Engaging Customers through an Omni-channel Strategy

“…it means listening to and capturing data and behaviour from a customer across all channels…” – Loren McDonald

Most businesses / companies probably understand that the success of the relationship with their customers goes beyond the business transactions. A research has shown that the top people of most companies believe that engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy would ensure that they keep providing repeated business and use the channels to advocate the company. Engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy is becoming more crucial than ever since competition has increased and unless companies remain flexible, retaining customers would be extremely hard. Customers prefer to get what they want with the least amount of effort and want access to as many choices as possible – an omni-channel strategy is therefore a great way to give customers those options.

When customers perceive that a company is making every effort to increase their options, they would be more inclined to provide more and repeated business. However, engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy is quite challenging for companies – there are several reasons. Companies tend to focus more on their brands and products, the culture of the company seems focused on the company’s offerings, and the employees too seem motivated by the company culture. This leads to everyone looking at the customer relationship purely from a ‘sales angle’ and engaging customers enough to keep them coming back does not seem important.

Engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy requires that every time a customer interacts with the company, they receive uniform top class service. Simply providing customers omni-channel access does not suffice. All channels must appear connected – providing the impression of a single seamless, customized, and personalized route through which they can buy and get all their needs fulfilled. Engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy is mutually beneficial and a highly interactive method of conducting business. Customers feel more in control given the large number of choices and for companies this translates to higher customer satisfaction levels, resulting in loyalty and brand advocacy. Despite the importance of ensuring that all channels of communication appear as one, many companies fail to do so, thereby failing to optimize on a strategy that could be a highly effective method of engaging customers.

Engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy would only happen when all the channels are effectively integrated. The perception of a ‘one stop shop’ increases customer interest and trust in a company – these are essential ingredients for the recipe of success for any company. A report showed that a very large of customers first engage with a company via the phone – connecting with a person lends confidence and feeling of satisfaction, making it easier for them to then conduct business online. The report also showed that at least 64% of customers are easily frustrated if they can only engage online with a company. This method of doing business has the opposite effect on customers – the lack of the ‘human angle’ makes them anxious and less trusting of a company.

Engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy is possibly one of the most effective methods of keeping customers close. When done right, a company gets access to huge amounts of data relating to customer behaviour and their most current needs. The more information companies have on their customers, the easier it becomes for them to provide higher levels of customer service and customized products and services. The more attuned a company seems to the customer’s needs, the higher the chances of engaging customers for the long term. Consistent monitoring of customer needs and expectations via the data gathered through an omni-channel strategy, provides a company with in-depth insights into what would excite and interest customers. Such data also provides ‘clues’ to what potential customers would expect and what would lead to a higher rate of conversions. It would be prudent to invest in software that enables your company to collect, collate and track customer data. The information through technology enabled statistics would be more accurate, centralized and easily accessible to all departments that need it to ramp up service for the customers.

Engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy is all about creating seamless yet unique and differentiated experiences for customers. Each customer must feel special and know that their business is important to the company – irrespective of the channel of communication they choose. An omni-channel strategy that does not achieve the goal of providing uniform and seamless service at every touch-point could potentially irritate and frustrate customers more than having access to one or two channels of communication. It is imperative for companies therefore, not to just enable an omni-channel strategy, but also to ensure amazing experiences for each customer every time and via all the channels of communication that they provide customers access.

A company would want to do whatever possible to continue engaging customers to gain more business but the efforts could go to waste if they do not align with what customers want. To avoid disconnect, companies must consistently ask customers, listen actively and implement the feedback they receive, as much as possible. To start with, engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy should be about understanding the customer and not about selling to them. The focus of any strategy must remain outward – on the customer, rather than being inward focused – on the company’s offerings.

Companies now increasingly believe, given their experiences, that customer behaviour should determine the future course of a company. New markets and a different and larger customer base would become accessible by ensuring that customer behaviour is at the centre of any strategy put together by the company. By focusing on customer behaviour, engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy or any other strategy would prove a lot more effective and sustainable. The greater understanding of customers would ensure that companies can make it simpler for their customers to do business and it would be simpler for the company to create near perfect experiences for them at every interaction. The premise of an omni-channel strategy would therefore be to simplify interactions leading to effective ways for engaging customers. Regardless of which channel they choose to communicate by, the customers must feel special, unique, and highly valued – this is the ultimate in customer service and companies must strive to achieve this consistently.

While putting together efforts of engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy, the most important portion for companies to remember is its people. Employees would drive the strategy and hence they must be highly motivated, skilled and talented, to ensure top class service. The company must ensure that its employees receive care, attention, adequate compensation, and consistent recognition for their efforts. Engaging customers is not easy – especially on a sustained basis and unless every part of the organization works together as a seamless whole, it would become an increasingly tough job. Engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy is not about staying trendy – it about interacting with the customers in the way that they would find value. Engaging customers through an omni-channel strategy is about focusing on the customer and using the channels and offerings as a means to do so consistently and effectively. The longer and better a company can provide service via multiple channels, the simpler they would make the lives of their customers – engaging them, and gaining their loyalty would soon become a fulfilled dream.

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