What is an omnichannel customer experience?

Author: Rose de Fremery

Consumer behavior volatility, whether due to inflation, supply chain issues or the consequences of the pandemic, is at an all-time high according to PwC research. Yet despite this volatility, only 21% of customers find it easy to interact with businesses, according to Zendesk. An omnichannel customer experience can help overcome this challenge, satisfying customers' needs for frictionless interactions while also helping businesses maintain a crucial competitive edge. Here's what business leaders need to know about omnichannel customer experience benefits and how to implement an effective omnichannel approach to customer engagement.

What is omnichannel customer experience?

An omnichannel customer experience enables a customer to engage with a business in the way that best suits them—such as on social media, using a messaging app, via a voice call or in person at a brick-and-mortar store. No matter what channel the customer uses, they can expect to receive the same personalized care and satisfying service.

An omnichannel approach doesn't simply incorporate all the channels a customer might use to communicate with a business. Rather, it integrates those channels with one another, shares information among them and provides customers with a uniform experience across all of them.

This is crucial because while the business may consider each of its customer channels as distinct from an operational perspective, the customer does not—and they may feel friction or frustration if they have a disjointed or disconnected experience when using one channel as opposed to another. By prioritizing the customer's experience, the company could have a better shot at earning and keeping their business.

Why does an omnichannel customer experience matter?

With plenty of choices available in the market, customers place a premium on doing business with companies that make their lives easier and respect their time. According to research from Siegel+Gale, 76% of people are more likely to recommend a business that delivers simple experiences, up 12% since 2018. If a business creates an experience that is complicated, confusing or inconsistent, then a customer may decide it is not worth their time or effort to continue buying from that company.

Customers also want their interactions with brands to be as easy and enjoyable as the exchanges they have with friends, family and colleagues on a daily basis. SalesForce reports that 88% of customers say their experience with a company is as important as its products or services. If a company doesn't deliver this level of customer care, a customer may perceive that business as behind the innovation curve or, worse, unwilling to invest in a high-quality customer experience.

From a business vantage point, these customer experience pain points are also opportunities. Siegel+Gale found that 57% of people are willing to pay more for simpler experiences and estimates that companies are now leaving an estimated $402 billion on the table by failing to provide simple experiences. This figure has quadrupled from just $98 billion in 2018.

Omnichannel customer experience benefits

An omnichannel customer experience benefits customers and businesses alike. It makes customers feel valued, and it also provides businesses with a path to sustained business growth. Here are some of the most compelling benefits that businesses can realize from an omnichannel approach.

Customer benefits

  • Seamless channel switching: According to Salesforce, 64% of customers use multiple channels to start and complete a transaction. For example, a customer who has to jump off a voice call to go pick up their child from school will appreciate having the option to continue an exchange via a messaging app, which allows them to keep the conversation moving while in transit.
  • Context retention: If you've ever ended a voice call with a company and attempted to pick up where you left off using another channel, then you already know how frustrating it is having to give all your information from scratch and repeat your story from the beginning with a new customer service agent. An omnichannel CX can preserve crucial contextual information and share it from one channel to the next, so the customer doesn't have to start the conversation from the beginning. A Salesforce survey of executives found 88% percent believe a complete and consistent view of their customers is crucial to the future of their business, but fewer than one-third say they currently have that unified view.
  • A personal feel: Customers increasingly prefer to have meaningful relationships with the businesses they choose. According to Zendesk, 76% of consumers expect personalized experiences. Omnichannel engagement not only gives them a personalized experience, but it often takes place in digital settings like messaging apps and text message exchanges that feel intimate, familiar and approachable. With a more inviting and conversational approach, customers are more likely to return for repeat business.

Business benefits

  • Competitive advantage: A seamless omnichannel customer experience benefits your business by differentiating you from the competition—which in turn helps you retain current customers and attract new ones.
  • Improved agent efficiency: By preserving information from previous customer conversations and making it available in a single platform, you can help agents assist customers more efficiently and resolve their queries faster.
  • Increased conversions: When the customer journey is interrupted—for example, when the customer tries to continue an exchange using a more convenient channel and essentially has to restart the entire conversation—you run the risk of losing that customer entirely. Because omnichannel experiences maintain crucial continuity, they're more likely to result in conversions.
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction: Customers appreciate it when a business values them and prioritizes their needs. An omnichannel approach is inherently customer-centric, reflecting a business' desire to deliver the highest-quality service possible. When correctly executed, it can increase customer retention and even boost customer advocacy. 
  • Better customer insights: By integrating customer data across multiple channels, businesses can access analytics insights that they can use to better understand their customers and continually improve the CX they provide.

Omnichannel experience technology considerations

Although an omnichannel CX should look and feel effortless to the customer, businesses must effectively orchestrate several technologies to enable it. An advanced contact center sits at the center of an omnichannel approach, seamlessly coordinating customer conversations across all customer channels such as mobile apps, text messaging, social media and web chat interfaces. On the back end, it also provides your agents with a comprehensive view of the customer and their previous interactions with the business. When enhanced with AI assistants, it can even suggest relevant resources or solutions that accelerate resolution and improve agent effectiveness.

As customer engagement channels multiply and encompass bandwidth-intensive applications such as video and voice, it becomes all the more necessary to ensure strong network performance. Modern network optimization technologies such as SD WAN can be delivered regardless of the underlying network transport while giving your business a secure option for offering an omnichannel customer experience. By prioritizing essential traffic and reducing latency, SD-WAN enables the free flow of omnichannel customer communications, which is critical to a high-quality customer experience.

Satisfy customers with a seamless omnichannel CX

Customers are increasingly selective about the businesses they select, and they are even willing to pay more for a high-quality customer experience. An omnichannel customer experience, when paired with the right technology and a sound omnichannel strategy, enables businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition, retain and attract customers and create a strong foundation for continued business growth.

Discover how Verizon's customer engagement and experience services elevate the customer experience.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.