“Empowered customers are disrupting every industry; competitive barriers like manufacturing strength, distribution power and information mastery no longer create competitive advantage. In this age of the customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers.” Forrester — Competitive Strategy In the Age of the Customer1
Why Do I Need Omni-channel Feedback?
In today’s “Age of the Customer” world, the customer is engaging with organizations across channels — from web, social, mobile, and kiosks. Thus, it is imperative for customer-obsessed organizations to be listening, engaging, and acting consistently and effectively across all these channels.
An omni-channel feedback program provides the ability to create a holistic snapshot of customers to better understand their needs, a goal that increases retention and lifetime value and provides the ability to deliver seamless and unique customer experiences.
Crafting an Omni-channel Program
Implementing an omni-channel feedback program along every touch point of the customer journey — online, offline, mobile, and social — will help you understand the customer experience and act quickly to reiterate brand exposure and increase customer loyalty. The omnichannel promise allows you to ask for feedback during your customer’s experience or moment of truth, thereby allowing for shorter interactions or conversations than traditional long feedback forms.
Creating and executing a well-designed omni-channel program may seem like a daunting task — and it just might be one. Perhaps it would feel less daunting if organizations were to approach this as a journey toward omnichannel feedback collection rather than a single project.
1. Map the Customer Journey
“To get a more holistic picture of customer experience across the organization, 55% of respondents will increase efforts to expand feedback collection across channels and departments and 53% said that they’ll improve how they measure customers’ end-to-end journeys.”2
To create a successful strategy, you first need an understanding of the cohesive customer journey, comprised of any and all interactions the customer has with your organization. In most cases, this spans multiple organizations and business units.
The easiest way to map the customer journey is to “become” your customer and anticipate the path through your organization that he or she might take, noting all the touch points as you go. You may not be able to identify all of the touchpoints alone, so invite members from your marketing, product, sales, services and support teams to brainstorm and help with the process.
Mapping the customer journey in conjunction with teams across your organization also helps you identify how often customer engagement occurs. You can thereby streamline touchpoints and prevent fatigue, leading to more willing and honest feedback from your customer.
2. Identify the Listening Posts
Prioritize the channels for customer engagement. Start with an inventory of existing programs already in place, and then identify the tools and technology that are available to you for listening to your customers. As you prioritize, you will, of course, keep budget allocations and resources in mind. Make sure to consider all channels: traditional, mobile, and social, as well as data connected to these channels.
Start by assessing the success of traditional channels like email and telephone. These legacy channels continue to be relevant in today’s changing-technology world, but even these will likely need to be improved upon. Minimal program changes like more-modern subject lines, improved branding, and responsive design for support on any device (such as smartphones) can go a long way toward increased customer engagement. Also review the frequency of contact, length of feedback forms, and consistency of communication.
Mobile is the fastest-growing part of the omni-channel approach. (Nine countries likely surpassed 50% mobile penetration in 20143). When designing email invitations, feedback forms, QR codes and SMS feedback, mobile device formats, capabilities and limitations need to be kept in mind, front and center.
With the advent of the Responsive Revolution where applications and technologies are becoming more compliant with responsive design, it’s straightforward for design teams to put forward a feedback process that works seamlessly across devices.
Social media, to be sure, is on the rise, making this channel an increasingly complex, but critical, avenue to address. Salesforce.com’s 2015 State of Marketing5 claims that “64% of marketers see social media marketing as a critical enabler of products and services,” and, today, twice as many marketers view social media as a primary revenue source as compared to just last year.
The same source reports that Facebook is the most popular social media channel, but mentions several newcomers with the potential to be just as important to marketers.
Companies can and should keep abreast of and test new social media channels, researching which ones resonate best with their specific audience(s). Social still remains a challenge, primarily because no single team within the organization “owns” social branding, response or feedback. Secondly, there aren’t robust enough tools that connect a social customer profile with more traditional channels. In the future, connecting feedback programs to applications like Klout, About.me and others might be the answer to obtaining a more holistic social profile.
At a minimum, companies may want to identify the one social channel most frequented by their social network audience, and then direct their efforts toward a single space, instead of spreading their efforts thinly across too many irrelevant social media channels.
Systems and applications are starting to play well together, with top-tier technology providers making APIs, connectors, and widgets available to the outside world for seamless data integration. This willingness to share provides a unique opportunity to connect the dots in otherwise siloed systems and ask for feedback less often.
Begin by exploring where customer data resides within your organization, which business units are already engaging with customers, and what third-party “connectors” can be utilized to unify all the information in a single location.
