The world has changed and businesses need to evolve to survive.
Three years ago I stood on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, NRF’s Shop.org in Las Vegas, and the Ascent Conference in New York City with this simple message:
“In the future, businesses won’t just sell products and services. They’ll need to provide seamless solutions on a simple communications interface, anywhere, anytime.”
At that time it was really hard for people to grasp that idea because Omnichannel was one of those buzzwords that kept coming up in every conversation. “Omnichannel, Omnichannel, Omnichannel” echoed through the halls of hotel lobbies and conference rooms as CRM sales teams nudged each other aside to get 5 minutes with the right Director of Operations or Customer Service at the conference.
I soon realized that it was hard for people to understand the Seamless solutions on a single interface concept I was promoting because they were using the word Omnichannel to describe the benefits of CRM software for sales reps. Instead of a customer-centric understanding of the word Omnichannel they were looking from the company’s point of view. And they have been, for a really long time; Customer Relationship Management was invented in 1987 and became popular in 1997. By then companies were interacting with customers through many channels and CRM software was the knight in shining armor that came to reel-in all of the internal chaos.
As the industry evolved and customers tirelessly navigated through stores, call centers, forms, emails, chat widgets, and social media, agents were able to log interactions and give the company a single view of the customer on the CRM Dashboard. Ops teams all over the world kept chanting “Omnichannel, Omnichannel, Omnichannel,” in agreement that this single view of the customer was phenomenal, and productivity increases through automation and integrations meant their significant others were happy to spend more time with them.
However, all of the progress was one-sided. Why were customers complaining more than ever and buying products and services from the seller with the lowest price? How on earth did almost every industry trend towards commoditization? Put simply, they forgot about the customer.
Single View of the Customer does not equal Omnichannel Experience
In fact, our ability to manage more channels led to the adoption of even more channels, and ultimately a very complicated multichannel experience for the customer. There was a clear disregard for the reality that customers couldn’t care less if a business has a single view of them if they’re jumping through hoops and through multiple siloed channels trying to get solutions.
What companies missed is that the true meaning of Omnichannel Experience is Unified Experience. Customers often want to interact with certain products, spaces, and services in the physical world and other times prefer the benefits of digital experiences, but they all need to be part of a well thought out Unified Menu of Experiences that the brand offers. The conceptual leap needed was understanding that the secret to unifying the physical and digital realms was already in the devices we are constantly interacting with everywhere. If we could offer the customer a single interface with the brand along the entire journey, then not only would it allow for the company to deploy powerful context-specific experiences along the way, but they would become their customers trusted partner that always provides the right solution when and where they need it.
It’s an On-Demand, Personalized World
Blame it on the millennials, smartphones, Amazon, Netflix, or Uber. It doesn’t really matter, but the fact is that people want their needs satisfied when and where they are, and they want it to be easy. That means with one click or scan on any device, they need to be interacting with the right media or person, period. By offering this level of experience, these brands become their customers’ trusted partners through on-demand, personalized solutions.
Most people look for brands that can solve their problems in the best possible way. This means that companies need to shift their focus and implement technology that can allow them to be their customer’s solution provider anywhere, anytime. IKEA, a pioneer in the furniture industry, knows this well. In addition to e-commerce, the in-store furniture experiences, and Swedish meatballs, IKEA matches customers with designers and instantly offers in-house assembly services via their TaskRabbit on-demand service.
From CRM to CXM
When companies start thinking of Omnichannel Experiences from the customer’s perspective they’ve basically begun a fundamental shift from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to Customer Experience Management (CXM). They’re also closer to achieving one of the most powerful competitive advantages a brand could achieve in any industry, gaining their customer’s love.
Let’s face it, who do you have the strongest bonds with? It’s probably the people that you can trust and are always there when you need them. Why should it be any different for brands? The Temkin Group found that customers who have a positive emotional experience are 6x more likely to purchase from a company again and a study by New Voice Media found that a shocking 51 percent of customers will never do business with a company again after just one poor experience.
C19 and the New Reality: It’s about survival
Every inventor in the world knows that the toughest thing to achieve is to make people change their behavior. People stick to what they know while they profess the old adage, “if it ain’t broke why fix it.” After all, changing behavior requires hard work. Well I have a good one for you, “necessity is the mother of invention,” and it’s accelerating everything.
We are in uncharted waters and perhaps one of the worst recessions in history. This is the time when companies need to evolve and become their customer’s partner in order to survive the current recession and the brave new world that will follow.
They need to think of their customer’s experience as a Single Global Unified Experience that is made up of many very well-designed context-specific experiences that can be deployed from the places their customers roam. Brands need to create a perfectly planned narrative that unfolds as their customer organically goes about their life. That means on-demand at the customer’s current location and not the other way around.
This is an opportunity for companies to reinvent themselves, establish competitive advantages, and thrive. In a world where workers trade face-to-face meetings for videoconferencing and in-market shopping for on-demand services, businesses are faced with the following challenges that they will have to solve in order to succeed:
- Provide access points everywhere that instantly launch customized digital experiences, on any device, without requiring any software installation, including their mobile and web apps, physical stores, social media, ads, packaging, manuals, and the product itself.
- These experiences must automatically qualify the customer’s needs.
- They have to connect the customer with the right media or people.
- Experiences need to be context specific, simple and rich in functionality, allowing messaging, voice, video, screen-sharing, file-sharing, appointments, accepting agreements, payments, co-shopping with friends, and expert team routing. The idea is that the customer can fulfill all of their needs on a single, simple, and seamless interface.
- The channel needs to be persistent and context specific. In other words, the system remembers the customer, deploys the right Experience, and groups conversations logically.
- All the data is secure, recorded, accessible, and can be synced with other platforms.
The future is here and companies must implement a Customer Experience Management approach in order to survive. Businesses need to shift from just selling products and services to providing seamless solutions on a simple communications interface, anywhere, anytime.