How B2B Can Build An Effective Omnichannel Strategy and Management System 🏭
Customers now have an unparalleled number of ways to communicate with businesses, from brick-and-mortar channels to a vast array of digital modes. So, how should companies identify the real needs and preferences of their customers across omnichannel journeys? Is developing an omnichannel strategy helpful for businesses today? How can businesses be effective in omnichannel strategy and management?
Oftentimes, B2B companies fall short across digital channels. For one, it’s just not their area of expertise. B2B tends to be traditional sales organisations rather than high-tech digital and marketing organisations. And two, many B2B firms still haven’t done the hard work of finding out what their customers really want or need from them in their existing business model. Let alone understanding what their customers need and prefer across omnichannel journeys.
Many B2B firms, for example, assumed like so many of their B2C counterparts did, that as customers became more tech-savvy, they’d also prefer digital channels over traditional sales and customer services channels. The common assumption appears to be that digital was going to reduce the need for staff in customer care and sales. Saving, in turn, B2B firms considerable costs and manpower.
However, the number shows a different reality and the expected cost savings of 40% has not come to pass. B2B customer interactions with customer services are actually increasing in frequency rather than declining in spite of remarkable efforts and resources in online channels and digital.
The real problem now is that customer care and sales are under-resourced and firms are investing multi-million dollars in a new omnichannel strategy and management that looks likely to fail. Even Amazon had a wake-up call in terms of their omnichannel strategy and management. Like everyone else, they believed digital was the only way forward. However, they soon learned that it wasn’t as easy as that.
For example, Amazon found that despite their huge digital presence and ongoing investment, customers still regularly called customer services with questions, queries and problems to solve. In response, Amazon sought to improve its self-service and e-care capabilities, but with a big difference. Since customers were still looking for a live agent on the phone, Amazon re-directed customers to the channels best suited to the customers’ queries and preferences. While, at the same time, providing live interactions and company-initiated contact digitally via chat rooms and forums.
So regardless of being a digital leader, Amazon was able to come up with an omnichannel customer-care strategy where live agents prominently take care of complex requests, show empathy, and resolve issues right away.
In this article, we will continue to discuss how B2B can create an effective omnichannel strategy and management for their firms and customers.
We argue that companies seeking to keep pace with industry leaders must embark on an omnichannel transformation first. One that views customer touchpoints with the organisation not in isolation but as part of a seamless customer journey.
We believe that an omnichannel transformation is the only way for a company to address rising complexity, provide an excellent customer experience, and manage operations costs.
At the end of the article, you will understand what an effective omnichannel strategy and management looks and sounds like.
How to capture what the customer really wants
When developing new e-commerce or digital strategy, B2B firms often assume that they know enough about what their customers really care about when very often they don’t. The common assumption has been to invest 100% in digital. Firms tend to overestimate how much their customers want digital and underappreciate that what their customers actually want is an omnichannel marketing strategy and live agents to handle their customer service-related issues. We believe that this assumption alone is preventing the business from developing an effective omnichannel strategy and management plan for their customers.
Assumption-led omnichannel strategy and management decisions are a big mistake. We find, for example, that B2B companies that do this either over-invested in digital and/or under-invested in customer services. Their customer care teams are oftentimes left with under-resourced teams using basic approaches to resolve increasingly more difficult customers’ issues. They become overstretched, tired and worn out. And, over time, are dealing with admin issues rather than actually fixing and addressing their customer problems. The business loses customers.
Consider instead collecting direct and real-time feedback from customers to better understand what matters most to them. If you take the other tac (assumption over evidence), the result very often for B2B is an e-commerce site that doesn’t get the traction or pull expected. Or omnichannel experiences that are not resonant with their customers.
What businesses should do when launching a new e-commerce site?
How do you avoid these common mistakes? Pay attention to the customer journey and how your customers want to interact with the business. Here’s a tip to get started: Customer expectations in service journeys fall into three categories, find out where your customers fit.
- Immediacy and flexibility – involves minimal processing time, responsiveness, and needs-based service.
- Dependability and transparency – includes bold outreach and communication.
- Proper communication and empathy – consist of complete competence, personal attention, care, and clarity.
