There are a multitude of different ways to interact with a brand today. It could be social media, email, smartphone app, web, or talking to a call center agent by telephone. When you've got so many different channels in place, it's really important the information from each of those interactions is consolidated and made available in a reliable manner. That's where omnichannel communication comes in. But get it wrong ... and it can go very wrong.
Omnichannel is an all-encompassing way of interacting with customers/consumers. The idea of reduced customer effort is central to the omnichannel imperative. No matter what channel you use to interact with a brand, that information should be centrally stored and made immediately available via any other channel. That way, you won't have to repeat yourself unnecessarily or duplicate effort to get something done. It isn't convenient to make customers repeat their entire journey from scratch every time they interact with a different contact center agent.
If you've sent an email to a company, that information should be stored in a central database. The next time you talk to a contact center agent, they should already know exactly what you said in the email. There's nothing more frustrating to a customer than having to explain themselves repeatedly. If you adopt omnichannel communications in your company, you have the potential to make customers way happier (and as a consequence, improve your brand image).
Here's a hypothetical example of an omnichannel interaction: You're logged into your financial institution's website and checking the most recent transactions. As you try to pay your monthly credit card bill, you encounter an unexpected error. You decide to call the contact center for help. Once you connect with an agent, they're able to see exactly what happened. They can visualize what went wrong and determine how to correct the problem because the information was made available to them regardless of what channel was used.
Omnichannel isn't just about information availability—it also means having a consistent brand image regardless of the method of interaction. The first step towards delivering an omnichannel experience is to really think like a customer. How would you want to be treated? What are the things that would irritate you, cause you to become dissatisfied, or even make you consider moving to a different brand?
Once you start thinking like a customer, you can begin to act like one. Employ a secret shopper approach to testing out what you've done. Implementing an omnichannel environment involves a large amount of cold, hard technology. In the end, however, it manifests itself in the form of warm and fuzzy human interaction. You need to make sure all the technology you've put between your brand and the customer is really delivering the experience you expect.
Make sure you have either an automated secret shopper or a real human that actually tries to use your contact center across multiple channels. Confirm the information entered in one channel is available in another. You can even get specialists like a cognitive psychologist involved to help make sure that you're delivering a consistent brand image and experience across all channels, including the point of sale in brick and mortar stores. It's important to follow through and make sure that omnichannel is implemented successfully.
Otherwise, well, you just could kill your brand. And nobody wants blood on their hands.