Why Adding Channels Is Not Omnichannel

Over the last few years, the focus for both technology vendors and brands has predominantly been towards the building of various channels of communications rather than focusing on unifying these channels seamlessly to provide a unified customer experience.

It’s this focus on an inside-out approach that has led companies to provide a plethora of channel choices but hardly any attempt at building consistent experiences.

Recently, I used a gifting portal to send gifts to my mom on Mother’s day. Imagine my horror, when the sweets arrived stale and the flowers wilted. I complained to them using chat, they said it’s an operational issue and will take a day to rectify. After getting no response, I reached out over phone, was made to talk to the vendor who actually supplied the gift, and he agreed to replace the items, but actually didn’t do anything. I finally wrote the same issue on the brand’s twitter page, and within a couple of hours, I was refunded the money.

While I am sure a lot of effort had gone into enabling these channels, very little thought has been put on improving the overall customer experience and what should the customer engagement policy be to achieve the same.

This is not an isolated story and impacts companies both large and small. There are huge variances across different communication channels and lack of clear objectives. While working with a large insurer in India, I came across 17 different systems used by the company to achieve customer service across their communication channels.

What a monumental waste of resources!!!

When an Uber decided to not have telephony contact centers, but only email, it turned upside down a commonly held belief that emails cannot be used in near real-time situations. The paradigm that email responses on an average get responded to in 24 hours is clearly passé when one can respond to them in actually minutes.

On the other hand, almost all telephony IVR’s have a standard message stating that calls are being recorded for quality and training purposes, but why not to give as a transcript to the customer. Why should the data be shareable over email and chat but not via phone?

Brands need to define the overall customer promise; identify experiences they want their customers to have and then work out on how they achieve it across different ‘moments of truth’.

While an ideal solution would be a single system achieving the same, practically, a lot of investments would have been made in channels, so it won’t be easy to abandon them. However, as long as companies are clear on their objectives, it would be easier to tweak the same to achieve it.

As the famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi goes “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.” Let’s re-look at the omnichannel solution from a customer’s perspective to truly achieve a unified customer experience.


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