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The Rules of Omnichannel Customer Engagement

The Rules of Omnichannel Customer Engagement

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Featured Experts:
Jeremy Cox, Informa/Ovum
Tom Smith, Verizon

Please watch the webinar replay to listen to industry experts define Omnichannel and how to prepare your organization for omnichannel customer engagement


  • A clear and definitive explanation of the term Omnichannel
  • Why enterprises should approach the omnichannel challenge progressively
  • How to evolve from multichannel to omnichannel
  • Trends in Customer Experience product innovation
  • How to earn customer loyalty by making it easy for them to do business with you

{slider right arrow6  Audio Transcript|closed|grey}


Lee Judge: Good day everyone. I’m your host Lee Judge and welcome to today’s webinar entitled The Rules of Omnichannel Customer Engagement, a roundtable discussion brought to you by Jacada. Once again as a note, to honor the privacy of our attendees, only your name will appear in the attendee window. Our presenters are Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst of Customer Engagement Practice at Ovum and Tom Smith, Manager of Customer Experience Product Innovation on the Contact Center Innovation Team at Verizon.

Today we will define omnichannel and learn how to prepare your organization for omnichannel customer engagement. After the event, you will also receive an Omnichannel Playbook that will help you continue and strengthen your omnichannel customer engagement journey. Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer session. So please feel free to type your questions into the Q and A window at anytime. Also once again only your name will appear in the attendee window.

So let’s begin. We will start the conversation with Jeremy from Ovum. The presentation is all yours Jeremy.

Jeremy Cox: Thank you very much. All right. Let’s see if I can look into it. Yes, looks like we’re making progress.

[0:01:07] [Slide change 1]

Jeremy Cox: Hello everyone and thank you very much for sharing your time with us today. Hopefully what you will hear will add a little bit of color to some of your own thinking around omnichannel.

[0:01:19] [Slide change 2]

Jeremy Cox: And what I’m going to cover is first of all try to nail the beast down omnichannel. Our industry is full of buzzwords and I think it’s important to at least give you my definition of omnichannel so you’ve got a good view of what I’m going to be talking about.

Then why omnichannel customer engagement must be a top priority and particularly now and then looking at some common misconceptions around omnichannel and then I’m also going to present a simple omnichannel maturity model and this will give you the opportunity to consider where your own organization is today. So hopefully that will generate some interest there.

Then I’m going to end up with some recommendations hopefully to help you progress to the next level in your omnichannel venture. Then finally, I’m going to pass over to Tom, who’s going to give us the perspective on Verizon’s market experience. So there’s quite a lot to cover and hopefully you will find it simulating and helpful.

[0:02:29] [Slide change 3]

Jeremy Cox: OK. So here’s my definition. Now it may not be the most elegant definition you’ve ever seen but hopefully it sort of captures the essence of what an omnichannel should be.

So I define it as the means by which an enterprise enables two-way engagement with its customers across any channel or combination of channels both digital and physical to deliver a contextually relevant and trust building experience consistently and always respecting customer’s preferences and privacy.

So as I say, it’s quite a long definition but I think just to pick out some of the key points, it’s two-way. So it’s not about pushing messages out to customers in the hope that they’re going to buy. But very much enabling a two-way engagement and enabling customers to connect with your organization.

Any channel, any combination of channels and of course one of the biggest challenges is harnessing channels and orchestrating it across both digital and physical domains like stores for instance.

Contextually relevant. So if you deliver what the customers are really looking for, which will help them complete their particular journey, then that has got to be the – one of the number one names and trust building. So trust is an absolutely critical aspect of any kind of enduring relationship and this is just as important in the omnichannel space.

Then finally respecting your customer’s preferences and privacy. So customers are quite naturally concerned about how data is – might be used, how it’s stored and of course where there have been quite a few stories in the press release recently on cyber attacks and exposing potential customers to theft. So the privacy concerns must also be part of any kind of omnichannel strategy.

[0:04:43] [Slide change 4]

Jeremy Cox: All right. So why now? Well, two things really. First of all, the customer is definitely empowered today. They have far greater choice and reach than ever before. They’re often far better informed than perhaps they were in the past. So the power has definitely shifted towards the customer.

There’s a second thing that certainly in the PWC CEO survey in 2014 last year. Two sort of key concerns that the majority of the CEOs have were first of all how do they adapt to changing customer behaviors, to stay relevant to customers but also what about disruptive competitors, the users of the world, the Amazons of the world and how might they impact their competitive position.

