Originating from the world of commerce, the term omnichannel has become more and more prevalent in customer service these days. Is it just a synonym for multichannel and thus just old wine in new skins, or is there more to it? Read this crisp definition of omnichannel customer service here.


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An omnichannel customer service approach integrates channels in a seamless way, making it a key  step towards real customer engagement. If you are merely offering multiple interaction channels for customers to reach out to customer service, that’s table stakes. Customers just expect to receive service on the channel of their choice, whether it’s phone, email, web, chat, self-service, social media channels or in-person interactions. A recent study by SOCAP International found that over half of the respondents use at least 6 channels to interact with customers. Clearly, it’s not the number of interaction channels that will set your company apart from the rest. Instead, a true differentiator will be the ability to deliver seamless, consistent, and personalized customer service interactions every time.

Why is omnichannel customer service the key to better customer engagement? If I’m your customer, and I’ve reached out to you for support, I’m not thinking in terms of channels. All I care about is getting the issue at hand resolved, as quickly and conveniently as possible. 

John Bowden, Senior Vice President of Customer Care, Time Warner Cable describes omnichannel this way:

“Omnichannel … is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated and consistent. Omnichannel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, Omnichannel is Multichannel done right!

Bowden makes an important point about starting a service interaction in one channel and moving to another for the same service issue. Clearly, today’s customers have higher expectations than ever before, and that includes the way they interact with companies. Interactions are becoming increasingly non-linear (that is, not necessarily following a predictable path) and fluent across communication channels. Companies that want to meet customer requirements and achieve service excellence  are replacing the many views of the customer they often hold today with one unified view of the customer. As a result, they are able to respond to the customer’s constantly evolving needs in 
a consistent way.

What do you need to do to meet your customers’ requirements?

  1. Meet your customers where they are, that is  in the channel of their choice.
  2. Know who your customers are, the products and services they have purchased, and their prior interaction history, regardless of channel.
  3. Operate as a single brand and channel, orchestrating customer experiences across all touchpoints.
  4. Show customers they are valued through personalized offers, treatments and rewards.

Done right, service excellence will provide a much-needed competitive edge for your organization. As American Express found out in their latest Global Customer Service barometer,  three out of four consumers say they have spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service experiences.

What more could a firm ask for?

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Kai Petzelt is Senior Director Product Marketing at SAP. Follow Kai on Twitter @kaipetzelt.

Do you think the best customer service comes from a personal connection? You may enjoy SAP’s Connections video >

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