With 28,000 team members across North and Central America, Europe and Asia, TELUS International is a global business process outsourcing (BPO) provider that delivers contact center, information technology and advisory solutions across fast-growing technology, financial services and FinTech, travel and hospitality and healthcare industries.
Michael Ringman is TELUS International’s Chief Information Officer, where he is responsible for supporting omnichannel solutions that enable the rapid growth and evolution of the company’s clients’ brands. Here, Mike discusses the rise of omnichannel to deliver a personalised and connected customer experience that is critical for brands in our increasingly digitized world.
Omnichannel is still considered a relatively new strategy when discussing customer service delivery. What is omnichannel and why is it becoming the new norm for brands wanting to deliver exceptional customer experiences?
Nowadays, consumers are using an average of five connected devices to access voice, email, chat, social media and self-service when conducting product research and completing purchases. In response to this changing dynamic between consumer and brand, companies must keep pace by offering multiple touchpoints in order to provide seamless connections and instant gratification as customers switch between an e-commerce site, to a smartphone, to a physical store.
An omnichannel strategy involves these cohesive channels, working together to create a unified brand experience, ensuring the customer gets the same service, support, and information, regardless of how they interact with the brand. Unfortunately, in many companies, these channels still often exist in silos, or at best, a multichannel environment where multiple support channel are offered but not necessarily integrated with one another
With customer service outpacing the product as a deciding factor in many instances, brands must evolve to an omnichannel strategy to keep their customers. In fact, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group, companies with an omnichannel strategy retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.
Are there particular industries that should be incorporating omnichannel strategies?
Beyond retail, where omnichannel had its start, today’s booming online sales and customer growth across all industries, including banking, healthcare and travel, have made keeping up with consumer behaviour a universal objective. Consumer goods and customer-facing brands, both big and small, need to meet service and efficiency challenges across multiple channels. The new kids on the block – the industry disruptors like Airbnb and Uber – have been focused on delivering a connected, convenient and personalized omnichannel experience right from the start of their business. It’s part of their mentality and company DNA in order to differentiate themselves from established brands. The pressure is now on traditional businesses to make the shift to omnichannel.
How can a company assess their readiness to transition to omnichannel?
When contemplating a shift to omnichannel, it’s important to recognize that it’s not simply about technology. A successful omnichannel strategy will be a blend of people, processes and technology. In order to create and implement a clear strategy, it’s important to understand both the key challenges and requirements needed for effective enablement, which can be split across two categories – human capital and technology. It may sound odd coming from someone in the IT sector, but I would argue that people take precedence over technology. It’s not just the physical setup that needs to change, but how an organisation thinks about—and manages—its business.
You need the support of the entire organisation to foster a culture that is ready to embrace a customer’s first paradigm shift, including C-level executives who can remove any silos that may exist, as well as knowledgeable and inspired contact center agents who are able to engage with customers across different channels. To help companies assess their readiness to transition to omnichannel, Everest Group in partnership with TELUS International released an assessment checklist that covers all aspects of making the jump.
The move to omnichannel can be a daunting proposition for some. How can companies plan ahead to make the shift less intimidating while also increasing their likelihood of success?
The initial focus should be to understand where your company stands today in its omnichannel readiness – and where it wants to go. Once established, companies need to ensure they build the following critical success factors into their planning: ensure a customer-centric approach, secure the direct involvement and support of senior leadership, ready the organisation for change on both the people and technology fronts, and align corporate culture with omnichannel imperatives by fostering the right mindset and behaviours among the entire team. By bringing into line people, processes and technology requirements before making the transition, you can expect to drive an enhanced customer experience, see a top-line impact and experience a reduced cost of operations.
Once a company has made or has started to make the transition to omnichannel, how can they measure their success and ensure that they are on the right track to meeting their targets and goals?
When implementing and measuring the success of an omnichannel strategy, you must be aware of the need to adjust key performance indicators (KPIs). This should include adding in, or in some instances, swapping out ‘unfriendly’ customer service metrics for more meaningful and ‘human’ metrics.
Average Handle Time (AHT) is a great example of a metric that only offers a two-dimensional perspective of a three-dimensional world. For example, an agent’s handle time may be high; but what if the customer’s experience was improved because the agent took the extra time to assist him with an issue?
In the age of omnichannel, brands should focus on metrics like First Call Resolution (FCR), which will be a much better indicator of great customer service and will give agents ‘permission’ to take the necessary time to fully address a customer’s issues and own the customer experience from start to finish. Other KPIs, such as Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Likelihood to Recommend (L2R), are great for getting customers to self-report how they view their relationship with the brand, which provides another layer of data that will help brands better understand their customers and further personalise their experience in the future.
How can brands get the most out of their omnichannel data once implemented?
In order to capitalise on an omnichannel strategy post-implementation, the type of data you collect as well as how you store and analyse it should be a key consideration. It’s important to capture both big data (e.g.: tracking searches on your website) and small data (e.g.: one-on-one conversations between an agent and a customer) from each of your different channels, and to store it in a central data repository. This enables you to analyze it by channel to quickly identify channel-specific challenges, but also affords you the opportunity to view it as a whole in order to help highlight your customers’ likes, dislikes and habits. Leveraged in a thoughtful and timely fashion, this data will reduce reaction times to problems and help to proactively address them in some instances; identify trends in what your customers want and how, when and where they want it; and inform the evolution of your product(s) so that you continue to meet the wants and needs of consumers.
What do you see as the future of omnichannel?
In the near future, an omnichannel customer experience won’t be a ‘nice to have’; it will be a matter of survival for brands in competitive industries as customer service becomes increasingly prioritized by consumers. Customer service will no longer be about voice, chat, digital and email support in isolation. Instead a blend of channels, supporting integrated customer interactions will become an established consumer expectation. Complemented by the rise in artificial intelligence as well as more skilled and knowledgeable agents, omnichannel will foster an increasingly personalised and consistent customer experience to further differentiate brands to an ever wider set of customers.