Omnichannel Beyond Retail: The Customer Experience In Healthcare, B2B, Professional Services

Author

Micah Solomon, Contributor

October 17, 2014

The omnichannel customer experience is the future of everything that involves extracting money from a customer in a way that the customer actual likes to have it extracted.

Omnichannel is also the most jargony of customer experience consultant jargon, so let me bring it down to one simple, concrete example. In an omnichannel customer experience, the customer can order a dress on the phone, pick it up in person, and send it back from her front porch if it doesn’t fit–with her purchase history, credit card information, and personal preference data following her successfully from channel to channel, being updated (along with inventory and general ledger for the sake of the merchant) along the way.

Omnichannel is when you succeed at building an ecosystem for the customer with “the whole being more than the sum of the parts, the sum of the different channels,” as  Corey Gale, Director of Marketing at Micros, a major omnichannel solutions provider, said to me recently.

Omnichannel is a customer experience that feels natural to the customer, while at the same time seems revolutionary in how extremely it contrasts to the hassles of channel-related abuses suffered over the years by shoppers. Omnichannel is the end of ”No, you can’t return that sweater to the store, you bought that from our mail order catalog,” “Sorry, that gift certificate can only be redeemed in person” and so forth.

Omnichannel Customer Experience In Professional Services, Healthcare, B2B…

But omnichannel isn’t just about delivering, picking up, and returning physical goods. Omnichannel customer service, and the omnichannel customer experience, should, and can, be all about providing service where and when a customer wants it.

Which means: there’s no particular reason that an omnichannel customer experience should be (as it usually is) associated solely with retail. It’s a way of buying and being served that feels natural to customers today regardless of the type of industry: The idea of making channels work together to become more rather than less, is applicable to how professional firms and healthcare providers should be doing business.

(In fact, in healthcare one of the significant developments of our time is coordinated treatment in, for example, cancer centers–facilities that could be fairly described as “centers of shlep- and hassle-avoidance”: all your specialists, all your lab tests, etc. are under one roof; when other healthcare providers are not similarly under one roof, coordinating the channels is crucial to replicating their patient-centered results.)

Yet, as they are in retail, the challenges of implementation are significant (actually, “significant” is an understatement) when omnichannel is attempted in professional services, B2B, and other non-retail settings. But there’s new technology that can come to the rescue, for example the Aspect system, a blended solution capable of routing calls to agents based on skills and knowledge—and continuity.

In any professional or service environment–for example an insurance company or healthcare facility–a system such as one from Aspect can provide valuable omnichannel functionality, for example by allowing customers to move seamlessly from chat to a phone call and connect to the same agent, enabling the customer to start an interaction in a chat session and continue where they left off on the phone without having to repeat their issue. Which is emotionally and efficiency-wise quite a big deal for a customer, whether she’s talking to your accounting firm, hospital,  insurance agency, mortgage broker, or veterinary facility.

Micah Solomon is a customer experience consultant, customer service consultant,  keynote speaker and the bestselling author most recently of High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service

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