[0:05:42] [Slide change 5]

Jeremy Cox: So it’s a volatile time and potentially treacherous. Then of course the power of marketing has diminished. Customers increasingly looking to friends’ recommendations or peer recommendations and views before making decisions on who they might shortlist before they make the purchase. So it makes the challenge for marketing that much harder.

[0:06:07] [Slide change 6]

Jeremy Cox: And then customer expectations are also rising as more consumers and certainly as a consumer, I want to contact the organization from where I am, not from where they want me to be. I expect relevance. I expect answers to questions to help me get done what I want to get done.

My context has to be understood. I want it to be an easy experience. I don’t want lots of obstacles in the way. Don’t make me repeat myself. So for instance, if I call into an agent, at a cell center, to ask for help, not being able to find help on the website perhaps, then if they have to pass me on to somebody else, I shouldn’t have to repeat myself.

Then if an organization makes a mistake, upsets me or whatever it might be, I expect them to really take ownership for my problem, not just say sorry. So these are challenging times.

[0:07:05] [Slide change 7]

Jeremy Cox: And then in terms of potential disruptions out there, they’re spawning all over the world and they’re growing at a staggeringly fast rate. So no organization can take its continual existence, let alone growth for granted.

[0:07:22] [Slide change 8]

Jeremy Cox: Actually this is drawn out by Standard and Poor’s figures on their top 500 in terms of the average life expectancy of the company. That has dropped dramatically since the 1950s. In fact McKinsey have extrapolated that by 2027, over 75 percent of today’s Standard and Poor organizations may well be out of business and the key to this of course is remaining relevant to customers, so some of these ones will have failed.

[0:07:55] [Slide change 9]

Jeremy Cox: So it’s a time where there’s great urgency to try and solve the complex omnichannel challenges. But here are some common misconceptions that I see.

[0:08:09] [Slide change 10]

Jeremy Cox: Thinking omnichannel is really just about the front office. It isn’t and I think this quote from Paul Coby, the CIO of John Lewis, a major retailer in the UK puts it quite well saying, “To succeed in omnichannel, you must have a really good frontend. But unless you have reengineered the backend and are ready to cope with the peaks in traffic, you will have real issues. There’s no point doing one without the other.” If you think about – certainly in the retail market, the Black Friday coming up at the end of the month, suddenly peaks or Christmas shopping. Then clearly that’s the – the fulfillment side of it is just as important as the promise. It’s not just retail. This affects every industry.

[0:08:55] [Slide change 11]

Jeremy Cox: Another one is thinking that it’s just about adding on a new channel. The problem with that approach is that it often leads to channel silos. So unless the customer comes in through one particular channel and that’s well-designed, chances are that they’re going to be frustrated when they’re trying to get the – get whatever it is they want done.

[0:09:19] [Slide change 12]

Jeremy Cox: And then perhaps the worst offense which fortunately I don’t see very often is using all these advanced technologies that are out there to actually stalk customers. There’s nothing worse is there than sort of feeling hounded by an organization, bombarded with meaningless or inappropriate emails for example.

[0:09:42] [Slide change 13]

Jeremy Cox: But before you grab on to the bright side, the omnichannel side of things, there are some basic things that need to be in place and still we see quite a lot of organizations which have silos throughout the enterprise and the simple fact is that customers and silos don’t mix. So these need to be addressed.

[0:10:08] [Slide change 14]

Jeremy Cox: And then there’s a lot of talk about customer journey mapping and that’s a great way to start in terms of trying to understand how customers might want to interact with an organization depending on what it is they’re trying to get done and maybe also who they are and their particular preferences. But it’s not a static thing. So thinking that developing a journey map and that’s it, is simply not sufficient.

There has to be some kind of feedback loop. So you might use journey mapping to – as a starter to create a sort of proxy for how customers might wish to interact with the organization. But then there needs to be some kind of feedback mechanism so that you can constantly refine and improve and adapt as behaviors change.

[0:11:04] [Slide change 15]

Jeremy Cox: So now let me introduce you to this omnichannel maturity model and be very interesting to think about where you are along with this journey.

[0:11:17] [Slide change 16]

Jeremy Cox: Let me just explain this chart. The vertical axis is about the quality of the customer experience from poor to class leading. The horizontal axis is very much about coherence as an organization. So once we’ve seen – as Paul Coby was saying the backend, the frontend, the supply side, all need to be working in sync. So that demands a very high level of coherence as an organization, considering the amount of collaboration right across the enterprise, not just the front office.

