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How established providers can master omnichannel

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Our 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report highlighted that many established businesses are struggling to adapt to the omnichannel expectations of their customers. Fewer than 10% say they have an optimised customer experience (CX) strategy in place. And, well over half have no plan at all – or are only beginning to develop one.

We spoke to Adrian Swinscoe, an internationally recognised CX consultant and author of the best-selling “How to Wow”, to get his expert insight on how incumbent companies can compete in the digital era.

Dealing with the start-up threat

No matter the industry, established firms always have a big advantage over start-ups in terms of capital and market share. Nonetheless, as the classic example of video rental firm Blockbuster attests to, failing to adapt is business suicide. Innovative young businesses have much greater flexibility to decide how they will organise their systems and processes. They have something of a carte blanche to set up their systems in a more unified manner without the processes and tech baggage of older companies.

Adrian explains: “Established firms will always face competition from newer start-ups. Moreover, these smaller, younger firms will always have the advantage of not having to deal with legacy processes, systems and technologies as well as having a less complex organisation.”

Without the ‘baggage’ of established firms, start-ups can reimagine the customer experience much more easily, experiment with new technologies and face less risk of customer backlash when introducing new experiences.

Capitalising on their position

Clearly, start-ups have the ability to be nimble. But as Adrian points out: “Many incumbents benefit from a significant amount of customer inertia, i.e. many, if not most, customers don’t switch brands or providers if the service they receive is ‘not that bad.’”

However exciting a new vendor on the market is, enticing busy consumers away from existing providers is a major challenge. The real or imagined effort among consumers regarding the switching of providers or changing of habits does benefit established businesses. It can take a lot of convincing to get someone to move out of their comfort zone and risk trying a new product or service. Yet, depending on inertia is hardly a recipe for success when it comes to customer experience.

Adrian says: “The problem is that too many firms know this and use customer inertia as an excuse to rest on their laurels and not drive forward to deliver that great and connected omnichannel customer experience that customers want.”

The opportunity for omnichannel

In the long run, all companies will have to adapt to the omnichannel model. Customers increasingly see this as the norm, and so firms that do not adapt will eventually lose customers to more dynamic competitors – even if customer inertia means they do not move immediately. What’s more, this is not something that will happen ‘sometime in the future’ – many household name companies are already feeling the pressure.

Adrian summarises how, at present, we are beginning to see an increasingly clear division between the omnichannel-ready market leaders and the rest.

“What we are seeing is an emergence of two types of established providers: one that chooses to deliver a great customer experience because that is part of who they are, and another group that decides to focus on customer experience because of competitive pressures. Which do you think are likely to be the ones that lead their market?”

Adrian’s argument mirrors Dimension Data’s own findings too—that there are a smaller number of established enterprises who have embraced omnichannel and are keen to deploy new technology which delights their customers. Take leading retailer Woolworths, who invested in unifying their systems to provide a seamless customer experience across channels.

How can established businesses adapt to improve the omnichannel CX?

Every business is different and what might work for one company will be inappropriate for another. However, all companies need to engage in creative thinking to imagine new ways of serving their customers. This could be washing machine manufacturers using IoT monitors in their machines to tell customers if there is a problem in advance. This could be self-service customer enquiry platforms on a retailer’s website. This could be airlines remembering taller passengers’ requests for more leg room for future flights.

However, underpinning all these distinct approaches are a number of common practices, as Adrian explains:

“Connect your channels, data and people so that you lay the foundations of providing your customer with a consistent and connected omnichannel experience.”

What good customer experience looks like at your organisation is unique to you. However, common to all companies that take omnichannel CX seriously is a focus on connecting their infrastructure to provide a unified experience.

Learn more about our predictions for omnichannel CX in 2018 here and begin preparing your organisation.

 

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