Most companies are still in a legacy multi-channel service delivery mode, with clunky experience within individual channels, let along across them. The good news is that many have recognised the importance of good customer experience and are looking to change it.
To get there, most appear to be leveraging the same legacy platforms that were built for another purpose, in another time, and pinning all their hopes on an API layer to enable them to deliver differentiated customer experiences.
While this approach may get them up to speed, it is a trend that is between 5–10 years old.
With the speed of digital disruption, maybe it’s time to sit back and consider where this digital age is heading and try to be at the forefront of that change. In a few years when we look back at those who are riding the wave of personalised services and those stuck in the current era, the difference will be so stark, they will become the Kodak cautionary tale of today.
Drivers of this change
The number one driver of change is the exponential increase in the sophistication and proliferation of technology. We have seen as much disruption to the way we live, work and communicate in the last 20 years with the advent of the Digital Age, than was seen in almost 500 years of the Industrial Age.
The third wave has already begun, leveraging early inroads into Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, IoT and Wearables. We are seeing a trend towards capturing customer data not only during interactions with specific touch points, but rather at every moment of the day with always-on mobile, smart home and smart car technologies. This data can be collated and analysed in real time to deliver highly personalised products and services to us, wherever we are.
What’s wrong with Omni-Channel?
The problem that existing organisations face, is that they are trying to transition from a multi-channel experience to an omni-channel experience. To achieve this, they are retrofitting their existing IT architecture and processes with an extremely complex web of backend connection points and handoffs to enable a seamless customer experience.
This complex web makes it:
• More likely to break
• Expensive to maintain and support
• Difficult to iterate the experience since you will need to unpick or iterate each connection point
• Difficult to collect, store and analyse customer data without a centralised platform
• Significant wasted effort of multiple teams redesigning processes and interaction models for each channel.
Is ‘Channel-less’ Design the way forward
If we accept that disruption will continue to be the only constant, could the way forward be a “Channel-less” approach to design, where we treat the channel the customer is currently using as simply a window into the core customer experiences.
Seamlessness is achieved through a combination of core end-to-end customer experiences and a smart core platform that captures all customer data and every interaction across every channel. In doing so, a customer can seamlessly move from mobile to desktop to chatbot, because the core experience and data being leveraged by each channel is exactly the same. For example, if you are half way through filling out an online form on your mobile and decide it will be easier on your desktop, you can open right up to the same place on the same form, because we know that is where you are up to.
The result is a seamless, frictionless customer experience with no need for complex web of backend connections, resulting in:
• A single view of the customer, their products, interactions and insights from behavioural analytics
• Cheaper and easier to maintain and support
• Faster deployment of changes to an experience across every channel
• Easier to respond quickly to changes in digital innovation
• Centralised processes and experience, resulting in less rework for each channel
The Journey to Channel-less
In order to achieve channel-less operation, there are several key components that need to come together.
Technically it’s likely to require building a new smart core data platform. Using existing legacy systems that weren’t built to deliver data real time will likely create slow data retrieval, difficulty in continual iterations and limitations on the sophistication of data analytics.
Operationally there needs to be a shift to create core experience owners to design, deliver and own new core experiences. Together with a matrix approach to delivery teams with specialist skills in detailed designs, development and support of each channel.
Comparing Omni-channel to Channel-less approach
Let’s say in a couple of years everyone starts wearing Augmented Reality glasses that allow for the integration of digital information with the real-world environment.
Simplicity is the key to remain flexible and able to rapidly change as the next wave of digital disruption takes hold, but as we know simplicity is often the hardest thing to achieve. Maybe it’s time to take a moment and re-adjust our thinking and approach.