Now, I’ve got here four states of evolution if you like. So the one on the bottom in the low left corner, departmental, this is an organization which is typically very fragmented, operating in silos and in terms of a customer experience, as I said earlier, customers and silos simply don’t mix. It’s likely to be very poor and in terms of coherences and organization, clearly it’s not very coherent.

Moving up in that one, we’ve got organizations busy quite a lot in this position who – what have been called are in that sort of multichannel phase. So they might have basic integration between systems and – but they’re probably still very much product-driven as opposed to customer-driven and that can actually lead to frustration for customers as well.

And also they may have a transactional view of the customer. So people talk a lot about on the happiest range talking about the 360-degree view, but often that’s a little more than transactional. They know the worth as a customer but they know next to nothing about them and their behaviors and their preferences.

So we’re talking very much about omnichannel today and that’s the next level up. Typically that design is given the level of organizational collaboration that’s required, it’s almost certain that the CEO is the prime sponsor to really sort of help create the conditions, working and collaborate across the enterprise to deliver the omnichannel customer experience.

So this is no longer about a head of a customer service department or sales or working in isolation. This is very much about looking at the situation from the customer’s perspective and then figuring out how to pull together the various channels of interaction and make it work in a harmonious and orchestrated way.

Then the final, the most evolved are those organizations – not only are able to deliver that level of joined up customer experience but they’re very much on the front foot. They’re looking to innovate on a continuous basis. They’re trying to create new forms and value for customers to possibly even changing their business models. They get it right the first time every time or as near as possible.

Also looking into the future to try and understand where my teams go, what could they harness to deliver maybe even better experience, whether that’s directly through multichannel kind of capabilities or even a new product, services at even greater value to their customers. So those are your four sorts of levels from departmental, multichannel, omnichannel and then what I’m calling customer-adaptive. OK.

[0:15:03] [Slide change 17]

Jeremy Cox: Here we go. So what recommendations do I have?

[0:15:07] [Slide change 18]

Jeremy Cox: OK. I think there are 10 or at least I identified 10 critical characteristics for omnichannel success and they sort of fall into three buckets if you like. First of all is recognize. Recognize the customer. Orchestration. So orchestrating the channels and the experience. So it’s seamless and rewarding and adapting because this is a continuously evolving environment.

So if we take it from the top, one of the hardest things to do especially in a consumer market is to actually identify the customer. But technologies are emerging now which help pull together the – if you like, the digital fragments that customers display. So that organizations can actually recognize the customer when they contact them.

Making interactions contextually relevant. So understanding about the customer, pulling together all the information an organization has on the customer and possibly even augmenting that referred party data to learn to fine-tune either next best actions or content, if you happen to be going on to a website.

You remember it’s the customer’s choice, so not forcing them down a particular channel, but actualy enabling them to contact the organization the way that is most convenient for them.

It’s going to include any combination of channels. So understanding how customers wish to interact with an organization is an essential part in order to determine what are the right combinations of channels. Of course as I said earlier, it’s about digital and physical. I mentioned two-way.

Continuity of experience. So as customers increasingly hop between channels, so that they don’t have to repeat themselves, that information should be there and it should be there in real time so that whoever is interacting with the customer can help solve the customer’s challenge.

Minimum customer effort, to make it as easy as possible and I’m increasingly seeing firms using things like not just NPS scores but also net easy scores to how they can – what was the – how easy was it to interact with the organization and then on the adapt side, it’s going to have the value chain pretty much integrated so that the brand promise can also be delivered.

Then in terms of being customer-adaptive. So this is really about continuously persistent relevance to the customer, being able to sense, respond and adapt at the right pace and frequency to remain relevant to customers and deliver the experience the customers increasingly expect to receive. So those are my – if you’re thinking about or developing an omnichannel strategy, then these are certainly 10 elements that you might want to consider. I guess there’s more but I think these are the ones that struck me as a good starting point.

[0:18:21] [Slide change 19]

Jeremy Cox: Then some fundamental principles should also guide development. So working from the outside in as it were, aligning around the customer, designing from the customer back. So you think about processes, making sure that they’re fit for purpose. Sensing the context and intent and acting on it, validating continuously and also fine-tuning the experience on a continuous basis and making it seamless and frictionless, by removing any obstacles to the customer interaction. Those should be some guiding principles I believe.

[0:18:57] [Slide change 20]

Jeremy Cox: And then finally depending on where you are, because not everyone is starting from the same position. If you’re one of the unfortunate organizations that is still very fragmented and siloed, then take a step back. Determine your longer term vision and I would say aim to achieve that third level, that omnichannel level. There’s no point just trying to take omnichannel by just bolting on additional channels.

