It’s Time to Get Serious about Omni-Channel Part 3: Interaction-Aware Omni-Channel

Your customer orders a shirt from your mobile app. She receives the wrong size. Now what? How does your omnichannel system respond?

To answer that, I’m going to coin a couple of terms here—“results-aware omnichannel” and “interaction-aware omnichannel.” Spotlighting the difference between the two brings out the true potential of an omnichannel, and the unique ability of Metaphor Engage to deliver on that promise.

In a results-aware omnichannel—the traditional architecture—the system itself is only aware of, well, the results of any interaction. It’s all after the fact. I’ll give you an example.

The customer sends you a message on your Facebook page asking for return information. The agent monitoring your social channels pastes a message script directing her to a web page with a return form and instructions. The customer says thanks and completes the form.

First call resolution, driving the customer to self service, responding to information across channels. A great moment in customer service, yes?

Maybe not. While all this interaction is going on, what role did the results-aware omnichannel engine play? None. It doesn’t participate in the customer interaction. In fact, a results-aware omnichannel has no idea that any of this interaction is happening. And it won’t know about it until it’s all over with. It won’t know about the mistaken delivery until the return request is submitted. It won’t know about the Facebook message until it runs its analytics engine—and then probably only in the context of broad statistics, it may never know who the customer is. And once that interaction is complete—the return request submitted—that interaction disappears into the analytic ether.

A lot is lost because of this. You may have used an alternative, primarily self service, channel (which saves you on customer service costs), but you’ve done very little else to improve the customer experience.

An interaction-aware omnichannel—Metaphor Engage—knows that the interaction is going on the moment it begins. And it kicks immediately into action. It’s not waiting for the outcome; it’s involved from the start. Metaphor Engage continually monitors all interactions across all channels, and is executing strategies that drive faster, more efficient customer service, opens new selling and service opportunities, and creates a fully personalized and personal experience for the customer.

That’s a mouthful I know, so let’s go back to the example. Same straightforward situation—returning an item. Only this time, from the first Facebook message, the omnichannel is in play, executing a set of strategies, and making a range of decisions about how to handle the return.

What kind of decisions?

  1. Maybe you want to take a proactive step for customers of value by refunding the initial delivery charge.
    1. To a high-value or VIP customer.
    2. You might want to limit that policy to a certain number of returns per year depending on the specific customer.
    3. That policy may also be based on the amount of the delivery charge.
    4. You might refund if you’ve sent the wrong item more than once within six months.
  2. You might want to take an equally proactive approach for customers who have a red-flag profile when it comes to returns
    1. If there is a history of repeated returns, you may want to send a notice about it offering help in ordering.
    2. If you find that most of those returns were purchased through a specific channel, you may want to ask if they’re having trouble interacting on that channel.
    3. Customers who return too many small items make reverse logistics costs soar. You might want to send a text notice that says handling charges may apply in the future.
    4. The pattern of returns might even suggest some kind of fraud, which can trigger a set of other backend strategies.

All of this is in action the second the customer sends that first Facebook message. But there are other decisions to be made; the interaction continues long after the return form is submitted.

  1. You might set a strategy to watch for the same mistake (ordering the wrong size) and sending a notification if it happens again.
  2. You might set a strategy in play that monitors whether there is a change up or down in the customer’s average purchases after the delivery error.
  3. And you’ll definitely interact according to the customer’s rules and on the customer’s preferred channels: those strategies are always active.

None of this can happen in a results-aware system, because the system isn’t aware of the interaction. It simply sits waiting for someone to tell it what happened. If there’s to be a charge reversal, a notice of potential future charges, or whatever it might be, that’s going to require people and time to determine.

Metaphor Engage does all of this automatically—no people involved—because it knows the interaction is going on, and it has rules in place to make the right decisions for the specific customer and circumstances. And it does it instantly—no time lags waiting for responses. So just to tie up the example, before she finishes filling out the RMA form on your web site, she receives a text message (her stated preference for notifications) saying that you’ve refunded the delivery charge to thank her for being a valuable customer. No agent has been involved. Virtually no time has elapsed. The customer has a simple, satisfying and highly personalized experience.

And that’s a truly great moment in customer service