In this article

Omnichannel isn't a new concept. Many organizations have been trying to enable omnichannel experiences for years. So, why are so few able to deliver it?

The reality is that organizations are still confusing multi-channel with omnichannel. Just because your organization offers multiple channels for customers, patients, employees and other stakeholders to interact with doesn't mean it is improving the customer experience; it's simply improving access and engagement. 

A regional retailer, for example, might connect online ordering information with its contact center to issue returns and exchanges over the phone — and that's great. The customer is happy with how quickly the problem is resolved, and the contact center agent is satisfied with how easy it is to facilitate the process.

But what about orders placed through the company's app? 

Or when a customer wants to exchange an item through social media messaging rather than calling? 

What happens when a customer has questions about the care instructions of a recent purchase? Do agents have easy access to the relevant manufacturer information? 

This sort of basic "omnichannel" experience can quickly begin to crumble. Customers become unsatisfied. Agents overwhelmed. And the potential of repeat business suddenly vanishes. 

With so much at stake, customer experience (CX) leaders are getting serious about creating high-quality omnichannel experiences. Experiences that are centered around customers as well as the agents and employees who power them.

What is true omnichannel experience?

Today's omnichannel experience eliminates silos between individual touchpoints and channels to deliver the information needed as quickly as possible. It enables contact center agents and employees to work seamlessly across all channels — website, social media, voice calling, email, SMS text messaging, applications, in-person interactions, store kiosks, etc. — so they can meet their stakeholders where they are in their purchasing journey to provide a fluid experience.

Delivering a high-quality omnichannel experience helps organizations to: 

  • Improve agent and employee engagement with simplified processes. By eliminating friction in the employee experience and providing a unified view of customer interactions, organizations can reduce workforce turnover and training costs while increasing agent productivity and effectiveness.
  • Reduce churn. Providing superb and speedy service creates satisfied end users, which in turn, helps organizations build brand loyalty and save costs related to acquisition.
  • Increase average spend per customer. Research shows that 86 percent of buyers will pay more (as much as 18 percent) for a better experience and that 49 percent are likely to impulse purchase after receiving a personalized experience.
  • Generate organic referrals. Satisfied customers are more likely to share their experience with others and leave online reviews. This is extremely valuable considering 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from people they know.
  • Build credibility and a pipeline for future success. As customers start to know and love the seamless experience that comes with a quality omnichannel approach, the more willing they are to try an organization's new products and services.

How do you create a great omnichannel experience? 

Through our work with some of the most successful organizations in the world, we've identified four consistent principles across their omnichannel strategies. CX leaders at these organizations: 

  1. Understand the customer journey
  2. Focus on customer delight
  3. Empower contact center agents and employees
  4. Blend physical and digital environments

Let's take a closer look at these four principles, real-world examples and how to get started. 

1. Understand the customer journey 

A recent Harvard Business Review study found that 73 percent of people use multiple channels during their shopping journey. More importantly, 90 percent expect their experience across those channels to be seamless, intuitive and connected. To accomplish that, we recommend developing customer profiles and journey maps. This requires organizations to identify their stakeholder's preferred communication methods as well as points of friction throughout the entire relationship lifecycle.

From there, CX leaders can determine which points of friction can be resolved with omnichannel technologies and which will require process improvements. A financial institution's journey map, for example, might reveal that customers are forced to call the contact center to get answers to basic account questions. To improve this frustrating experience, the institution could enable chatbots on its website and application to handle frequently asked questions and simple requests, like transferring money and reporting stolen cards, much faster. 

Once equipped with this information, the next step is to prioritize tasks into a detailed roadmap. Prioritization methodologies will vary across organizations based on business goals, budget and resources. The important thing is that CX leaders use their organization's long-term vision and journey mappings to guide their omnichannel strategy

2. Focus on customer delight

Today's consumers want compelling, omnichannel experiences that don't just meet their expectations, but exceed them. That's why organizations with a user-centric omnichannel strategy see 91 percent greater year-over-year retention rates compared to those without. When improving the omnichannel experience, CX leaders should prioritize technologies and capabilities that save time, add convenience, provide personalized service and deliver delight. 

Our work with Schnucks Market, one of the largest Midwestern grocery chains, is a great example of focusing on customer delight. We helped design and build a mobile app that delivers a seamless omnichannel experience with a rewards program that keeps Schnucks shoppers coming back for more. We took the time to understand Schnucks customers' buying patterns and behaviors to develop personalized experiences that have resulted in new customer acquisition, larger basket sizes, more frequent store visits and increased customer loyalty.

3. Empower contact center agents and employees

Behind every great omnichannel customer experience are the agents and employees who power them. Their experience with back-end technologies and processes is just as important as the front-end customer experience — if not more. 

When contact center agents and customer-facing employees (e.g., store associates, pharmacists, bank tellers and airline ticket counter agents) do not have access to the right technologies and are forced to navigate clunky, disjointed processes, it negatively impacts the quality of service. Think about your own experiences with calling contact centers. Have you ever been placed on hold while an agent located your information? Were you asked to repeat your issue for the second, third or even fourth time? We've all been there. It's not a good customer experience, and it's certainly frustrating for agents. 

With the shift to remote and hybrid work, CX leaders must empower agents and employees to be productive from anywhere. This means implementing open technologies and architectures that can share data and easily integrate with other systems. It also means leveraging advanced capabilities like AI/ML, chatbots and robotic process automation (RPA) to help agents save time, reduce burnout and provide better customer service.

4. Blend physical and digital environments

A common omnichannel mistake is focusing primarily on the digital experience and neglecting the on-site experience in spaces like retail stores, restaurants, banks, hospitals and airports. CX leaders must keep in mind that 82 percent of smartphone users consult their phones on in-store purchases they're about to make. 

By connecting the physical and digital experience, organizations can shift from a siloed multi-channel approach to a more fluid experience. This could mean installing on-premise kiosks, implementing in-app augmented reality (AR) features to view products and solutions in spaces before purchasing, deploying location-based notifications or streamlining communication processes between the contact center and local stores and branches. 

Our work with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is a real-world example of removing the barriers between physical and digital environments. We helped St. Jude's develop a custom-built digital application that seamlessly blends the many detailed clinical and hospitality features that make up each patient's care journey. This included digitizing the hospital's old analog processes across onboarding, registration, communication, scheduling, content delivery and notification, and improving the on-campus experience by adding step-by-step wayfinding directions to any point in the hospital.

How can we help you? 

Whether your current omnichannel approach is falling behind or you're starting from scratch, WWT can help your organization put into practice these four principles to deliver more seamless, connected experiences for your customers and employees. 

With more than 500 world-class developers and experts spanning digital strategy, contact center, employee experience and more, we can deliver both omnichannel strategy and the proven ability to execute at scale. We can help you:

  • Keep customers coming back for more by delivering an end-to-end experience that exceeds their expectations and provides personalized service at every step of the journey.
  • Empower your workforce by giving them seamless access to the tools and data they need to solve issues faster and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Stay ahead of your competitors with future-proofed architectures that allow you to pivot to meet customers' needs and quickly add new capabilities.
  • Solve your toughest challenges by leveraging experts with the experience, discipline and track record of implementing complex custom applications that provide real value.