If you’re a multichannel organization, that’s where you are now, then determine again your omnichannel vision. Understand customer journeys and try to develop a coherent and orchestrated capability across those channels and it may also involve significant changes in the organizational structure, so maybe organizing more around particular customers or customer segments including in fact the process – you know, could be a cultural challenge as well. So how serious is the organization about casting those? Is it putting customers first or second?

Then if you already made substantial omnichannel progress, then you look to expand your capabilities. You look to enrich the experience and maybe look at things like the Internet of Things as additional mechanisms for creating that better experience. Innovation is critical and developing as a competence within the organization is another major challenge. But certainly any organization that’s making a substantial progress in terms of omnichannel delivery should also in tandem develop the innovation competence.

Then finally customer adaptive. If you’re there, the first thing to do is to avoid arrogance because there’s nothing to stop you falling back, but extend your value paths through the Internet of Things, perhaps through immersive experiences that really sort of wow the customer and increase the pace of innovation and possibly even change business models.

There’s some sort of guidelines if you like. If you’re at the earliest stage in the departmental stage, you’ve got to get the basics, the foundations in place and then if you’re one of the more advanced organizations, then don’t rest on your laurels. So those are the recommendations I made.

[0:21:37] [Slide change 21]

Jeremy Cox: Now what I’m going to do is pass it over to Tom who can give you some perspectives from the market.

[0:21:48] [Slide change 22]

Tom Smith: Terrific. OK. Terrific. Thanks very much Jeremy and thanks again everyone for joining today. I’ve been in the business of providing technology-based solutions to customer service organizations for about 15 years or so. Over that time, I’ve gained a lot of insights from speaking with analysts in industries such as Jeremy, as well as some of our partners and vendors and even competitors but most importantly, from the business leaders at the enterprises who are there in the trenches delivering customer service.

So throughout all that, it’s always great to hear other perspectives and it’s great to hear when respected leaders in the industry like Jeremy make statements that corroborate what I believe to be correct. That was a great presentation, great to hear and I think that you will see throughout my slides here that Jeremy and I have many similar observations although arrived at independently.

[0:22:54] [Slide change 23]

Tom Smith: So that being said, let’s start out with talking about the customer because for all of the technology advances within customer care, leading to omnichannel, what’s most important is that serving the customer is really what is driving the new solution. So it’s not the availability of technology that is the most relevant. It is what do customers need, what do customers demand and what we’re seeing is that customers are requiring more and more to have a very personalized and consistent experience, consistent across channels. It doesn’t matter whether you start out with the telephone, with the web, with the mobile application, even visiting a retail location. You want some consistency across various touch points.

Also very importantly, we must adapt to the context of the individual customer and we must provide contextually relevant services based on not only who they are but what they might be doing at the time.

One final point on this slide that’s very important to note is that the bar is raised when your customers have a great experience with any enterprise. So they may be dealing with someone in a completely different industry. But if a consumer has a great experience with a retailer, then they grow to require and expect a similar level of service if they’re dealing with a bank or an airline or a rental car company or anyone else even in a different industry.

[0:24:49] [Slide change 24]

Tom Smith: Now what we’re also seeing, customers more and more are using different channels. If you look back just a few years, then the telephone was really the dominant channel for customer care and at that time, there was no web chat, no smartphone apps or social media and only a modest use of email and that has obviously changed significantly over the past decade where today digital interactions are accounting for more than one-third of all interactions and likely to overtake the voice channel within the next two years.

[0:25:34] [Slide change 25]

Not only are customers using more channels to interact but more and more frequently, they are switching between channels during what the consumers see as a single transaction or interaction and it’s imperative that we also view that as a similar interaction. If you have siloed services, then you can’t really view separate touch points as a combined interaction. So once again we go back to let’s serve customers the way they expect to be served.

Very often, customers do start out in the web before they – and attempt either to collect information or some type of self-service before they call into a contact center and beyond just the web and the contact center channels, looking across all channels, over 60 percent or about 60 percent of all customer interactions do involve multiple channels today. So this isn’t some hypothetical situation. This is where we are now and it’s only going to continue.

[0:26:48] [Slide change 26]

Tom Smith: Now, I’m hearing these types of stories not only from the industry analysts and not only from our own customers here at Verizon but then also looking at our contact centers which in addition to serving enterprises also serve consumers. So, all told across our consumer enterprise and wireless businesses for everything from telephony service to fiber optic TV, to high speed internet, to enterprise solutions. We operate almost 200 contact centers ourselves with more than 60,000 agents. So we not only are providing technology-based solutions to enterprises but we live these challenges ourselves. So we are also working to deploy services such as omnichannel solutions within our own contact centers.

