A Brief Look at the Basics of Omni-Channel

different devices representing omnichannel experience


[Estimated read time: 3 minutes]

Omni-channel is not an easy concept to grasp. Everyone seems to have their own definition, and it doesn’t come with any black-and-white metrics to tell you whether you’re getting it right. Trying to wrap your head around it can make you long for the days when contact centers only needed to worry about FCR and AHT.

But omni-channel is a critical piece of the service experience that today’s customers expect, and you need to understand the basics of what it is and how it works.

The Factors of an Omni-Channel Experience

By now, we have a pretty good idea of what an omni-channel experience looks like—customers can communicate with a brand through their preferred channel, and move seamlessly to other channels without ever having to repeat themselves. But although you can probably identify omni-channel when you see it, do you understand what goes into creating it?

After studying thousands of customers, CEB determined that there are six significant factors to building an omni-channel experience:

  1. Channel consistency: Customers enjoy the same quality of service, receive the same information, and follow the same basic process, regardless of the channel they’re using.
  2. Customer recognition: Customers’ information is stored in a central location that’s accessible to agents and brick-and-mortar associates.
  3. Proactive communication: Customers receive updates about their service requests, and are informed of any problems or changes without having to ask.
  4. Relationship history: Customers’ interaction history from across all channels is stored in a central location that’s accessible to agents and store associates.
  5. Service continuity: Customers can leave a conversation on one channel and pick it up on another without having to repeat any information.
  6. Transparency: Customers are informed about the steps needed to handle their request, and know when to expect a solution.

How Omni-Channel Creates Better Customer Service

The same study also identified which of the six factors are most important to customers. As you can see in the chart below, the results were unexpected.

chart of important omni-channel factors

When CEB experts took a closer look at the rankings, they realized what was causing the discrepancy. The service pros were focused on creating seamless, hassle-free interactions, while the customers were concerned about being informed. The combination of customers’ top-ranked factors—proactive communication and transparency—creates an expectation of clear communication, which helps eliminate uncertainty and reduce customer effort.

Eliminating Uncertainty

Uncertainty—whether it’s about the status of a request, which step should be taken next, or any other aspect of a service transaction—can ruin an otherwise stellar customer experience. Why? CEB suggests that the frustration stems from:

  • Built-up skepticism of customer service departments
  • Information asymmetry (the company knows more than the consumer does)
  • Perceived lack of control

customer reading manual while using laptop

Luckily, you can address those concerns through omni-channel service, specifically by:

  • Walking the customer through the steps of the resolution process
  • Offering an estimated timeline
  • Explaining any policies or limitations that might cause delays
  • Providing easy access to relevant information
  • Sending regular progress updates and immediate notifications of any problems

Reducing Customer Effort

In addition to reducing uncertainty, transparency and proactivity also decrease customer effort, which strongly correlates to increased loyalty (96% of customers who have to spend a lot of effort to get their issue resolved end up leaving the company). When customers receive proactive progress reports, they don’t have to make the effort to reach out to you for a status update. And when you’re transparent about the resolution process and possible roadblocks, they know what to expect and aren’t forced to spend time trying to figure it out for themselves.

In fact, creating an experience that attempts to eliminate uncertainty can actually reduce customers’ effort by 14% and decrease their likelihood of contacting customer service by as much as 41%.

Omni-Channel in Action

Not surprisingly, two companies succeeding at eliminating uncertainty and reducing effort through omni-channel service are Uber and Amazon—the customer experience masters.

screenshot of Uber's omni-channel experience

screenshot of Amazon Prime Now's omni-channel experience

As you can see in the images above, both Uber and Amazon (particularly through its Prime Now app) address the three root causes of uncertainty (skepticism, information asymmetry, and lack of control). They offer an abundance of information about every aspect of the transaction, so that customers know exactly what to expect and when. And their real-time notifications mean customers get the updates they need without any extra effort.

Astute’s ePowerCenter CRM gives you everything you need to provide all six factors of a true omni-channel experience: channel consistency, customer recognition, proactive communication, relationship history, service continuity, and transparency. Learn more and request a personalized demo.

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