The folks at Enghouseinteractive asked me via Twitter how important an omni-channel experience is to my customers. Despite a very short answer (it depends) and Twitter’s new 10,000 character service, here’s a more complete response.

omnichannel

An omni-channel experience is more appropriate for B2C (business to consumer) companies. The benefits of doing it well are amazing because it can generate high loyalty and decrease sales costs through word of mouth marketing.  Poorly executing an omni-channel experience is costly for the same reasons in reverse – low loyalty and poor WOM marketing lead to higher sales costs as companies try to overcome a bad reputation.  (Here’s a brief example of the differences between two car rental brands, Avis and National.)

On the other hand, a B2B (business to business) company is more likely to require multi-channel, but not an omni-channel strategy. For example, in a pre-sales scenario, neither Twitter nor Facebook will be used to drum up interest in purchasing Boeing’s aircraft engines. And in a post-sales scenario, Boeing is unlikely to rely on these channels to receive and respond to issues with their engines.  But Boeing is likely to have a phone number to call in the event of emergencies and to have a feature-rich customer portal. Creating an omni-channel experience for Boeing’s customers is wasted effort (read: money) because it doesn’t engage with them where and how they want to engage.

Here are some issues companies face regarding which strategy to choose:

  1. Companies should deliver service in ways that are demanded by their customer
  2. Customers want what they want when they want it – meaning one-size will definitely NOT fit all
  3. An omni-channel strategy is more costly, though perhaps more valuable, to deliver than a single or multi-channel experience
  4. Some customers are willing to pay more for better service
  5. Customers have different expectations regarding what constitutes the “right” experience (see this infographic from Kissmetrics)

Signs that an omni-channel strategy may be right for your company:

  1. Every other company in your market already does this (table stakes)
  2. Your products have a relatively small purchase price (coffee or internet services, not aircraft)
  3. Shorter sales cycles take minutes and days not months and years
  4. Low cost to switch vendors/providers – investing in more value may help keep customers
  5. Low price elasticity – you can potentially charge more for different services
  6. Your company is willing to “do it” right. I am not a fan of omni-channel done poorly. (Confession, I’m not a fan of anything done poorly.)

In summary, the smaller the purchase amount and the shorter the sales cycle, the more likely that a company needs and will benefit from an omni-channel experience.  These companies have more to gain by implementing such a strategy well and also MUCH more to LOSE if they stumble.

This time, I rely on The Kinks to sum up the pivot point with a verse from their 1981 song, “Give the people what they want.”

Give the people what they want
You give the people what they want
The more they get, the more they need
And every time they get harder and harder to please

When to Implement an Omni-channel Customer Experience
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