[0:27:55] [Slide change 27]

Tom Smith: And all this experience has really led us to evolve our product portfolio over the years. We started out in the 1990s, really supporting customers through call centers and we don’t use the term “call center” very often anymore but at the time, everything really was focused on telephony. It was toll free calls and network IVRs and ACDs. By the early 2000s, this was evolving and we were seeing multimedia services. We were seeing a lot more adoption of cloud-based services. At the time, we used terms such as “network base” or “hosted” before the term “cloud” really came into vogue.

But that’s really when we started to see those types of services and then over the past few years, it has really evolved to where multichannel services are not good enough. It’s important not only to support customers through multiple channels but we’re also offering services that enable the continuity across channels, that enable personalized services that might be tailored more towards mobile customers and we will talk more about that and that are really based on providing proactive service that not only provide a better experience for the customers but also can improve contact center efficiencies. So, all of these trends have really led up to the focus on the omnichannel experience.

[0:29:48] [Slide change 28]

Tom Smith: So what is omnichannel? I don’t have a definition written out as Jeremy did. But I do see a lot of common ground here and there are some four tenets as to what constitutes an omnichannel solution as well as really some of the guiding principles for how we have to treat customers within an omnichannel environment.

So, for an omnichannel solution to exist, the real key is building the workflow once and so that you are sharing logic and these workflows across multiple channels. So a unified backend system that can be accessed through multiple channels deliver a consistent experience across those channels and then as noted a few minutes ago, moving not only into a unified experience but also more personalized experiences and more contextually relevant experiences.

In terms of the guiding principles, we do want to enable the consumer at all times to really be the one that selects the channel. We’ve seen a lot of things done right over the years, but we’ve also seen a lot of things done wrong over the years and we know that what frustrates customers more than anything else is number one, forcing them into a channel such as self-service when they don’t want to be in self-service.

Then number two, making them repeat information as Jeremy mentioned when they switch between channels. I think we’ve all experienced when we call into an IVR, provide information on our identity, our account, information, authentication, the reason for our call and then we go to an agent and have to repeat that information. So in an omnichannel experience, that should never happen.

[0:32:00] [Slide change 29]

Tom Smith: Now Jeremy shared his omnichannel maturity model. We’re viewing things somewhat similarly. This is just a different way to slice the onion here but really you can start out and most enterprises did start out in the 1990s as mentioned before with telephone-based customer care. Then when they moved to a multichannel environment rather than having the common backend, that actually created in many ways more problems for the customers because you ended up with a fragmented experience.

So moving from the “one size fits all” interaction to multiple channels and then finally to where you can have personalized interactions. So we’re looking not only at cross-channel. We’re also looking at using available data about the customer, which may come from multiple sources to really tailor that experience and base it not only on who they are but what they might be doing at the time.

So the key technologies underlying the omnichannel vision. Number one, that integrated backend platform. Number two, the customer journey mapping and as Jeremy pointed out, journey mapping is not really just a one-time exercise but by really understanding and continually reviewing how customers interact and move through the different channels that are part of your solution.

You can not only update your services but that journey mapping can also help you prioritize what is the most important solution or part of the solution to work on first. Omnichannel doesn’t have to be and in most cases won’t be implemented all at once.

Then finally, the analytics are the third key underlying piece, which enable the personalization and the contextual relevance.

[0:34:22] [Slide change 30]

Tom Smith: Now, having noted that you don’t have to start or you don’t have to plunge into omnichannel all at once, it can be a rather ambitious goal. Many customers ask, “Where is a good place to start?” and it certainly will vary from customer to customer. But in many cases, tying together the mobility channel and the contact center channel represents a major step forward toward achieving the omnichannel vision.

We all know that mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous. Ninety percent of the population has access to at least one mobile phone and that’s much, much higher as you probably would expect than landline phone penetration. Not only is there a high penetration rate for mobile phones but the majority of those are now smartphones. Just four years ago, only about one-third of Americans owned smartphones. It’s up now to nearly two-thirds and continuing to grow.

Finally, on the left here, we see as a result of these trends that customers are using their mobile devices to try to get service either through an agent with some type of assisted service, through self-service on the mobile phone, which could include an application. It could be a mobile webpage. It could be some type of hybrid solution or engaging not only through voice with a representative but also through other means such as SMS and text.

