While consumers in Australia are still suffering major friction points, fundamental disconnects between online and off, it remains rare that major enterprises use the data they have about us to our advantage.

Yet the idea that businesses need a fundamental paradigm shift in the way they re-think their core customer value proposition, employee experience and go-to-market remains a salient consideration, even after years of debate about omnichannel. Most players have barely scratched the surface in terms of delivering meaningful omnichannel CX transformation.

For many organisations the hardest question is often where to begin;

Here are three suggestions:

  • Understand the new economics re-evaluate budgets, KPI’s and performance measurement – ditch the silos
  • Consider your roadmap holistically – across culture, people, process and tech in a way that supports your brand and reinforces your product proposition
  • Start doing stuff fast where you can – inertia is lethal in today’s landscape – delivering small wins may not move the need on EBIT but show the market and your team that you are serious about the CX agenda

Let’s break this down into 10 bite-size chunks:

CX Strategy – To what degree can you articulate who you are targeting and why your offering is better than the next lot relative to the wants and needs of the groups you are focused on? The concept of ‘customer value proposition’ is not new, but the fundamental dynamics of strategy through classic frameworks like Porter’s ‘lowest cost, differentiation or focus’ need to be reconsidered in the digital age. Along similar lines, the ‘employee value proposition’ is often in need of a refresh considering the future of work mantra and the way firms go-to-market is likewise being disrupted and transformed dramatically in today’s always on & global tech-enabled trading environment.

Brand – Related to CX Strategy, what does your brand stand for, is it genuinely authentic in the eyes of your customer, and is that still relevant across physical and digital touchpoints? Is the branded messaging consistent and reinforcing across online and off, or are you creating tension and friction points with incoherent pricing policies, silos and poorly executed hand-offs? Consumers reward brands that are smart about how and when they communicate relative to what they communicate.

Product – In many sectors digital disruption has arisen from digital pure-play competitors undercutting higher cost ‘brick and mortar’ players to take share. If you plan to retain physical touchpoints (e.g. stores, branches) how has your product strategy evolved? If you are avoiding the lowest cost ‘race to the bottom’ does your product offering provide enough differentiation in the eyes of the consumer? If you are competing on the basis of some form of service does an ‘easiest’ or ‘quickest’ promise hold true when the journey spans multiple touchpoints such as branches, call centres and online?

Culture – Sadly it is not uncommon to interact with so-called omnichannel retailers and hear comments like ‘oh yeah that is the online division’ or see finger pointing and turf fights between executives focused on stores vs. e-commerce. A culture of silos whether based on channels, divisions, regions or product segment is simply no longer acceptable and a sure-fire formula for customer and team member frustration.

People – With all the talk of AI and other forms of automation disrupting the workforce, it would be easy to think that the leading ‘organisations’ will do away with large swaths of the workforce altogether. After all, when you book an Umber your request is not handled by a demand fulfillment specialist in an office, the algorithm does all the work. The key is to work out what you can automate to strip out cost and complexity and then re-allocate capital, both human and financial, to activities that really impact positively on the CX. This creates a new imperative around the soft skills at the point of interaction, including new incentives, and a new breed of management talent that can fuse together physical and digital CX driven by data rather than gut instinct.

Process – In environments like physical retail stores brands were able to get away with a lot of fudge factor – if an item showed as being in stock but was out, the store team could after handling the issue and save the sale. In an always-on omni-channel environment, key experiences like click & collect are highly dependent on robust back-end business systems with dire consequences when it goes wrong for the customer. So, the harsh reality is that many firms are now having to face into years of under-investment in tech and supporting business processes. Further, where process excellence has been a focus it has typically been designed from the inside out – e.g. focus on the business operations rather than the customer processes that make up the journey. This paradigm has now been flipped on the head.

Technology – Building on the example above, many firms are now having to overhaul core tech systems such as ERP, supply chain, HR and finance to keep pace with digital-first competitors who have side-stepped tech debt and levered scalable cloud-first solutions from the get-go. The good news is that significant advances in micro-services and API architectures mean that ‘rip and replace’ is not the only answer.

Data – With the all the hype around data being the new oil it would be easy to dismiss this space as a nice to have a watching brief. The bottom line is that omnichannel CX is absolutely dependent on robust data management and intelligent use of multiple data sets to drive key attributes like simple and seamless, personalised and proactive and complete solutions relevant to clear customer missions. In many cases, the investment has focused on abstract and poorly defined goals rather than rolling up the sleeves to tackle hygiene factors such as master data management, data sharing agreements other core building blocks to power high-value predictive analytics and machine learning.

Innovation. It will become more and more difficult to transform CX with the existing playbook and the existing team, as both are tasked with keeping the train on the tracks and affecting sound iterative improvements. Young businesses can elevate CX rapidly because they have little legacy and infrastructure to transform in the first place, so resetting the innovation agenda and for instance, exploring collaborations with young external businesses can boost your own innovation capacity. The explosion of early-stage innovation is clear – there are startup hubs popping up all over the planet rather than just being concentrated in the Valley. Here in Australia, the NSW Government has invested 35m to launch the Sydney Startup Hub at the major Wynyard transport hub – bringing the majority of the ecosystem under one roof. To what degree are you tapping into early stage innovation relative to mature Tier 1 solution providers? Having a balanced approach can accelerate your transformation and also inject a fresh dose of innovation culture into your organisation. Get some startups on your side!

Operating Model – Underpinning all these pillars is the need for a truly customer-centric operating model – one that drives primacy around customer irrespective of channel, touchpoint, geography or product. Customers simply assume that all the data being collected about them is being used to their advantage, and their tolerance for breakdowns has rapidly waned. If public sector organisations like Service NSW can get it so right, why not everyone else? Tackling the operating model needs to start at the top with a strong board-level mandate and CEO mettle to lift the covers off layers of bureaucracy, fiefdoms other barriers to customer outcomes – as well as eradicate the corporate antibodies who will fight to protect the cozy status quo.

Key questions

If you roll these points back up to the three things to do now, critical questions will emerge. If you are a retailer are you thinking about e-commerce as being only a single digit sales contributor or key pillar of web-influenced sales across your network – likely impacting 60-80 per cent of your revenue? Does your roadmap sit with within the IT department or consist of key initiatives that integrate culture, people, process and tech aligned with your unique brand and product? And does this roadmap articulate how value will be delivered fast with measurable impact across critical journeys spanning physical and digital?

If the answers to these points above are unclear then it is likely that omni-channel needs to remain part of your leadership vernacular for the foreseeable future. Yes, the point is to forget about channels all together and just focus on retailing, banking, communications etc., but whatever you want to call it, you likely have a lot of work to do and need to address the ticking time bomb of the ever-rising bar of customer expectations and the ever-falling barriers to entry. For organisations who get it right, the benefits are substantial – both in terms of key customer metrics such as acquisition, retention and wallet share; as well as employee engagement and reduced cost associated with high staff turnover.

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