Any business needs to be available where its customers are. Unfortunately, most small to medium-sized companies don't have the manpower to promptly engage with them in many places at the same time. One of the best strategies to overcome this limitation is to use a single solution for common interactions that enables scalability across channels. This will save you the overhead involved in running separate applications for each channel or the headache of handling all of the communication by the business representatives. It's a simple, powerful, and effective way that's going to help you grow your business faster.
Many people are still not familiar with the term "omnichannel", although it has been around for quite some time. The Latin word "omni" means all, as well as universal, and the term "channel" is derived from the notion of communication. In other words, omnichannel implies interacting with your consumers in every way possible. This approach to communication puts the customer at the centre and focuses on removing the boundaries between channels and creating a unified, engaging, and useful experience.
Omnichannel vs. Multichannel
There's often some confusion between omnichannel and multichannel, and it's important to understand the difference. An omnichannel approach focuses on leveraging multiple channels to interact with clients. It puts the customer first, regardless of the channel they use. It's about having an integrated perspective of the client and using it to offer a consistent experience to them in all channels so that they can conduct business with you in whatever way suits them best at any given time.
Multichannel, on the other hand, is about using a mix of channels to reach the customer through different touchpoints. It is more about using multiple channels to make sure that people can find you on whichever channel they prefer, be it an establishment, website, call centre, or messaging application. This is not necessarily about providing a consistent experience across all channels but rather making sure that your business is covered by a range of channels so that the customer can find you wherever they are.
Why is Omnichannel Communication Important?
In the early days of the Internet, companies had just one portal: the website. If a customer needed to book an appointment, they called or maybe scheduled it through a web calendar. Now customers browse businesses from their mobile devices, receive reminders on their smart speakers, interact over messaging apps to contact professionals that can help them solve their problems, and leave reviews or address issues through social media.
Multiple touchpoints bring the customer experience to life. They are useful for both first-time visitors letting them know about your business and returning customers who have the opportunity to further engage with your company. This enables you to build long-term relationships, and supply your business with valuable data for future decision-making. Artificial intelligence ensures that data from these interactions never gets forgotten and keeps bringing benefits long after collection.
What's an Omnichannel Communication Strategy?
An omnichannel communication strategy is a strategic plan that includes roles, responsibilities, and schedules that enables you to start where you are, and systematically improve to gain a competitive advantage and future-proof your business. It implies an integration between creation, promotion, distribution, and communication channels to let your customers interact with your business however and whenever they want.
How to Create an Omnichannel Communication Strategy?
Although creating an omnichannel communication strategy might sound like a daunting task, it might be simpler than you think and it's definitely worth the effort since the demand for omnichannel conversation will only increase in the future. A good strategy should give you answers to the following questions:
- Who is your customer?
- How does your customer journey look like?
- How to positively influence customers' actions at every step of the journey?
- Where do these interactions take place?
- How to manage knowledge as a shareable business asset?
- How to connect with relevant visitors in real-time?
- How to measure the results and continuously improve?
It's good to start creating an omnichannel communication strategy by gaining an understanding of who your customers are, what they're trying to achieve, and why. It will help you to set a strong foundation for customer-centric messaging that will improve your marketing, sales, and customer service efforts.
A customer profile helps to gain a better understanding of the person behind the purchase. It's a set of characteristics that describes consumers in a structured and detailed way and breaks them down into their jobs, pains, and gains to help you stay focused on the individuals you're selling to. Not all jobs, pains, and gains are equal, and some are more important than others, so it's vital to sort them in order of importance.
Jobs are the tasks your consumers are attempting to accomplish in their work or life. They are either the problems your clients are trying to solve or the needs they want to satisfy. When researching jobs, it's important to take the viewpoint of a customer. What you as an expert consider most important might not be what your client is trying to get done. It's also good to consider the context of interactions.
Pains are annoyances that your clients face before, during, and after attempting to get the work done or obstacles that simply prevent them from doing so. They should include risks of potential undesirable outcomes of not getting the job done or getting it done poorly. Try to picture all of the things that could go wrong to be able to relieve that pain when the right moment comes.
These are the desired outcomes that your clients are looking for. Customers demand a variety of benefits, some of which are expected, while others might positively surprise them and increase the competitive advantage of your business. Potential gains come usually in the form of superior functional utility or quality, positive feelings associated with the purchase, or cost and time savings.
Your company has to engage a wide range of people, from first-time visitors to brand advocates, and everyone in between. To get a better understanding of the various needs and how they evolve, it's essential to start with the understanding of the customer journey and its stages to identify the areas where your customer expectations meet your business goals. In its simplest form customer journey consists of three stages:
People start their journey with a need in mind and search for information about the potential solutions and commercial services available on the market. They have questions and they look for answers that will help them make an informed purchase decision on which product or service is going to be the right fit for their needs, and whom to choose as the best option to deliver what they're after.
When people have a rough idea of their need and when they get into this stage where they talk about the fine details of the chosen solution. When they're happy to proceed they would like to schedule an appointment or delivery date and pay for the products or services ideally having a money-back guarantee if they're not satisfied with the outcomes.
In this stage, your customers want to have access to all details about the company and the product or service they ordered. If they've chosen to come to your establishment they expect you'll be able to help them get there on time. They also want to have an option to cancel or reschedule the appointment or delivery to better suit their needs.
A sales funnel is a road map that connects customer tasks, pains, and gains at every step of the journey with business objectives by delivering personalised value propositions. It's a process that aims to progress the interaction with your customer from the first time encounter to actions after a purchase. Three major areas should be considered when creating a successful omnichannel sales funnel:
Imagine having a storefront, you've worked hard to make it attractive to invite more people to come inside and explore your offerings. When a person passing by finds it interesting they push the door handle and come in. Things get more interesting when you try to replicate the same experience across digital channels because you have to be able to generate demand consistently.