So, all of those methods of engaging with a mobile phone are up significantly in terms of customer preference over the past five years whereas some of the more traditional means, most notably voice calls from the home telephone, have dropped dramatically.

[0:36:27] [Slide change 31]

Tom Smith: So one final thought that I would like to leave you with, Jeremy had mentioned silos and I see this myself when I’m out talking with business leaders among our enterprise customers. All too often, we will start a conversation and they will say, “Well, the solution that you’re mapping out here is great. But we’re the contact center people. You also need to bring in the mobility people. So let’s schedule another meeting,” or they might say, “Not only do we have a digital channels group but we have multiple organizations that are developing their own mobile apps.”

If that is what your organization looks like, you really should think about the best way to structure the organization around the customer needs rather than your own view or your own technology. A customer-focused view would start and many times with a customer experience executive who oversees the various channels, the contact center, the digital channels and perhaps other means of interacting.

So in many cases, the primary obstacle to implementing an omnichannel solution is not the technology itself but it’s the organizational structure. So with that, I would like to hand it back over and I think we can start addressing some of the questions you might have.

[0:38:12] [Slide change 32]

Lee Judge: OK, thank you. I will take the controls again and so – OK, thank you for your valuable insights on omnichannel customer engagement, both Jeremy and Tom. Due to the high participation in the webinar, we’re going to answer as many questions as possible from the Q and A window and the remaining will be responded to you directly after the event or after the event regarding your questions via email.

With that, we will answer a few questions that have already been added to the Q and A window. Gentlemen, please be open to interrupt me at any moment, to pick a question you would like out of the Q and A window and I will start with one that came in earlier.

Now the first question here says, “Where are most organizations today on the maturity curve for omnichannel?”

Jeremy Cox: Shall I pick up that one? I mean what we’re seeing is the majority are still behind the curve when it comes to developing a robust omnichannel capability. Fortunately, I think it’s a smaller proportion of organizations that are sort of haunted by silos. I think silos are beginning to break down now.

But I think the vast majority of organizations are still trying to sort of go from basically being relatively integrated to actually trying to orchestrate the customer experience and move to beyond multichannel if you like. So I would say majority of multichannels still struggling with that, trying to turn it into omnichannel.

Far fewer organizations have really mastered it and I’m not really surprised. It’s – I think it’s a substantial and complex challenge and as I sort of indicated earlier, it does require huge amounts of cross-organizational collaborations to make it work effectively. Tom pointed that out as well. So that’s my sort of view on that.

Tom Smith: Yeah. What I have been observing is the good news is that most organizations seem to realize that this is what they need to do. They are seeing that their customers are interacting with them through multiple channels and that having implemented a multichannel solution has led to as many problems. That might be a stretch but has led to many problems just as it has helped to provide better service by allowing the user to select the channel.

So that’s the good news. They do realize that they really need to focus on providing that single customer journey across multiple channels. But realizing it, well, an important first step is a long way from getting it done. So I think that will see a lot of implementations that I’ve seen. A handful of enterprises that are really starting to implement a true omnichannel solution, very few are all the way there yet and I think over the next year, we will see a lot more.

Lee Judge: OK, excellent. I have a question here along the same lines. Tom, you may want to answer. It says, when moving to omnichannel, can we leverage the mobile and contact center services we’ve already developed or do we need to start over?

Tom Smith: Yeah, that’s a great question and in most cases, organizations will be able to leverage what they already have in place. It would certainly be a discouraging and a big hit on ROI to have to throw away solutions that have already been developed.

So if you have – if you’re offering a bad customer experience today, it might make sense to scrap some of what you’ve done and start over. But if you have a good experience that just isn’t meeting the objective of the seamless experience, you probably have something really good to start with. So the key then is implementing the time together, everything on the backend with common customer touch point database and tying together data that you might have in various sources today, to really make better use of some of the data analytics tools that are available to drive up more personalized and contextually relevant experience.

Lee Judge: OK, excellent. This next question I think you both touched on a bit. The attendee asked, “The words ‘multichannel’ and ‘omnichannel’ are often used interchangeably. Is there industry standard use of these and what is the difference between them?”

Jeremy Cox: Good point. I don’t know about you Tom but I don’t think there are any industry standards or accepted definitions. I think it’s still a relatively new concept and that’s why I think it’s so important to – whatever you call it. I’ve also heard cross-channel used and so whatever you happen to call it as long as you define it and that when you’re trying to create this environment for much better customer engagement, that everyone has the same understanding.

