If you’ve ever had a mind-boggling experience when you used different ways to interact with a company, you’re not alone. Less than 10% of brands have seamless customer experiences, according to recent studies by Accenture and Economist Intelligence Unit. 97% of customers use more than one channel when dealing with a brand, yet 76% of them say it’s a poor, disjointed, silo-ized experience (NICE/BCG study).1. As much as omni-channel and branded customer experience are hot topics, there is still a big chasm between what’s needed and what’s set up.
Channel silos include service, sales, marketing, and operational channels. Whatever way the customer is interacting with the brand, the bottom line is consistency.
Consistency is the name of the game because customers’ interaction with you is just one of a thousand things they are doing in any given day. Inconsistency can be:
Mind-boggling because it causes customers to waste time, effort, money, morale, reputation, or opportunity.
- Bad for your brand — it muddies what your brand means. It spells a lack of brand integrity as the customer inevitably wonders: “Am I dealing with one brand or a mish-mash of opportunists?”
- Bad for your revenue growth — it’s an annoyance for a percentage of customers that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back — leading them to transaction abandonment or account churn and negative word-of-mouth.
- Bad for your profitability — it piles otherwise unnecessary burdens on your service organization, derails productivity in the path of escalations (and takes a toll on employee tenure, etc. etc.), and diverts precious resources to remedial efforts.
How much is that costing? Do a quick estimate of all that bad stuff, and you’ll find some compelling figures for driving consistency.
Getting rid of what’s bad for your brand, revenue growth, and profitability is vital. It’s key to getting off the merry-go-round of throwing good money after bad. Companies striving for omni-channel customer experience saw 91% increase in customer retention rates (6.5% versus 3.4%) compared to companies without a coherent omni-channel strategy. Their customer profitability and lifetime value were also higher, as reported in an Aberdeen study.2 Do the math for the upside: how much money is represented by a 91% increase in your customer retention rate? Add to that: a boost in customer profitability and lifetime value and a reversal of your quick estimate of all that bad stuff (above).
De-Silo-ing Your Omni-channel Approach
Note that the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel is that multi means various and omni means consistent. Branded customer experience also means consistent. Still, it’s typical that any discussion of omni-channel is still silo-ized: omnichannel for customer service is rarely discussed hand-in-hand with omni-channel for sales, and even more rarely alongside omni-channel for marketing or operations.
Customer experience journey mapping and customer lifecycle management are steps in the right direction — they are tools to shift your perspective to customers’ end-to-end experience with your company. Yet all too often these tools reflect internal steps or a so-called standalone snapshot of the journey or lifecycle.
(1) Reality: Matching up the customers’ steps with internal steps is important, but the emphasis in your quest for insights must be on the customers’ viewpoint — and most importantly, on consequences to customers, really wrapping your head around what’s mind-boggling to them. 69% of brands think they’re providing superior customer experience, while only 31% of customers feel the same, according to a 2015 study by IBM and eConsultancy.1 Until you see customers’ reality, you’re still stuck in the silo of your own viewpoint!
(2) Big picture: Getting into the nitty-gritty of a certain step in the journey or lifecycle is important, but the initial approach you should take is the end-to-end journey or lifecycle. By getting a birds-eye perspective from A through Z, you’re more likely to prioritize wisely, see synergies, and avoid unintentional cannibalism, mis-steps or ironically, further silo-ization. Until you see the big picture, you’re still stuck in the silo of a cog inside a bigger machine.
(3) Omni-omni-channel: It’s possible for a customer to simultaneously engage with your company in a marketing interaction, sales interaction, operational interaction, and service interaction — or at least in rapid succession. So disparate look-and-feel across these 4 types of channels is problematic. Consistency across all of your service channels is great, and you should see lots of rewards for that, but it’s still undermined if you have inconsistency across your marketing channels. In fact, inconsistency in one type of channel may be costing you a lot more in another type of channel, regardless of whether the latter type is only multi or truly omni. Until you see how all the channel types interact, you’re stuck in a functional silo.
