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by Zaheer Gilani, CX principal business consulting lead at ECS

While Covid-19 has wreaked a trail of devastation, it has also been a catalyst for change, forcing businesses to accelerate their customer service and customer experience plans out of the slow lane. One of the highlights has been the adoption of cloud technologies to allow contact centre agents to work from home and to cope with the surge in customer communications.

A major part of an organisation’s success on the leaderboard at this time has rested on its customer service strategy, particularly its  support for the omni-customer experience (omni-CX). But what does the post-race analysis tell us we can improve on as we emerge into a post-pandemic world?

Just like a Formula 1 driver trying to reach pole position, we need to start by figuring out the fast-changing mindset of the omni-customer. They are sophisticated, have high expectations, and are unforgiving. They will interact with your brands on their terms  – when, how, and where – regardless of the limitations your businesses faces, pandemic or no pandemic.

These users expect the same highly personalised experience they are familiar with on Netflix or Amazon where they can seamlessly switch between devices. The beauty of these experiences is that, just like the engineering magic underneath the racing car’s bonnet, all the complexities are hidden.

Weaving through the chicanes

To cater to omni-CX demands we have seen businesses fast-track the launch of social media, chatbots, and video channels. But it’s clear that it causes more harm than good to continue with the blind introduction of channels in isolation with separate queue management, robust customer journey strategy and teams of advisors. This approach is as sluggish as an old banger destined for the scrap yard.

Instead, the transformation to succed in the omni CX world needs a change of mindset: take a step back, organise your operating model around the customer, and run all your channels and touchpoints in unison.

This is no small feat and requires tactical and strategic roadmaps alongside investments in company vision, strategy, culture, organisation, people, and technology.

Using breadcrumbs to find your way

At the heart of an omni-CX experience has to be a robust data model that collects active and passive data about your customers’ lifecycle and key journeys. These individual breadcrumbs can evolve into actionable insights that allow you to see how customer demand transpires across channels and touchpoints.

Some organisations have limited access to this data because it is stored in silos or they use outdated technology incapable of merging their data lakes. Shockingly, others have the data but choose not to use it. Worse, stale unloved data will result in technical debt and unwarranted costs as it detracts from the reason for collecting the data in the first place: to know your customers better than they know themselves.

But only with a complete picture can you knit together an effective omni-CX experience that uses the power of latest AI and machine learning techniques. You can then pre-empt your customers’  next steps by following their trail, and tracking the data points that help you understand why they made certain decisions. For example, analysing their online activity before they turn for help using the chatbot.

Similarly, you can analyse the data to understand customer demand by channel to work out whether it is better to have a few good channels or more channels with fewer features. This analysis is already revealing surprising findings for some businesses, such as a resurgence in demand for email communications and the preference of web chatbots for high volume, low-value transactions.

Pulling away from the competition

Once you have the infrastructure to support federated and unified data, the opportunity lies in achieving a single view of each individual customer that, ideally, represents their demographic, psychographic, consumption, behavioural, preference, and emotional data. Add to this an understanding of their past and current challenges and issues and you will be primed to predict their behaviour and recommend the best action or offer for that individual.

Using the power of cloud-based technologies you will be ready to build emotionally engaging, highly personalised omni-CX experiences regardless of which channel they use. When you do this consistently and profitably, it is the epitome of the great customer experience and the envy of every brand.

If at any point you find yourself flagging and need a jolt of adrenalin just remind yourself of the power of CX. According to a study by Walker, 39% of CEOs consider CX to be the most effective way to create competitive advantage — even higher than talent, product, efficiency, brand, and pricing.

The ‘Experience Economy’ that Joseph Pin authored in 1998 is here to stay. Brands that seek to stay ahead of the competition must become comfortable in continually disrupting themselves to remain relevant. After all, you wouldn’t compete in this year’s F1 races in a 1970s McLaren.

Omni-CX will underpin this disruption. To quote Teresa Cottam, Chief Analyst at Omnisperience, “By 2025, the contact centre will have evolved into an experience centre and it will be viewed within the context of overall business goals.”

Any organisation that isn’t prepared to adapt and reinvent its operating core are at risk of tarnishing its brand and losing its highly-prized customers. Keep your eyes on the chequered flag and embrace the world of the omni-customer.

To discover more, ECS is hosting a webinar ‘Peeling back the plasters on CX one year on’, featuring speakers from Water Plus, AWS, and Brainfood on Wednesday 14th July at 3pm BST.

Zaheer Gilani leads the ECS CX Business Consulting proposition. He is a customer service and CX industry veteran with more than 20 years’ experience working and consulting for FTSE 100 brands globally. Zaheer is the author of Customer Journey Mapping Workbooks, and he developed and launched the CX industry’s first mobile game, Customer Experience Game 3D.

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