8 Questions to define your omnichannel customer experience strategy

Companies that have committed in recent years to creating simple and seamless customer experiences have quickly realized that investing in new channels or technologies is not enough to ensure success. Just because you put technology in place doesn’t mean it’s adopted. To stand out and orchestrate customer journeys, companies must rethink the entire ecosystem through which they interact with their customers.

The stakes are high. The lack of channel integration, the lack of a «360 view» of clients, and the reliance on «legacy» systems in place are not the smallest. To overcome them, technology providers offer their advice and solutions to anyone willing to listen: multiply channels, migrate to the cloud, implement a CRM, replace «legacy» systems, adopt artificial intelligence… The list goes on.

The biggest problem with all this advice is that they prioritize technology. The business strategy is then reduced to simply choosing the future technology and planning the next implementation. This is probably one of the biggest pitfalls of any digital transformation.

Here are 8 questions to ask yourself to avoid this trap and put business priorities and customers at the center of your change programs.

1. Why do customers change channels?

To create a simple and easy customer experience, developing the digital channel is the way to go: digital enables a better customer experience and as a bonus, reduces costs through lower call volumes.

Many digital programs fail to fulfill this promise.

It’s often because we ask ourselves the wrong questions. Among these, a very common question is: “how do we get our customers to adopt digital technology?”

Better questions would be:

  • Why don’t customers stay on digital channels?
  • What are customers looking to do when they arrive at your website, start a conversation with a bot, or log in to the customer space?
  • Why can’t they achieve their goal?
  • Why do they end up resigning to calling the call center?

Ask yourself these simple questions and you’ll discover endless untapped opportunities, both to improve existing channels and to plan the next steps of your transformation. Go beyond channel usage statistics and listen to your customers – most are already on your digital channels before calling you. Discover what they do and what motivates them, and you’ll find new ways to simplify and make their experience easier.

2. What do customers really want?

Methods and tools to better listen to customers have been known and used for a long time :

  • Market research
  • Customer surveys
  • Focus Groups

Implementing a technological solution always involves compromises. Being clear about the functionalities of your features should allow you to make conscious compromises.

The effectiveness of these methods is now in question. One of their most famous critics is Steve Jobs himself :

“You can’t ask customers what they want and then try to give it to them. By the time you build it, they’ll want something else. »

_ Steve Jobs

To resolve this dilemma, it is good to return to a few truths :

  1. For it to be adopted, a service must meet a need.
  2. This need is not always a “utilitarian” need. A car meets as much a need for transport as a need for social recognition.
  3. As a client, we don’t always know how to formulate what we need.
  4. We are not always aware of the reasons for what motivates our choices.
  5. We sometimes give explanations for our decisions in advance.

To listen to your clients, you must go beyond the quantitative analysis of surveys or focus groups.

Listening to your customers is an exercise in empathy that aims to find the answers to questions such as :

  • What are they experiencing?
  • What do they believe in?
  • What do they need?
  • What do they want?
  • What do they aspire to?

Far from being easy, answering these questions remains a crucial step in identifying opportunities to better meet their needs and putting the customer at the heart of the solutions we build for them. By putting them at the center of our preoccupations, it is easier to see technology as what it must never cease to be: a means to achieve a given goal. This makes it easier to unify teams and focus on a common goal: improving the customer experience.

3. What are customers’ biggest frustrations?

Is there a better way to improve the customer experience other than to avoid frustrations and problems? The impact of dissatisfaction created by customer journeys and processes often organized around internal constraints is known. What is less known is the fact that customers do not always complain, even when the experience is far from optimal.

Customers often adapt to these ways of doing things, until the day they find much simpler experiences elsewhere that are much simpler…

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes—there’s nothing better than experiencing it for yourself! and make a critical evaluation of the experience lived :

  • What are the main sources of frustration?
  • Are there any breakdowns in the process, and what are they?
  • How do you react to these difficulties?

Some of the greatest innovations come from finding new solutions to problems that seemed unsolvable or unavoidable. Bringing this solution to life requires an intimate understanding of the customer’s frustrations.

4. Which channels and for what needs?

The biggest temptation when wanting to create the best customer experience possible is to deploy as many channels as possible.

We wish to do so well. That we tell ourselves, “Whatever the customer’s preference, they will find something that suits them.” This comes from good intentions.

Sometimes too much is like not enough. Offering more choices and channels does not necessarily mean creating a better experience. This can even be counterproductive and create confusion. In addition, several channels also increase the complexity of integration and execution in operations.

In short, when it comes to choosing channels, sometimes «less is more»: a few well-designed channels, that are integrated and operated impeccably can be as effective or even more effective than several channels that are not integrated or have difficulty exchanging, with variable performances.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask in an omnichannel strategy:

  1. Which channels should be deployed?
  2. For what use?
  3. How do they work together?
  4. How will they communicate together?

Answering these questions based on an understanding of the tasks to be performed by our customers and their goals will reveal to us to be very powerful in guiding technological choices that will create the desired experience.

5. Between customer preferences and efficiency, what to choose?

Choosing the most suitable channels can be more complicated than it seems. What happens if the interests of the customers conflict with those of the organization? For example, what if customers would like to use SMS but the costs to the organization are too high? If you’re customer-oriented, you’d have to respond to their preferences, regardless of the price. It seems logical right? What do you do if you find that your problem is much less time-consuming and much more likely to be resolved if the customer speaks with an agent on the phone?