(4) Synergies: When you step back and think about it, connecting the dots between these 4 types of channels is an absolute must for customer experience excellence.
- Operations channels are the ways that customers access your offerings — Internet, mobile, brick-and-mortar, vending machines, mail/parcel delivery, phone, onsite visit, and so on.
- Marketing channels are the ways that customers access information about your offerings — Internet, email, mobile, signage, advertising, sponsorship, and so on.
- Sales channels are the ways that customers interact with your company to make buying decisions and place orders — direct sales force, dealers, franchises, Internet, mobile, chat, brick-and-mortar, phone, onsite visit, vending machines, and so on.
- Service channels are the ways that customers access help to get intended value from your offerings — Internet, mobile, phone, chat, brick-and-mortar, onsite visit, dealers, alliances, and so on.
Cross-organizational collaboration is non-negotiable! Ideally, you’ll compare notes with the other 3 types of channels whenever you’re setting out to add a new channel or make a change in one of your channels. You should make a habit of it going forward. And necessarily, you’ll need to join forces with the other 3 types of channels to iron-out hiccups and chasms. In all cases, consistency is the name of the game.
Consistency is essential for look-and-feel across channels, information accessibility (for the customer and for the provider), picking up wherever the customer left off without repetitive steps, and ease of doing business with your company.
If you’re serious about customer experience excellence — as a brand differentiator, as a growth accelerator, as the right way to run your company — you need dedicated boggle-busting efforts. Channel silos are serious hairballs. There is so much overlap across the channel types, across customer types, and across numerous players internally and externally, that you’ve got to size it up accurately and resource it adequately.
Fix the inconsistencies, find the synergies, integrate your data and policies and procedures, maintain the same look-and-feel, keep all the players on the same page, and proactively design harmonious channel experiences. Sanity-test your achievement of omni-omni-channel customer experience by monitoring the end-to-end customer perspective of ease of doing business with you.
It will take a village, but this is what business management is all about: establishing a well-oiled machine that creates value for all involved.
If you’re dealing with a mom-and-pop small business, run by just one person or a close-knit few, consistency is baked-in. Everything changes when additional players and moving parts are added. Channels are intended to save time and effort and increase volume and ease of doing business. They’re about economies of scale for the seller and convenience for the buyer. Yet the report announcement of a 2015 study by IBM and eConsultancy exclaims: “4 Out of 5 Consumers Declare Brands Don’t Know Them as an Individual”.3 This shows how sloppy we’ve become since our businesses were mom-and-pop size.
Consistency takes concerted effort. You’ll want to fully empower dedicated boggle-busters as a significant element of your customer experience strategy to stop mind-boggling channel experiences for customers.
1Gerry McGovern, Customer Experience is Getting Worse, CMSwire.com.
2Aberdeen Group, Omni-Channel Retailing 2013: The Quest for the Holy Grail
3IBM, 4 Out Of 5 Consumers Declare Brands Don’t Know Them As An Individual, According to IBM and Econsultancy Study
This article has been modified slightly from the 3rd article in a 12-part series on CustomerThink.com called Spanning Silos for Customer Experience Excellence:
- 10 Silos Impact Customer Experience
- Silo Detectives for Organizational Collaboration
- Customer Experience Boggle Busters for Channel Silos
- Solving System Silos for Customer Experience Excellence: 4-Part Solution
- Customer Experience Data Silos Demystified
- Customer Experience Management Prevents Process Silos
- Customer Experience Vision Dictates Value
- Assailing Customer Experience Assumption Silos
- 7 Customer Experience Goal Silos Are Gotchas
- 8 Customer Experience Metric Silos Mask Momentum
- Customer Experience Handoff Silos are the Heart of Success: 6 Keys
Image licensed to ClearAction Continuum by Shutterstock.