It’s Time to Get Serious about Omni-Channel Part 1

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be digging deeply into why omni-channel is important to any business that transacts or interacts with customers across channels and devices. And we’re going to spend time breaking down some of the reasons why our pioneering Metaphor Engage omnichannel platform is so valuable.

But for just a moment, we’re going to talk about Everett Rogers’ theory of the diffusion of innovation.

AKA Crossing the Chasm.

Omnichannel Adoption Today

In the technology adoption lifecycle spelled out in the Chasm books, only a few companies “go first” with implementing game changing, paradigm shifting, model breaking systems: they’re the Early Adopters. Early adoption is characterized by, among many things, slow implementation times, high cost of entry, and single-vendor solutions. As such, paving the way is typically done by major players with major budgets. The chasm model can be applied to the omnichannel easily. Implementations have been slow: rolled out channel by channel over extended intervals. The cost of implementation has been high and very much a rip and replace model: tossing all old systems and hardware and implementing only systems provided by the omnichannel vendor. And it’s been deployed across markets by only the biggest players across industries: the major banks, retailers, pharmacy chains and the like.

Early Adopters proved the model works. Today, every business that interacts and transacts with their customers online is beginning to plan for omnichannel adoption—or making the move already. Now the technology is moving into mainstream adoption (what the model calls the Early Majority phase), and the options and opportunities expand. What are the characteristics of products in this phase? First of all, they’re more complete out of the chute and more standardized in how they’re implemented: roll outs are significantly faster, and whole product is easier to achieve. They’re more inclusive—their focus shifts from working with just their own equipment to working with any or every system the customer has. And the cost drops dramatically, partly because of the hardware-agnostic software-driven architecture, and partly because increased competition pressures prices down. In other words: becomes affordable, versatile and practical enough for every business.

Today the omnichannel is a mainstream technology in flight across the chasm.

Keeping Up With the Customers

Why is it important to you?

Today’s consumers— across virtually all demographics—live an omnichannel lifestyle. All of their devices—smartphone, tablet, computer and so on—are integrated. And the apps they run on all those devices are also integrated. In other words, you’re not trying to convince your customers to go omnichannel (because, for instance, it saves you money). You’re trying to keep up with them, since they’re already there. They expect you to be there too.

Those early adopters that are delivering the omnichannel experience are helping consumers define their expectations. Here’s our view of the emerging omnichannel customer manifesto.

  1. I’m the only customer.

Your customer wants to be treated as if she’s the only customer—and the only person your business has to worry about. Whether she calls into the IVR, sends a message through Twitter or walks into your store, she wants your agents to know everything about her relationship with you: her history, her active orders, her preferences, her habits as they apply to doing business with you.

  1. I only want to see things that matter to me.

Knowing your customer means knowing what’s relevant to him. If he doesn’t have a credit card account, don’t offer a “make payment” option on your app or web or IVR. (Of course, if he fits the right profile, it’s a great idea to present an offer to open a card account.)  If, on the other hand, the customer has a product in the delivery cycle, present the status of that delivery the moment he connects with you.

  1. I don’t want to have to ask for the information I need.

Don’t wait for the customer to initiate the interaction. Within the omnichannel you know both how the customer has recently interacted with you and you know how the customer habitually interacts with you. Use both to present her with the best experience. If she recently returned an online purchase, don’t make her log in to check on status: push information out to her. Likewise, if she routinely checks her balance after an automatic deposit, send a notification out that the deposit was received.

  1. I want everything delivered on my preferred channels – and that depends on where I am, what time it is, and what device is active.

And all of that has to happen on the channel the customer wants it to happen on. If they want account alerts delivered by Twitter or text or phone, that’s how they should receive it.

The Sum of the Parts

So, we’re at a powerful intersection: a perfect moment to get serious about omnichannel. On the one hand, we’re at the stage of product maturity and adoption where the cost and trauma of implementation are plunging, and the interoperability and openness of the solutions expanding. And we’re at the moment where the market expectation is moving in leaps and bounds to where they’re going to be demanding an omnichannel experience from all businesses they interact with.

And remember: your customers are ready to jump ship in a second if they don’t get the experience they want.