrition.
Connecting the dots of omni-channel
Many companies mistakenly believe that if they have a presence across multiple channels, it means they’re providing an omni-channel experience. I’m afraid that’s not true.
Having a presence across multiple channels is merely the first step in providing an omni-channel experience. The more crucial step is ensuring those different channels are linked together, enabling your business to provide a consistently positive customer experience regardless of touchpoint.
It’s simple to test, by the way. In fact, here’s a hint on how you can do that: Ask yourself how regularly you’ve stood in your customers’ shoes and experienced the buying or interaction journey they’re currently having with your company. If you don’t do this, I suggest you should start doing it now – urgently. Because you may just discover some shocking mistakes that can so easily be solved.
The tools to deliver a superior omni-channel experience are widely available today. Leverage them and prove your worth to your customers by providing them with the experiences they not only expect but deserve in today’s modern world.