Ask the tanned, swimsuit-clad person in the “after” photo how they did it. Their six-pack most certainly didn’t come from a gimmick to lose 15-pounds in seven days. At least, not without spending a fortune. There’s an insatiable appetite for “lose weight quickly without effort” ploys. Yet, there’s no secret to getting in shape; doing so requires a transformational shift in lifestyle and diet.
In Customer Experience, leaders often face their own swimsuit-season constraint dilemma: Meet the evolving customer’s growing expectations faster without spending additional budget. But, there’s no “faster, easier, cheaper, better” secret to an omnichannel customer service program. Great omnichannel CX offers connected channel hopping to any of the customer’s preferred channels and integrates into a unified experience where agents can support all channels. Great omnichannel CX most often requires a transformational shift, which is why customers come to us to help solve disparate and unscalable Frankenstein CX programs that are costly and haven’t returned the results they were seeking.
Many companies struggle with this dilemma. In fact, customer-centric thought leader Bob Thompson’s research indicates only 1/3 of CX initiatives are successful—nearly a 70% failure rate. This guide was made to help you beat the odds. Follow these five steps to ensure your after photo of an Omnichannel Customer Experience program is the kind of CX people tape to their refrigerators for inspiration.
What is a digital omnichannel experience?
When Omnichannel CX first became buzzworthy, omnichannel meaning was: a seamless cross-channel experience for the customer. In terms of digital customer experience channels, it primarily included chat and email. But the Next Generation of digital channels span far wider, encompassing a channel-blending experience across SMS, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and whatever the hottest new social channel of tomorrow might be.
Keeping up with such a rapidly changing digital world means designing CX for omnichannel isn’t always enough. To address today’s customer experience obstacles and future-proof them for tomorrow, it’s important to distinguish and plan for what’s known as “digital-first omnichannel.”
- Multichannel – In multichannel contact centers the customer receives support in more than one channel that have little to no interaction between them.
- Omnichannel – The customer receives support in any channel with a seamless experience from channel to channel. Voice is prioritized and digital channels are mostly limited to first-generation (chat and email), where some agents might specialize in digital channels.
- Digital-first Omnichannel – The customer receives support in any channel with a seamless experience from channel to channel. Digital Omnichannel CX prioritizes a much broader spectrum of next generation digital channels (email, chat, messaging, mobile apps, social monitoring) where all agents are digitally fluent.
Digital Omnichannel accounts for many barriers in implementing omnichannel customer experiences. Instead of focusing on the customer’s experience throughout channels including digital, digital-first omnichannel prioritizes customer experience in digital channels and unifies the experience for customers and agents. Digital-first omnichannel addresses administration barriers, multiple agent streams and interfaces, complex implementation and time-consuming management and future proofs CX in ways traditional Omnichannel doesn’t always support.
Step 1: Know Your Customers’ Expectations
The first step toward digital-first omnichannel success is having a comprehensive understanding of your customer. After all, you’re not designing a channel-centric experience; you’re designing a customer-centric experience.
To get it right, you need to answer these three questions:
- Who are your customers?
- What are their preferred channels?
- What do your customers expect?
To answer these questions, develop customer personas, a representative profile of each of your customer segments. Each persona should be grounded in research and data including demographic, geographic and psychographic information, such as: their goals, motivation, preferences and pain points.
Your marketing team might already have personas developed, on which you can piggy-back or flush-out with your own team’s insight. In addition to internal primary data, you can also use secondary industry data to supplement, such as data like the “Channels popularity by age group” micrographic or any other CX demographic research found in the NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark.
Step 2: Map the Customer Journey
What motivates a customer to message your customer support? This support interaction might be the fourth or fifth interaction the customer has had with your company, and chances are their sentiment at this interaction doesn’t start positive. Accordingly, the full customer experience doesn’t just include the first interaction with an agent. To understand how you support your customers’ needs at onset through resolution, it’s helpful to work through a customer journey mapping exercise.
- Stages – The milestones of a customer journey from when your company first becomes visible, through purchase and post-customer stages.