If you offer the customer the channel of their choice, the experience may be more complicated and take longer. If you offer the simplest and easiest way, you may not meet their needs or preferences. Situations like this are common. Fortunately, we have the means to solve them.

Experience and years of research in customer psychology show us that how a customer remembers their experience depends on :

  1. Real effort (i.e., number of steps, number of clicks, the complexity of the process).
  2. From their perception of effort, which depends as much on the result achieved as on the way it has been treated

In general, although there are exceptions, efficiency is promoted by guiding the customer to the most effective solution (e.g., “to allow the best processing of your request, please …).

6. How will we measure success?

Demonstrating the benefits of the investments is one of the biggest challenges of customer experience initiatives. Estimating the costs and the efforts required is not always easy but is still feasible. Calculating benefits is often another story.

For multi-million-dollar initiatives, it is not uncommon to see “business cases” with very high-level assumptions, without any real identification of how these benefits will be realized. Some CEOs find themselves having to take a leap of faith: customer experience, you believe in it, or you don’t believe in it!

Approving a multi-million-dollar investment on a leap of faith should not be an option. It’s a risk that no one should have to take, nor does it benefit the customer experience program.

One of the reasons these CX programs fail is that they are not always anchored in business reality. They seem to add to everything the organization must do, instead of being the way to fulfill its mission.

To calculate the benefits of a better customer experience, start by asking yourself a few simple questions:

  • How many new customers have you acquired in the last period? What is the projected value of these new customers?
  • How many customers have you lost or have not returned in the last period? How much revenue does that represent? What are the reasons for this?
  • What is the net growth in customers and revenues?

In addition to bringing, you very concrete clues, the answers to these questions have the gift of arousing curiosity. This curiosity allows us to update our customer’s behaviors and take a fresh look at our business reality, by identifying new issues and business opportunities. The need for understanding tools such as customer journeys and persona then arises naturally.

Naturally, the dashboard is designed to assess the effectiveness of client experience programs. And, with them, the need for more integrated data on customers, their experiences, and their behaviors, in other words, the foundations of the business intelligence strategy, all this is independent of the technology solutions.

7. What are the options?

With great marketing support, the market presents us with technologies as magical solutions to all our problems: infinitely configurable CRMs, migration to the cloud, and systems requiring no code («no-code»).

These are distractions.

None of these solutions are inherently bad. But they are simply not the first decisions that should be made. As a business leader, you must learn to ignore the sirens and refrain from falling in love with a given technology. Because no technology is perfect. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Its value is defined by its greater or lesser ability to realize the business strategy, that is, in this case, to update the smooth and simple customer experience dreamed by your customers. You must be demanding! Don’t get imposed solutions without asking questions:

  • What are the advantages?
  • What are the disadvantages?
  • What are the other options?

Recently, Gartner identified 7 options available for a company looking to modernize its «legacy» systems, a challenge that many companies face. These options range from encapsulation to pure system replacement. These two extreme strategies have very different cost/benefit ratios, timelines, and risks.
Making sure we know the consequences of the choices we make, both in the short term and in the long term, is crucial. We must always keep in mind that, even if we always aim to create modern systems, today’s systems are tomorrow’s «legacy» systems.

8. How to limit the risks?

The implementation of new technologies brings a share of new risks. And these have gained momentum in recent years :

  • Security breaches,
  • Inconsistency of partners,
  • Lack of data quality,
  • Disconnected customer journeys
  • Etc.

No one publicly brags about it, but technology projects that have cost a lot of money and whose profits are still hard to quantify are common currency. This is not to mention those that have led to more frustration from customers or employees, have negatively impacted revenues, or are replaced after only a few years of use. These projects cost careers: no one wants these projects.

At the same time, nobody wants to be late and miss the boat. Changes in customer habits are already there and not waiting for us. Meeting new customer expectations is a question of sustainability in the medium and long term, if not in the short term.

Innovate or die: is it the only choice?

An alternative is to take a gamble by limiting the consequences if they do not prove to be winners. Testing ideas and solutions that appear promising on paper – or in demos on the screen – with the proof of simple and limited concepts to answer questions such as :

  • Do the systems connect?
  • Is context transmitted from one channel to another?
  • Is the data preserved?

A proof of concept is usually not very expensive to make, but it will certainly help reduce the risk of a transformation, whatever the outcome.

Conclusion: develop the synergy between business and IT teams

Technology is only useful if it meets key customer needs. In this article, we have identified 8 questions to ask to ensure that transformation programs are focused on their purpose of being: creating customer experiences that generate greater customer loyalty and ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of the organization. These questions prioritize strategic reasoning and business problem-solving.

They make it possible to structure and facilitate the necessary dialogue between business teams and IT teams. Thus, in these high-tech projects, business teams have an essential role and responsibility to assume, not the least of which is to define a clear business strategy; at the same time, they must allow technology teams to play their part, allowing them to innovate.

By Guillaume Delroeux

Guillaume is President and Leader in Customer Experience Practice at Promethée Consultants and helps organizations with Customer Relationship Centres make the most of their technologies to maximize their impact and create legendary customer experiences.