3. Prioritize the Listening Posts
A channel prioritization scheme begins with what already exists and what is already known. Since there may be several feedback channels within the organization, begin by executing a channel-discovery exercise to identify what exists. A second step might be to optimize existing channels by including better branding, improving mobile support, and assessing other ways to maximize response rates.
The marketing and customer support teams may already have metrics on omni-channel strategies they have deployed in the past. These metrics will help assess priorities and support recommendations for the introduction of new channels to piggyback on existing channels.
4. Reiterate the Brand
As your customers move seamlessly across devices and channels, they naturally expect their brands to follow. Consistent messaging, tone, and visual design across channels can increase brand exposure and capitalize on brand affinity, resulting in higher response rates. For companies with distributed teams, it is imperative that brand guidelines and standards are documented, communicated and implemented across all forms of communications and channels.
5. Democratize Data & Take Action
The success of any program can only be measured by the action one is able to take and whether the action has the desired effect.
Various reporting tools provide powerful visualization that tells a holistic story of the customer. Choosing a common loyalty or satisfaction metric and maintaining the same scale across channels are required to benchmark the customer across channels. Most advanced analytics and business analytics tools also allow aggregating multiple data sources into a single scorecard view, where it is easy to identify trends and key drivers for change.
Additionally, communicating findings through shared reports and dashboards throughout the organization is essential for common action, so executives, managers and front-line employees can see the problem, sense what needs to be done about it and act immediately. Deep integration with CX/CRM and marketing teams will allow delivery of metrics into the hands of people who can take action.
The creation of a sustainable and successful program is an iterative process. Measurement is necessary for iteration and identifying required changes. Obtaining information like the cost effectiveness of the channel and the cost per interaction can help in identifying the overall ROI of the channel. Metrics like response rates and drop-off rates can also help clarify the success of the channel.
Integrating feedback with metrics from CRM systems can also help provide insights into impact on up-sell and overall growth of customers. A collation of these metrics and honest review will help toward further refinement of the channel prioritization and the development of a more robust omni-channel strategy
The New World: The Future of Omni-channel Is Here
Internet of Things
The idea of the Internet of Things (IoT) is not new. Before, it was the computer and phone connected to the internet. Today it is everything, regardless of whether it has a screen.
Early in 2014, British Airways launched the Magic of Flying campaign where sensor-driven, digital billboards displayed a #lookup message when planes flew overhead. The #lookup tag effectively generated almost a million hits to their site.6
This British Airways innovation is a great example of effectively linking offline and online channels through the use of sensors and new technology for the purpose of generating new customer experiences leading to excitement and increased customer advocacy.
Literally billions of IoT device sensors are capturing data that could open the doors to new avenues of insight. For example, products that communicate a ‘reason for failure’ could immediately generate a service call or trigger feedback from the customer.
Imagine what the marriage of usage/breakdown metrics from devices with customer satisfaction scores and purchase history could reveal about customers and how it could be used for immediate action. Creative use of IoT data streams offers potential for increased customer insight leading to greater customer satisfaction.
According to The Guardian, “2014 promises to be the year of the iBeacon.”7 iBeacons are small devices that use Bluetooth technology to communicate with mobile phones at the physical location of the customer experience. In the highly competitive world of retail, marketers are successfully using iBeacon to deliver personalized and localized content to their technology-savvy customers.
One new application of iBeacon technology is UK-based Big Deals Local, bigDL,8 that uses proximity targeting to deliver mobile coupons and access to loyalty programs. In addition to offering a low-cost solution to omni-channel communications, bigDL also provides partners with valuable insights into customer behavior.
The future offers promising new technologies to continue conversations with customers that will improve overall experiences and increase brand loyalty.
No matter which omni-channel tactics and strategies you adopt in 2015, keep in mind that every touchpoint and every channel is an opportunity to improve and influence the holistic customer journey
SOURCES & NOTES
1. Cooperstein, D. M., et al. “Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer.” Forrester Reports.10 Oct. 2013.
2. Schmidt-Subramanian, Maxie, et al. “The State of Voice of the Customer Programs 2014.” Forrester Reports. June 2014.
3. “Worldwide Smartphone Usage to Grow 25% in 2014.” eMarketer. 11 Jun 2014.
4. Smith, Lauren. “Responsive Design A/B Testing Leads to a 130% Increase in Clicks.” litmus blog. 14 Nov. 2014.
5. “2015 State of Marketing.” Salesforce.com.
6. #lookup. British Airways website.
7. Shellaker, Martin. “Is 2014 the Year of iBeacons?’ The Guardian.
8. Video. BigDL.com.