“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” That’s what Henry Ford said about the Model T back in 1909 before consumers had endless product choices. Before those endless choices could be ordered online or in person, personalized, picked up from a store or delivered to the doorstep. And, that digital content like videos, tips, tricks, live chat and even chatbots could support the purchasing process and improve product understanding and satisfaction. In fact, it is an experience no one conceived even just 20 years ago. But today, using the web, social media and other technologies, organizations can create an omnichannel experience. One that serves customer needs from search to post purchase evaluation, delivering customer value and increasing company revenue.
Create An Omnichannel Experience
An effective ominchannel provide your customers with a seamless experience. But executing that experience requires more than technology. Instead, it blends technology with a workflow that increases your:
- Purchase and service convenience
- Ease of use
Customers want to connect with you in the way that’s most convenient for them. In fact, the hands-on value a knowledgeable sales rep brings to an unsure customer is essential for some, just as others prefer an online do-it-yourself tool.
And, regardless of where the interaction takes place, they want you to remember when the conversation flips to another channel.
Developing an omnichannel strategy can help you deliver that experience.
Developing an effective experience requires the right combination of an effective staff and appropriate technology. In fact, given consumers’ purchasing habits today, reachability and purchase and service convenience are impossible without it. So, integrating the right technology into your workflows is the first step.
Online Ordering Tools
Regardless of whether you sell stock products or engage entirely in custom work, there are web tools that allow customers to leverage those capabilities online.
If you have a WordPress site, plugins such as Woocommerce, Cart66 and WP E-commerce are viable options. If you don’t use WordPress or need a more powerful tool, Shopify, Bigcommerce and Magento are all cost-effective alternatives. Plus, incorporating mobile-responsive shopping carts connects you to the 10-20% of users who engage through their mobile devices.
Live chat tools deliver multiple benefits. If you do employe an online ordering tool, it provides the consumer an easy way to get answers as they consider a purchase. In addition, when prospects are just learning about your capabilities, live chat allows you to engage with prospects that otherwise would remain anonymous. Furthermore, live chat applications typically drive higher sales conversion rates.
Podium, Zendesk Chat, Live Engage and more are options that work across multiple channels including websites, social media and text messaging. You can configure them so the app is only available when your staff is available. But, one word of caution: consumers are impatient, an immediate response is important to most customers.
My sister-in-law spends a few hours a day on Facebook. It’s her source for national and local news. Plus, she uses it for learning about products and obtaining customer support. Perhaps your customers are LinkedIn power users instead of Facebook fanatics. Or, maybe they are old school and just like face-to-face interactions.
It’s true, not all of your customers use social media to interact with a company. But, some do. So determine which channels your customers participate in. Then develop a plan to provide support when they need it. For example, order confirmations, delivery schedules and troubleshooting guides are common requests of current customers. And, product and service information that educates, answers questions and helps formulate decisions are needs of prospects.
Serving your audience in their preferred channels, with the materials they need at their stage of the purchasing process, will help you deliver an effective omnichannel experience.
We brew a fresh pot of coffee almost every day. But, even though I’m 100% sure I measured the coffee-to-water ratio correctly this morning, the coffee tasted terrible. It turns out we had a “slime” build up on the filter. Fortunately, Cuisinart provided instructions on how to eliminate the problem. The ease of solving the problem, coupled with our good experience since our initial purchase, translates into a high probability that we will purchase a new Cuisinart model when this one stops working.
Today, products that elevate the customer experience are more than the physical item or service. It includes information that’s associated with the products and services. For example, an up-to-date knowledge base makes it convenient for a customer to help themselves without needing to reach out for help. Potential content might include specification guides, paper selection tools, design tips, freight calculators and more.
Plus, according to James Martin, Executive Vice President of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, "People don’t know how they want to access information until they need it. At that moment, they want it in the form that best fits their needs. That could be print, website information, e-commerce, a blog post, social media and more. And that means you need to make sure your message is available in various forms that allow a prospect to access it in the way they prefer."
Content complements the value of your physical products and services.
Personalization is more than just using the customer’s first name in an email. Instead, it’s a collection of information obtained throughout the customer relationship that helps you provide the best possible customer experience. By doing so you are better positioned to provide relevant suggestions or more informed support.
Plus, in the eyes of the customer, personalization, done in the right way, can serve as a sign of respect for their loyalty and business. It also signals that your business is interested in strengthening the relationship by continuously working to provide better service, suggestions, support and more.
Furthermore, you benefit from taking this same approach towards prospects. Although your knowledge of their wants, needs and challenges isn’t as great, you can impact the relationship and bring them closer to purchasing from you.
There are many avenues for collecting and leveraging customer data such as customer relationship management or contact management software. Something as simple as a shared inbox for your customer service department and sales team serves as a great first step.
One Bite At A Time
Prospects and customers interact with you in various ways. The amount and type of interactions vary depending upon your business. So, chart the interactions. Define the steps you perform effectively today and the gaps that impact your reachability, purchase and service convenience, and ease of use. Then take the steps to fill in those gaps and create an omnichannel experience that attracts more prospects and strengthens relationships with current customers.
Understanding the customer experience is the starting point to effective omnichannel communications.