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11.08.16 | blog

Is Customer Engagement the First Step to Omnichannel CX?

“The true scarce commodity of the near future will be human attention.”

-- Satya Nadella, CEO/Microsoft

A recent study of media consumption in Canada concluded the average human attention span had decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today.* Call it the law of diminishing returns or the inescapability of media and consumption means, but it poses tremendous business challenges and opportunities for organizations today.

For the better part of history, we have had two basic channels for conducting business and providing customer service: in-person and traditional mail (or post, dating back to the Egyptian Pharaohs and use of couriers). For the better part of a century (1900-2000) we added one new channel to support customers and conduct remote business—the phone. That’s one new channel in a span of 100 years. We had time to prepare and alter our strategies accordingly. In the 2000s, everything changed. We saw the emergence of Multi-channel technologies that combined phone, email, chat, and social media support. This rapid growth presented unparalleled business challenges and opportunities. Multi-channel then gave way to Omnichannel, and we have to ask: how do organizations deliver on their customer engagement strategies in this increasingly complex and rapidly changing service environment? What is the best approach?

There are so many opportunities to create a true Omnichannel experience for user and customer experience, but it can seem overwhelming given the torrid pace of technological change, fickle consumer habits and preferences, and yes, the ever deceasing human attention span. In short, it takes a plan. But it’s important to start by asking the right questions first. Recently, I was leading a roundtable discussion with business leaders from various industries both commercial and consumer-oriented, focused on customer centricity and Omnichannel strategies. As the discussion evolved, I asked the participants a question: What if you had to come up with a plan to monetize your customer care from Day 1 before you rolled out a new channel for support? How would that impact your thinking? How would it influence your approach and strategy? How would it simplify it? Dell recently did just this.** Dell was trying to better understand where to make investments in customer service and sales support. Their result? They embraced a smart, targeted Omnichannel experience for their customers while creating a multibillion dollar business from post-sales service and support offerings. Whether you develop a growth business out of your customer support capabilities or not, we can all agree on the fact that the balance of power in the CX experience has shifted to the customer on just about every front: ease of access to information, pricing, inventory information, purchase and return policies, shipping/transportation and so on. Dell understood this and tailored their service and support functions to address customer needs and their willingness to pay for differentiated service.

In a recent Gartner survey, executives and senior business line leaders were asked about their customer engagement strategy and use of Omnichannel technologies. Participants were asked what was the overall business need driving their adoption and execution of Omnichannel solutions and approximately one-third or 30% responded it was directed at stemming customer churn and customer dissatisfaction, while nearly 60% or twice that number responded that it was in attempts to improve upon operational inefficiencies.

This tells me two things: 1) organizations are still too inwardly focused vs outwardly focused on the customer experience and 2) service capabilities (all of the support functions in whatever channels currently provided) are still too often viewed as a financial cost center.

The outline for a true Omnichannel experience should be a journey.

Gartner on Omnichannel:

1. See the Customer Journey

a. At the customer journey level (micro level)

b. At the business level (macro level)

c. Allows you to see friction by channel type, journey type and re-orchestrate journey types

2. Start True Omnichannel

Website and Voice or IVR (for example)—leverage your current channels used in your business today and add incremental capabilities such as targeted Chat on your support or sale section of your website; or FAQs on your mobile app; or community-based support on your website.

 3. Put in place a digital customer service business platform

    Be the disruptor and not disrupted

Almost 20 years ago, I was with a startup CRM software/consulting firm working directly with financial/banking clients across North America, South America and the UK. It was at the eclipse of Multi-channel solution offerings and one of the difficult lessons the banks learned then (and it’s just as applicable now) was that when you rolled out new channel offerings to customers, it did not help drive self-service necessarily, but rather, increased operational costs as customers simply used all of the channel offerings with greater frequency (in-store, drive-through banking, telephone banking, ATM). The financial/banking clients that best executed their customer engagement strategies were those that first understood what their customers wanted. It was critical to learn how customers used the products and services, how they communicated with their banks and consumed their services—what they were willing to forgo and what they were willing to pay for. This drive drove their channel strategy and design. Secondly, it was important for all front-line/customer-facing management teams to understand customer value and what drove profitability. And finally, these organizations drove a bottoms up-top down enterprise change management program around the customer experience. In essence, the customer journey was core to their customer engagement strategy. After all, if we only have 8 seconds of attention span, the value exchange in those few seconds has to be hugely compelling enough for customers to buy and return.


About the Author

Stephen Bengtson is Senior Vice President and General Manager at Arise. In this role, he is responsible for Business Development and delivering client results to some of the world’s most recognized brands.

With over 15 years of leadership experience, Stephen’s professional career has concentrated on developing and managing key client relationships, delivering world-class outsourced services and driving organizational growth strategies with large, publically traded and privately-held technology and services companies.

Prior to joining Arise in 2011, Stephen was Vice President of Finance and Accounting Services for ACS, a Xerox Company providing BPO and IT Outsourcing solutions. Stephen holds a Masters of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of San Diego, CA.


 *Source: NY Times 01/22/2016, “The Eight Second Attention Span” 

**Source Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

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