Ten years ago, a comprehensive channel strategy meant offering customers the choice of face-to-face, phone or email, and it was driven by the objective of engaging with as broad a range of customer segments as possible. Today, channel strategy is driven by continually evolving technologies and heightened customer expectations across multiple channels resulting in ever changing requirement and increased cost and risk issues. As communications technology has evolved, customers have come to demand in their transactions with product and service providers, simplicity and convenience which has led to organisations adopting an omni-channel approach and the need for better structure and approach to handling multiple channels.
Defining an omni-channel approach
Omni-channel or ‘every channel’ means more than engaging with customers via multiple media. A true omni-channel approach is about offering a consistently high level of service, however the customer chooses to engage with an organisation. Successfully achieving omni-channel delivery requires that organisations align service delivery across an increasingly diverse range of media, including (but not limited to):
This approach not only increases customer choice, but makes engagement easier and simpler for customers. It makes communication more convenient and more effective, which means customer interactions add greater value and support closer customer relationships.
Closer integration between front and back office
To achieve this level of consistency in service provision requires close integration between the front and back office, and this can pose a real challenge, because back office tasks are frequently far more complex than front office operations, requiring greater resources and lengthier time to complete. Workflows and schedules must be well co-ordinated so that front office staff have visibility of how customer queries are being managed, how applications are progressing, and how issues are being resolved. Without this information, the front office is unable to effectively manage customer expectations, and as a result, service delivery falls away.
Any lack of collaboration between front and back office will quickly become apparent to customers. So an omni-channel approach requires significant investment into co-ordinating the efforts of front and back office teams, and to improving communications between departments. It also requires a change in culture and mindset, as front and back office operations begin to merge together.
The benefits of omni-channel service delivery
The customer benefits of successfully achieving an omni-channel approach are significant – greater convenience and enhanced service levels across all channels.
The benefits to the organisation are equally compelling – greater operational agility, higher levels of service and stronger customer relationships for competitive advantage. As more businesses recognise the value of taking an omni-channel approach, doing so becomes a necessity, as consistent delivery of service excellence across all channels becomes a critical success factor in every sector.
This is part 4 of a 6 part series on back office optimisation. Click here to read post 5 which explores the pains that back office optimisation removes and the barriers that stand in the way of achieving operational excellence.