- Touchpoints – All human and non-human interactions a customer makes or takes with your company (Performs a search, visits website, signs up for demo, sales qualification call, help and support, checkout, return, etc.).
- Channels – Where each interaction takes place and the transferring between channels (live agent, Facebook messaging, email, call, website chat, etc.).
- Motivations – What goals the customer is trying to accomplish at each touchpoint and throughout the journey.
- Sentiment – How a customer feels or level of satisfaction at each stage of the interaction. Use your customer satisfaction performance metrics to ensure accuracy.
A visual representation of the accurate journey will help you understand where there might be customer friction or opportunities for improvement in your optimization, process or design of a digital-first omnichannel customer experience. If your customer journey varies based on the customer persona, you might consider creating a map per persona.
It’s important to create the realistic journey of omnichannel customer care your customers experience, which means you’ll need to remove your assumptions and biases. And although a good starting place might be from your perception of the journey, you need to use all available data and insights to confirm or disprove your assumptions. Customer experience metrics — like Net Promoter Score (NPS), First Call Resolution, abandon rate and reason, Average Handling Rate (AHR), Quality of Call, etc. — are great metrics to support the customer journey.
If you feel there are blind spots in your knowledge, read this quick and comprehensive guide to Uncovering Your Customer Experience Blind Spots or consider conducting Customer Satisfaction Surveys where you might not have information at hand.
The more interactions and touchpoints your company offers, the more complicated and less linear this mapping can become. Even how to structure it visually can be a challenging and time-consuming exercise. However, this is an effective means to accurately understanding and solving for customer experience. Fortunately, your marketing team might already have a journey mapped. But if they don’t, there’s many customer journey map templates and resources you can find online, such as this LinkedIn Learning course.
Step 3: Evaluate The Agent Experience
If agents lose time switching between many screens and customer information isn’t connected an already frustrated customer must repeat themselves. It’s a powerless situation for the agent and customer alike, resulting in avoidable decreased KPIs. Digital omnichannel isn’t just about ensuring the customer’s experience is unified. A crucial component to digital-first omnichannel cx that many contact center leaders overlook is the agent experience, even though:
86% of CX executives rank agent experience (AX) as the No.1 driver of better CX
The biggest challenges agents face in delivering CX are solved by a digital-first omnichannel CX program, where agents have training, processes and tools to succeed at delivering great CX.
The ICMI Agent Experience Maturity Model and Toolkit is a framework that includes a handy scoring template to help you assess your agent experience.
Where many companies can see failure is in neglecting agent activation of a program. In any shift in process, there’s the potential for resistance. To mitigate agent resistance, incorporate agents into the acceptance and buy-in process. Make your agents feel ownership of impact by surveying them about their experience and incorporating it into your vision, get their input on a draft of the plan and take time to introduce them fully before training. Also consider incorporating follow-up surveying on how the onboarding, training and rollout is going to cover any gaps or opportunities in your go live.
Here are other resources, tips and strategies to improve agent experience:
- Improving Your Agent Experience, One Step at a Time webinar recording covers the process of building agent experience maturity to improve CX.
- The New Thinking Behind Great Contact Centre Leadership webinar recording covers tools and techniques to help you engage agents.
- To see more agent experience statistics and learn more about what motivates and engage agents, download ICMI’s research findings: “The State of Agent Experience and Engagement in Today’s Contact Center.”
Step 4: SWOT Analysis to Develop Your CX Vision
Once you do the legwork to determine your customer expectations, journey and agent experience, you’re ready to design your vision.
To prioritize, it might be helpful to summarize your findings in a quick SWOT analysis:
- Strengths – What are you getting right? These are what you can maintain, build or leverage in your action plan.
- Weaknesses – What are you getting wrong today? Your action plan should include how to remedy these.
- Opportunities – What could you do to get more out of your CX? Your action plan can optimize for these.
- Threats – What are potential obstacles for the future? Your action plan should cover how you’ll counter these.
Your action plan should address:
- Channel requirements – Including what you need today, what you could need in the future and what happens when you need to add channels.
