Avoid an Omni-Channel Panic Attack

I’ve been looking at more recent surveys that explore the same issues of omnichannel value and adoption that we explored in our 2013 study, Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center. There’s one piece of very bad news . . . that is also very good news.

I’ve talked before about how omni-channel is not a trend today, but a business imperative, and that it will be a condition of entry in a very short period of time. That in order to be competitive within a couple of years all companies will have to be omnichannel companies.

The bad news is that, today, the majority of companies still report that they’re not even close. Omnichannel is taking on the look of one of those technology panics that seems to catch people off guard, and that engenders a sudden flurry of what can be called “panic adoption” across industries. The Internet, the Web, Social, Big Data: all are examples of the panic.

Some of you may not remember the Early Web when it hit its panic point. At first, business didn’t think there was much they could do with it: it was a plaything. Then, every company realized that, not only did they have to be on the web, but they were starting to get their lunch eaten by companies like Marshall Industries that were not only already there, but were already innovating (Rob Rodin’s Free, Perfect and Now still has a lot to teach us).

What happened could have been expected. When there’s panic adoption, companies spring up out of nowhere to exploit it. During the web panic, at least so it seemed, web designers came out of the woodwork, many of them inexperienced and without any solid knowledge of what it takes to create a functional site. Since they were taking companies through unknown territory, their customers didn’t really know good from bad until it was too late: the site was up, it didn’t work, servers kept crashing, the technologies they used were soon obsolete, and so on. Worst of all, because the panic was on, those fly-by-night web outfits charged a ton of money for their poor quality work. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they would charge $20,000 (and that’s 1990s dollars) for a site you’d pay $1,000 for today. And then in a year or two those web experts were history, the web sites they made had to be rebuilt, and the client companies were left standing far behind the adoption curve.

So that’s the bad news.

Now for the good.

The panic—according to all the surveys—isn’t here yet, because the majority of companies aren’t omni-channel yet. Not that they don’t know they should be omni-channel; at least they say they know. They just haven’t done it. The catch-up period, the panic time, the era of exploitation and lousy results hasn’t yet reached us.

And that’s good for you. It means you can begin to embark on the omnichannel process without panic, without hurrying, and before the omnichannel vultures emerge to start selling you a bill of goods that you’ll have to replace sooner than you expect.

You’ve got a short reprieve. Time to plan. Time to think. Time to explore all the options, and all the approaches to developing an omnichannel, from the ocean-boiling rip-and-replace solutions, to integration of your existing channels with an omni-channel engine (like Metaphor Engage).

Time to do it right before it’s too late, and you have to do it too fast.