In addition, not all of the factors mentioned above contribute equally to the overall experience. Therefore, focusing on the most important elements is vital. One interesting survey, for example, reveals that customers don’t mind longer wait times. As long as they receive constant updates and are made aware of why issues take longer to resolve. And customers are unsatisfied when they obtain quick responses but only a little information on the issue at hand.
How to create an omnichannel strategy successfully
The various functions that customer care handles (both internal and on the customer side) can be overwhelming. However, by creating some variables on what good looks like and establishing priorities by customer group, companies will know where to direct the right resources. What’s more, business managers will be able to answer critical business questions in advance of launching new digital and care strategies.
So how do business leaders invest appropriately in the right omnichannel strategy?
There are 4 steps to achieving a successful omnichannel transformation for a B2B business and we’ll go through them now:
Develop a strategy and layout principles
B2B firms want to start by creating a set of guiding value-based principles that paint a vision of how to deliver a superior experience and how these interactions make their customers feel. These principles will help guide B2B firms when they go on designing customer and service journeys that hit the right balance of speed, interaction and transparency in each channel. Attaining in turn a successful interaction of live and digital channels that suit both the customer and the business.
Plan service journeys
Before, developing an end-to-end service journey across live and digital channels, B2B firms want to carefully analyse and gain visibility into different customer personas. Once developed, map personas and journeys appropriately. Considering, in turn, the migration of different customer groups to different channels to guarantee smooth handoffs.
Note: customer preferences are not all the same and vary by segment. They will evolve continually based on the channels available, demographic changes, and other factors.
- Embrace a culture of customer orientation across the organisation
An effective omnichannel strategy and management require a customer-oriented culture. B2B wants every level of the business to connect to a new vision for change – a single contributor to the CEO. Through this connection, people can embrace a shared culture of customer orientation. When the will and the understanding of change are there, it is then important to get the right people together to execute your new omnichannel strategy and management across 3 core areas.
- Process improvement: Smart process redesign enables customer care agents and managers to move more quickly, improve transparency, and make sure frontline methods and actions are aligned with overall business objectives.
- Organisational capability: The workforce should possess the right service skill sets.
- A value-based omnichannel framework: All the efforts need to be supported by ingenious and logical foundational capabilities
- Develop an IT architecture
Once you have set up your framework and invested in organisational capability and skills, you’ll need a consolidated IT architecture. Namely, an IT framework that can help teams to provide a seamless experience for their customers.
This IT architecture consists of the following:
- omnichannel desktop
- omnichannel platform
- and back-end interfaces.
Note: we will discuss this part more in a future article.
Discussion: Omnichannel Strategy and Management
Superior customer care is greatly dependent on digital performance. And premature implementation of digital care channels can lead to increased transactions. Which means that businesses that attempt to shift customers to digital channels prematurely can activate the “boomerang effect”; where customers go back to a company many times to get a resolution about a problem. Why is this so? Because customer care usually uses standard processes to resolving customer problems that aren’t based on the actual needs and preferences of the customer.
Businesses that acknowledge the need for customer care and digital will be the firms that capture the lion’s share of the market; and simply by giving customers what they really want, when they want it.
- Digital channels have totally changed the ways that customers like to interact. Customers now want to interact with businesses through various channels, not just online.
- Superior customer care is greatly dependent on digital performance. Companies that try to move customers to digital channels before they are totally ready can set off the “boomerang effect”; where customers keep coming back to a company several times to have their problems resolved.
- Individual interactions should be viewed through the lens of the end-to-end customer journey. This means accepting that the whole customer journey will be bigger than the total of its parts. Not just online or customer care. But rather, a careful balance of each; set up based on the needs of the customers (as opposed to the assumptions of key executives).
Digital channels have totally changed the ways that customers prefer to communicate or interact. The increasing number of digital channels has made the journey to omnichannel more difficult.
B2B may like to consider gathering direct, up-to-date feedback from customers to understand what matters most to them. Because not all factors as discussed above (Immediacy and flexibility, Dependability and transparency, Proper communication and empathy) equally contribute to the overall experience. Therefore, zeroing in on the most vital factors or combination of factors is significant.
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