Then I saw the same thing with CRM which sort of started off with a grandiose – it’s going to change the entire enterprise and then after about 20 years, it has kind of been distilled to a little more than salesforce automation with a bit of sort of marketing thrown in and possibly some service. So I do think it’s important to nail your definition, whatever you happen to call it. These are just labels at the end of the day.

But to my mind, the difference between the two is I see multichannel as being – as a kind of the name suggests, lots of channels but not necessarily joined up whereas omnichannel has seen more about this – you know, being able to – enabling the customer to hop between channels without having to repeat themselves or answer a whole load of – the same information yet again. So that’s I think the main difference. Tom, I don’t know what your feelings are.

Tom Smith: Yes. I certainly agree and omnichannel, sometimes there are buzzwords out there and jargon that turn people off a bit and the definitions can be nebulous but I think that your definition there on one of your slides Jeremy was a terrific one and I think that you nailed it. To me, the term “omnichannel” seemed to come into vogue a couple of years ago, about the same time we were hearing another phrase very frequently, and that was “customer journey”.

So the idea is seamless customer journey across these multiple channels. I think it’s the real distinction and then we’ve layered on a few other concepts here, both of us in this discussion with personalization and contextual relevance. But I think really that seamless journey across channels is a big distinction.

Lee Judge: Let me combine a few questions here. Once the company has defined their own definition of omnichannel, who within the company or what department within the company should own omnichannel?

Jeremy Cox: Good question. My perspective on this is that given the level of cross-organizational coherence as I sort of pointed out in the maturity model that’s required, if the CEO isn’t keeping a good watchful eye on this, then I think that’s almost sort of gross dereliction of duty. Going back to that PWC research, if they’re worried about customer behaviors, which they should be, and how those are changing, then really they’ve got to – create the conditions where the organization can get its act together as quickly as possible.

Now I’m not saying that the CEO is going to be involved on a day to day basis, but they should certainly put somebody in charge with the cross-organizational perspective and I’ve seen it to be chief customer officer. That’s quite relatively common.

It could even be the chief operating officer, somebody who has got cross-organizational cloud and certainly support from the CEO. But underneath, there will probably be a fairly extensive team representing different parts of the organization and figuring out what it is that they’re trying to deliver which kind of comes back to the previous question on where are we aiming. What is the definition?

So to my mind, you’re not going to see a lot of success unless the CEO keeps a very regular watchful eye to remove some of the barriers or especially sort of the silo barriers if you like within the organization.

Lee Judge: OK.

Tom Smith: Yes. I’ve even seen some organizations that have created the position, a C-level position of chief customer experience officer. I think we will be seeing more of that. I mentioned that in order to be successful at a minimum, you need to bring the contact center and digital channel people to the table together even if they don’t report up the chain to the same place. So hopefully they will, but short of that, you at least need to bring both those organizations together and then depending on the organization for retailers, there are going to be other marketing and operations people who play a big stake in providing that consistent brand experience.

Lee Judge: OK.

Jeremy Cox: [0:49:01] [Inaudible] things like sort of journey mapping can help in terms of getting people started, getting them to see the problem from the – or the challenge from the customer’s perspective. I think that’s a great starting point.

Lee Judge: All right. We’re going to begin to wrap up. We will take about two or three more questions. We have a large number of attendees and the questions are still coming in on this topic. This is awesome. But we’re going to wrap up with about two to three more questions. I will combine a few to give you guys some conversation points to summarize.

A couple of them are about measurement of omnichannel. So one asked about, “Do you include social media interactions in your interaction statistics?” and also, “What are your recommendations for metrics for measuring success of an omnichannel strategy?”

Jeremy Cox: Excellent question. It also leads to the continuous sort of feedback from what’s actually happening with customers, which can help refine things. So success could be measured in a number of ways. I would certainly start with how does the customer actually feel about it. What’s their experience of it? How easy is it? So Net Promoter Score seems to be pretty much the default mission and has been for a while. But I think there also needs to be added to things like – seeing this sort of Net Easy Scores. So how easy was it for the individual customer to actually achieve what they’re trying to achieve? What barriers were in place? So I think that’s important.

I also think it’s important to look at what’s going on in the social sphere as well. So sentiment analysis is – it provides another form of measurement. I don’t think there’s a single silver bullet. It’s a collection of metrics that needs to be captured I think to help sort of triangulate on what is the real situation as far as the customer is concerned.

Of course there are financial aspects too. So what difference does it make to the organization? Is the impact having the desired effect? It’s – are there now more advocates from customers? Are they helping to spread the face [0:51:37] [Phonetic] as it were? How long have customers stayed with the organization? There’s a whole variety of different measurements I think.

