The Omnichannel Service Experience – Coming Soon or Just a Tantalizing Mirage?

Next time you’re walking in the desert on a hot day, in the distance you may see what appears to be a body of water. Keep walking and the water never seems to get closer. That’s known as a mirage — an optical illusion. The real water is much farther away, but appears closer because the hot air bends the light to make water appear where it’s not.

That’s what I’m beginning to think is the case with multi-channel orchestration, also known as Omnichannel Experience. The idea is simple enough. If a customer starts an experience in one channel, they should be able to continue it another without any loss of information. That information loss, which I’ve dubbed “touchpoint amnesia,” negatively impacts loyalty (in service interactions) and propensity to buy (in purchase interactions).

Banks get this — when it comes to managing your money. If you deposit money in an ATM, then walk inside to speak with a teller, they’ll know the status of your money up to the second. You wouldn’t accept an agent telling you, “Sorry, we only can tell you the status of funds deposited in person at the branch office. ATM money is handled by another department. Can I connect you?”

Sounds ridiculous, but this is precisely the experience that most companies deliver in customer service/support experiences. Visit a web site or use an IVR, then call for help and more often than not the service rep will have no idea what you just did on the prior “touch” of your service experience. In fact, I’d estimate that odds at about 80% based on the consumer study we did a couple of years ago.

This is not a new problem. Fully 10 years ago I wrote a white paper that cited this:

CRMGuru’s 2002 research study found that 92 percent of respondents agreed it was important to share customer service information between interaction channels (e.g. web, phone, email). Progress has been slow, to say the least. Two years ago, Forrester Research reported that fewer than two per cent of companies have the ability to take a unified view of customers across sales, marketing and service departments.

To be fair, some companies are working on the problem. I’ve written before about Sprint, which as part of its turnaround used cross-channel analytics to figure out where service breakdowns were occurring. Other companies are deploying multi-channel solutions from both CRM vendors and Virtual Contact Center providers.

But still, omnichannel service excellence is like a mirage. At least, that’s my feeling after the CX Forum webinar we just conducted.

An opening audience poll found that most companies are using 4 major service channels: phone, email, web and chat. But numerous other channels are also deployed and used, albeit less frequently, such as IVR, mobile, online communities and social media.

Only 21% of respondents said their organization could “completely” manage a multi-touch experience. Granted this is not a scientific study, but this poll points to much unfinished business in the multi-channel world.

Steve Fioretti of Oracle (CX Forum sponsor) presented this chart which should set off alarm bells in the C-suite. Good news: The usage of self-service channels is growing (great for reducing cost). Bad news: Customer satisfaction is much lower with automated channels.”

Wonderful, you can save money on interactions, but you’ll lose money when customers leave for greener pastures.


And it gets worse. In another poll, we asked if/how companies were measuring customer loyalty.

  • For assisted service channels, 93% of our attendees said “yes” — using NPS, CSAT, FCR, or a custom metric.
  • For self service channels, nearly half (46%) said they don’t measure loyalty at all.

Bob Hayes of TCELab spoke about the important role of operational metrics to assess customer satisfaction with assisted and unassisted channels. Based on our audience polls, self-service needs a LOT of improvement.

While it’s certainly possible to pop up web surveys, the new frontier is using behavior data to assess customer satisfaction. In other words, look at what customers are doing, not just what they are saying.

Here’s a chart that illustrates some potential sources of behavioral data. With the right analytics, these metrics can be linked to customer loyalty. Then a company could focus on improving a short list of metrics (First Contact Resolution might be one), and have some confidence that it would lead to increased customer loyalty.


Omnichannel experience management is difficult, but I see that as great opportunity. If you want to stand out in your industry, you have to pick hard problems to solve.

If you’ve deployed self-service channels and don’t measure customer loyalty, it’s time to get moving. Omnichannel excellence may be a bit farther away than it seems, and the journey won’t be easy. But when you get there, that drink of water will taste oh so sweet for you and your customers.

You can access the complete CX Forum webinar recording and slides here (free registration required).

Further reading:

One Response to The Omnichannel Service Experience – Coming Soon or Just a Tantalizing Mirage?

  1. James Norwood March 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Bob, absolutely spot on, and you know that this is exactly what we believe at KANA Software. Wherefore the omni-channel CX suite?

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