- Technology integration - How you’ll unify these channels for the customer and agents (e.g. automatic routing to the right agent in the customer’s preferred channel, a unified interface for agents and visibility to all customer data).
- Implementation - How you’ll onboard the program operationally, including: agent activation, internal agent and manager hiring, agent and manager training and agent engagement tactics.
- KPIs you’ll use to measure omnichannel success, how you’ll measure them and a plan for continuous improvement.
To help you determine the most efficient and cost-effective solution, scope the cost and time for all options:
- The cost of inaction or maintaining your status quo
- The cost and time to upgrade or optimize your existing solution. Be sure to include any contingencies or considerations you uncover, such as tool limitations, and try to put these in monetary terms.
- The cost and time of implementing a new solution. Be sure to include any contingencies or considerations you uncover.
In this exercise, it might be beneficial to setup an exploratory demo or request a quote from other omnichannel contact center solutions. You can learn more about NICE inContact’s digital-first omnichannel solution in the video below. If you want to learn more, you can view a longer 20-minute demo of all our offerings or request a quote.
Step 5: Align on a Business Case for Omnichannel Customer Experience
In any given customer journey, a customer might interact with marketing content or tactics, a sales person and a support agent. Accordingly, a transformation to digital-first omnichannel CX also requires support from all involved departments.
Whether it’s finance and operations, customer service, marketing or sales, each department that plays a role should be brought-in and bought-in as a collaborative stakeholder. Without stakeholder alignment and consensus, your implementation can fall flat. Outside of formalizing your plan for CX, build a business case to create urgency for the resources and support you need.
A business case for digital omnichannel CX should include:
- The business problem (opportunity/challenge)
- Description of what’s needed to solve for the business problem
- Quantification of the benefits
- Financial analysis to justify the cost of the investment
To successfully gain consensus and alignment within your organization, use these tips:
- Draft a business case to convince collaborators by answering “What’s in it for me?” for each involved, and don’t forget to show the penalty or cost for non-change.
- Set realistic and clear expectations on how each collaborator will be involved, what costs are associated and the timeline you anticipate.
- Gain stakeholder input, feedback and considerations on the vision and incorporate all considerations. Rinse and repeat until you have a final plan with consensus and approval from all stakeholders
Travel service company GANT Travel successfully made the business case for its cloud contact center and provides other great tips in this 2-minute video:
Here are some other helpful resources and guidance on building a business case:
- The Innovator’s Guide to the Digital-first Contact Center includes market data to help prove and justify the investment.
- To better understand the cost-benefit of a Digital-first Contact Center watch this webinar replay.
- For general guidance, watch this helpful on-demand webinar recording on building a contact center business case.
- For help formatting your business case, review the DMG Consulting paper on Building a Business Case for Cloud-Based Contact Center Solutions.
- This comprehensive ICMI Omnichannel Contact Center Toolkit includes support calculating the benefits, can help inform which channels you should incorporate and educate on measuring omnichannel success.
- If you currently use or are considering NICE inContact as an omnichannel solution, the Total Economic Impact (TEI) model for NICE inContact CXone can help you calculate the financial ROI.
Why getting omnichannel customer experience right matters
Digital omnichannel is the future and a ripe opportunity to differentiate your offering against your competitors:
- 91% of consumers expect a seamless experience
- Only 24% of businesses give themselves an excellent rating on their ability to support seamless channel swapping
But, many brands can’t or haven’t been able to deliver on a true digital-first omnichannel experience. For some, the barriers like resource strain, technology, cultural shift, tools, complex integration and high-cost force settling with “good enough.” For others who attempted and failed probably went with a “quicker-cheaper-easier-faster” attempt, resulting in a fragmented and costly channel Frankenstein experience. To get it right, brands must plan for transformation.
The choice is yours: Which “After” photo of Omnichannel CX represents you?
If you found this guide helpful and want learn more about addressing the next generation of digital channels including market data to help you build the case, download The Digital-first contact center: The Innovator’s Guide and don’t forget to forward it to your colleagues to start greasing their wheels.