When interested customer enters your establishment they ask a lot of questions about the details of your products and services. They're looking for expert advice that is going to transform their needs into personalised propositions in a pleasant atmosphere. The process of adapting this experience to the world of omnichannel conversations is called inbound sales.
Omnichannel Customer Service
Once you have a paying customer the focus of interactions shifts from acquisition to retention. The key to customer satisfaction lies in how you communicate with customers across different channels. Customer service is one of the most important aspects of the long-term success of your business because it increases the chances of repeated purchases and referrals.
Identifying the right channels through which customers engage with your business in certain scenarios is key to distributing the right information at the right time. You should think about the context in which your audience will access the information. Careful consideration of how, where, and when they'll consume the content is just as important as the messaging itself.
Your omnichannel strategy should take into account not only the initial set of channels but also the future ones. It's crucial to understand how each channel contributes to the overall plan and how they complement one another. An excellent communication strategy should not only free you from the constraint of any single channel but also enable seamless expansion to new ones in the future.
Channels you decide to use initially should be reevaluated periodically to ensure their effectiveness in achieving certain business objectives. Adopting an omnichannel strategy can come from many directions, but usually, it's best to start from the basic channels first. The following list suggests the best order in which to integrate them into your messaging plan:
Your website is the foundation of your online presence. Ensuring it works well on mobile devices and has integrated real-time messaging and a website chatbot that greets your customers and helps them navigate your services is essential for a seamless customer experience.
Social Media Platforms
Consumers can now interact with you via social media channels like Facebook or Instagram - which is great news if your business doesn't yet have a website, or your niche implies the use of these platforms instead of more traditional websites.
Messaging apps are the next big thing in marketing. They have already been embraced by many businesses. Many firms have already developed chatbots that can communicate with their customers on Messenger, WhatsApp, and other chat platforms.
Virtual assistants are becoming an essential part of our lives. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant help us complete everyday tasks, using both touch and voice interfaces, which brings an opportunity to interact with your business hands-free.
The primary purpose of contact centres is engaging in an interactive dialog with customers, clients, or patients by way of interactive voice response units and telephone, all of which make them another ideal omnichannel touchpoint.
SMS is one of the most widely used data services in existence, with 74% penetration worldwide. It was created to send simple text messages between early cell phones and pagers (but now also includes multimedia messaging).
Knowledge management is a process of improving communication between people by managing knowledge as a shareable business asset and exposing it to customers who seek that information at the right time, for the right reason, over the right channel and modality in a systematic way.
Customers have questions at every step of the journey, and you have the answers, but your consumers want better methods of interaction that enable them access to the information they need even outside your business hours. A knowledge base chatbot can respond to natural language questions using text or voice with quick, relevant, and useful responses.
It's vital to simplify the processes necessary to maintain common enquiries on every channel to improve not only the customer experience but also employee productivity and overall job satisfaction. It's important to identify people who will take responsibility and manage the customer-facing knowledge in your business. This means establishing roles, responsibilities, guidelines, and schedules.
Your content is now a conversation, and your need to take all of the steps to improve the quality of communication your business has with prospects and customers. The process of listening to incoming messages in real-time can be extremely overwhelming, and you can easily spend an entire day responding, but there might be little benefit from doing so.
Chatbots are the latest trend in the omnichannel space. An intelligent chatbot can operate on any channel required by a business because AI provides cross-platform capabilities. It can help you engage in a subset of conversations in situations where you can bring value both to your customer and your business and automate everything else.
An omnichannel chatbot can be your digital assistant, helping your customers with common enquires, without engaging a human representative enabling you to save time and money. These AI-powered bots can communicate with customers through both voice and chat using natural language, to answer questions and provide information about products or services.
Chatbots are a powerful tool that improves communication with clients. They, however, aren't as clever as real human beings. As a result, when the need arises, a chatbot must be able to seamlessly transfer a conversation to a live chat agent and ensure that all of the information collected throughout the conversation is passed on as well so that the customer doesn't have to repeat themselves.
It's best to minimise the number of tools agents must know and screens they have to interact with and provide a single interface that enables interaction with customers over voice and text channels. The conversation routing mechanism should also be unified to handle both forms of interaction. Integrating chatbots with live chat can improve customer experience and staff productivity.
Your measurement activities should be focused on answering fundamental questions such as "what's working?" "what isn't?" and "what should I do to make it work next time?" This implies that you'll need a method for measuring and reporting the results of your operations in a way that is simple to comprehend and provides useful insights.
Expecting groundbreaking results overnight will, unfortunately, lead to disappointment. While there are some low-hanging fruits you will need to start using conversation metrics to roll up your sleeves and get ready to go through the process, again and again, to accumulate improvements over time. You should also clearly establish what's going to be measured, and be able to conclude your customer needs and continuously improve.
It’s no secret that omnichannel is changing the way consumers interact with businesses. Customers are now more likely to use several different devices and forms of interaction during the day. To help them fulfill their needs quickly and efficiently your business needs to not only be there for them but also keep track of their interactions across devices to be able to deliver useful and relevant responses.
By 2020 it’s estimated that 80% of all transactions will involve at least two sales channels, whether your consumer needs help to choose the right service or product, or has an after-sales query. Your business needs to create an omnichannel strategy to improve the digital conversations you have with your prospects and customers across various channels.
Having a good omnichannel communication strategy results in multiple ways for customers to interact with your business - whether it be through a website, social media, or different communication channels like messaging apps or virtual assistants. Providing a great experience across all these channels ensures people have many options when looking into buying from you.