A customer experience that is consistent across all channels has been shown to lead to an increase in loyal brand ambassadors, positive product reviews, and happy social media sharing. And that makes intuitive sense — if your prospect is consistently happy from the first contact onward, without frustration or confusion entering the equation, they’re more likely to become customers.
The general idea behind omnichannel consistency is to make interacting with your company absolutely effortless for customers. That means across all possible touchpoints there should be no friction, no knowledge gaps, no data discrepancies, and no online versus in-store inconsistencies.
This requires every channel to be well-designed, purposefully-managed, and consistent with the rest. If you can pull that off, the omnichannel presence can do wonders for customer experience.
What is “omnichannel” customer experience?
We’re talking about the customer experience at every channel and touchpoint for your business: your social accounts, your website, your marketing comms, your in-store sales people, your brochures, your ads, your live chat support team — anywhere customers can interact with your brand during their buying journey and post-sale.
Multichannel customer experience means being present at each of these touchpoints. Literally, your customers can experience your brand through various channels. Most companies are now multichannel; they don’t necessarily interconnect well, but the channels exist.
Omnichannel differs in that every individual touchpoint is interconnected with the rest and provides an identical level of service and communication as the rest. In other words, an omnichannel presence means maintaining a holistic, universal approach to the way you engage with your clients.
An example customer journey
Mary sees a Facebook ad for a gorgeous new sofa from Big Comfy Sofas. She clicks the ad and lands on the exact product page on the website. Naturally, the price, images, colors, etc., are all true to the ad.
To get delivery information, she loads live chat. The support team gives her precise and accurate information for that specific product. After a few days of thought, Mary pings the Big Comfy Sofas Facebook page to ask if they have that sofa in a physical store nearby. The team immediately finds the nearest sofa (which matches the color and size from the ad) and tells her where it is.
Mary visits the real store, where the assistant’s information matches the Facebook and website chat information exactly. Mary buys the sofa.
If this seems obvious to you, then great — you can already see the value in omnichannel customer experience. The problem is that it doesn’t usually go this way. Here are just a few common ways this breaks down for basic multichannel arrangements:
- The ad links to a homepage, company page, or a related product (not the actual product)
- Live chat gives generic delivery information
- Facebook support team isn’t integrated with physical stores; they can’t locate product and direct you to the website
- Physical store price, delivery information, or product information conflicts with online answers
So what does it mean to be “consistent?”
It shouldn’t matter what interaction the customer is having with your business (customer service, buying a product, returns, booking appointments) or how they’re doing it (online, offline, mobile, desktop, on the phone, email) — the experience should always feel the same.
Probably the hardest gap to bridge is between online and offline engagement. It is rarely true that visiting a company’s website matches the sensation of visiting the physical store. But the closer you can blend the two, the more engaging it is for customers.
Another way of looking at it is this. Imagine setting up two customer interviews. For one, every interaction with your company was online, for the other, everything was offline. When discussing how they felt about the brand, the buying experience, any support they had, overall impressions, etc., the answers should be very similar.
Why consistency is crucial
Providing the kind of experience Mary enjoyed doesn’t just require being present on various channels — it means being consistent and vigilant on them, making sure customers feel like they can interact with you anywhere without a compromised experience.
(For the most glaring example of non omnichannel CX, just think about how resistant most of us are to calling support centers for tech companies — it is the last resort because you just know it’s going to be a repetitive, haphazard slog.)
While everyone can appreciate the intangible, general benefit of omnichannel consistency, it also provides quantitative value.
Increased customer retention
If your customers have multiple forms of purchase (in-store, on the phone, online, through social media) which all offer the same top-notch experience, they are more likely to buy — and more likely to buy again in the future.
Measurable revenue gains
The Harvard Business Review reported that there can be 13 percent greater spend among omnichannel shoppers versus those visiting a single touchpoint. Without that omnichannel CX, companies could be leaving money on the table.
The shopping experience for the average customer in 2021 is significantly more varied and complex than in the past, and this change has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. Prospects will court brands through all sorts of channels and use various buying strategies (in-store, click and collect, online delivery, buying with credit, buying directly inside social media apps) — seamless interconnectivity between touchpoints has never been more important.
How can you adopt or improve your omnichannel presence?
First, leverage customer surveys. There is no better way to understand the customer journey at every touchpoint and channel than asking customers about it. Running surveys will reveal what’s broken at each stage, what inconsistencies are hurting CX, and what customer expectations are for every channel. Use this data to incrementally improve your omnichannel consistency.
The power of subtle personalization can be massively influential through the buying journey. Customers increasingly expect tailored recommendations and messaging. Using this across all touchpoints can help overcome objections and build a sense of loyalty in the customer.
Optimize your channels
While “the more channels the better” is broadly true, you need to consider which channels your customers value most. It’s far better to have a small number of highly engaging touchpoints than a greater number where there are more inconsistencies. If your company has channels which are little-used or complex to maintain, consider letting them go rather than disrupting the rhythm of your customer service.