Lee Judge: OK. This one I think is – go ahead Tom.

Tom Smith: I’m sorry. I was just going to chime in. I certainly agree and I think that Net Promoter Score is a good one that really kind of captures customer response in a way that some of the more traditional metrics don’t. I’ve seen – as well as I was thinking of customer churn and I think Jeremy mentioned customer retention. But that’s certainly one as well and it – there might be various factors contributing to churn levels. But we’ve certainly seen from many different surveys that – what affects churn far more than satisfaction with an actual product is satisfaction with the service that organizations provide around that product and that’s what leads to retention and repeat purchases.

We’re certainly seeing organizations focus on these types of customer satisfaction metrics much more so than in the past where there was so much reliance on contact center efficiency types of metrics such as average handle time and first contact resolution.

Lee Judge: I have a question along those lines for you Tom. They mentioned they like the maturity models that you both showed. They want someone to speak on how you’ve captured business value in the model. Specifically, what were the benefits for Verizon to move in this direction and how did you measure and capture the value?

Tom Smith: Yes. So Verizon within our own contact centers has provided service across multiple channels for several years and so we also – we recognized that there was some frustration among customers who might start out in the digital channels of – either on the web or within one of our apps and then call into the contact center and ask why we didn’t already understand what their problem was.

So we started to implement customer touch point database on the backend and frankly I’m not sure that I can point to these specific metrics. I’m not in the contact center operations team myself.

So I’m more focused on delivering solutions to our enterprise customers but I’ve certainly had a lot of conversations with our own contact centers operation team. They’ve indicated that they have seen an improvement in Net Promoter Score and our churn levels remain excellent among the best in the industry.

Lee Judge: All right, very good. Well, one last question that I’m sure is a magic question to all of this. The question is, “How do companies justify the cost of implementing omnichannel solutions?”

Tom Smith: OK. I will start out with that one and Jeremy, please feel free to chime in. What I’ve seen once again, a few years ago, it seemed that enterprises really viewed customer service or the contact center in particular as a cost center.

So there has always been that focus on cost containment and now I think, well, that hasn’t completely gone away. There is much more – a much more balanced focus on delivering a great customer experience combined with containing the cost within the contact center.

So you can start out by justifying an omnichannel investment just based on some of the hard numbers, some of the more traditional metrics, such as a reduction in average handle time. As you have agent-assisted calls and the agent is able to see who the caller is, what they might have been doing in another channel before they reached out to the contact center. That enables the agent to handle the calls much more efficiently.

So just from that, the hard cost savings along those lines, that provides some pretty good justification in many cases. However, as we discussed a few minutes ago and earlier in the presentations, a lot of the benefit is not so much just the cost containment. It is the improvement in customer satisfaction which leads to customer loyalty, reduced churn, reduced cost for having to acquire new customers, to replace the ones you lost and improve revenue. Those are a bit harder to pinpoint in the business case but those are very real benefits that I think a lot of organizations are recognizing.

Lee Judge: All right, excellent.

Jeremy Cox: I would agree with you Tom. I think the other thing I would say is going back to that slide about average lifetime of an organization. It’s getting pretty scary. I think to some extent, it’s almost a long way of looking at it. I think first of all, it’s about survival. I don’t think organizations in a few years that aren’t able to offer what customers expect will stay in business very long.

So to some extent, I think you need to – first of all, you need to recognize the challenge and how critical it is and then of course as you developed your omnichannel capabilities, then yes, we measure them and monitor them and understand how things are working or where they’re not working and what the financial impact is, but also what the impact is on the customer because at the end of the day, if the customer is not happy, they will go elsewhere. So …

Lee Judge: Very good.

Jeremy Cox: In my sort of view.

Lee Judge: All right. Well, thank you for your enlightening information gentlemen on the rules of omnichannel customer engagement. We’re going to wrap up our webinar now.

Thanks again to Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst at Ovum and Tom Smith, Manager of Customer Experience at Verizon. If there are any questions that we were unable to answer today during today’s session, we will respond directly to them after the event. We hope you have gained viable insight into omnichannel customer engagement and how easily you can utilize it to enhance your organization’s customer service.

A replay of the event will be available soon on along with the download link to the presentation. In addition, you will also receive an email with the download link for the Omnichannel Playbook, a document that will help you continue into your omnichannel engagement journey. Once again, thank you for attending today. Please join us again and come visit us at and have a wonderful day.

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