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Consumers demand omnichannel control as channel choice changes moment to moment

Published: Friday, 18 November 2016 by Katharine Hulls, VP Marketing
Digital Intelligence

Celebrus has been talking about “individuals” for a long while now.  We came up with our “Because customers are individuals” tagline not long after I joined the company back in 2011 and it’s more relevant than ever today.  Over the last five years organisations have really grasped that they need to think about their CUSTOMERS and not their channels.  This customer-centric thinking, driven by consumer demands, supported by the likes of Forrester’s “Age of the Customer” research and enabled by the data and technologies available now, is the absolute epicentre of many organisations’ thinking today.  No longer do I or my colleagues need to convince people about the need to understand and treat customers as coherent, “always on” individuals and interact with them in a real-time, seamless, omnichannel way.  That’s well understood and organisations are working through the cultural changes and technology infrastructure required to meet that goal.

So, the change in thinking from channels and personas to individuals has made great moves forwards.  But last week I had an interesting discussion about the nature of individuals which moves the conversation, and potentially the one-to-one communications complexity, onwards again.  I was on a panel at the launch of the Omnichannel Management Alliance, a bringing together of technology and consulting partners to help mobile network operators treat their customers in a real-time, on-demand and one-to-one manner.  During the launch meeting of this alliance, created by telco industry giant Huawei, we had a panel session looking at the nature and need for omnichannel and the value it can provide operators in customer acquisition, retention and churn reduction.  During the panel a conversation evolved around the changing nature of individuals – not just at various life stages but right down to different times of the day.  

By way of example I talked about a problem I’d had with a delivery from an online retailer.  The morning after the issue I was at my computer so started an online chat with them to raise my problem.  That worked well in terms of the instant real-time response I received and the fact that I had time to engage in a live discussion.  We hadn’t quite resolved the issue when I had to go onto a conference call so couldn’t chat anymore (yes I actually had to concentrate on the call), so instead I sent them an email.  My switching of channels was very helpful to me as it suited what was going on in my life at that very moment, and helpful for the retailer who had to go and find out some information to resolve the issue.  Of course I expected the retailer to be able to piece together my email conversation with the live chat discussion, which they did, but what I most appreciated was my ability to choose the most appropriate channel to me at that very point in time, regardless of the channel that I initiated the conversation through.  

This constantly changing nature of channel choice, literally from moment to moment, was something that we felt as a panel was understood but perhaps not really focused on.  As marketers we have absolutely grasped real-time, omnichannel, one-to-one, self-service and all those other concepts, however some persona-based thinking still pervades e.g. all millennials use live chat.  Yes some will, sometimes, but then they might swap to email if they are going to be offline for a while, or call the contact centre while they are waiting for the train.  At the crux is that consumers of any age expect, nay demand, to have control and choice of the channels and those choices can change multiple times a day, week etc.  If we are to become truly customer-centric the idea of optimising channels needs to think not just about preferred channels for specific individuals, but also how those channel preferences might change during any period of time including moment to moment.  Perhaps it’s time to change our tagline to “Because customers jump channels like fleas”.  Hmmm… maybe not!



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