"Multichannel is an operational view - how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel. Omnichannel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent. Omnichannel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex 'hand-offs' between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, omnichannel is multichannel done right!" ~John Bowden, Senior VP of Customer Care at Time Warner Cable
You say multichannel; I say omnichannel. What's the difference?
As Mr. Bowden points out , at it's simplest multichannel has us embracing many different channels (such as mobile, web, etc.) to engage with customers. But if you're just focused on the channel (and this is how many enterprises got to "multichannel", i.e. bolting on each new channel as the need arose), you're missing an opportunity. Omnichannel isn't about what channel you engage your customer through, it's about delivering a single, unified experience for your customer across every channel. An activity that begins in one channel should fluidly move to another, and another, until the customer's business transaction is complete.
Delivering an omnichannel experience is about understanding what your buyer actually wants in ways your organization can act on. And while the omnichannel movement is just beginning to hit its stride in industries like retail and banking, there are key identity concepts that can be applied across any organization that will help move toward the promise of delivering a single, unified experience.
3 Steps to Omnichannel Excellence
Develop a single view of the customer At the core of many poor, disjointed customer experiences lies the reality that most enterprises have a large number of users coming in from many different accesspoints (devices, channels, business units, partners, etc.), each tied to a different identity store, who are trying to access a growing number of applications, websites and services. Your challenge is to pull together the bits and pieces of who a customer is and what you know about them from each discrete identity store to create a single view of the customer so that your organization has a unified source of truth about your customers. By transforming customer identity data into a reusable, shared service, the cost of maintaining and protecting the data can be reduced, and the data can be used across the organization to deliver a highly personalized customer experience, improving customer satisfaction, loyalty and ultimately revenue.
Give customers access on their terms across any device, through any channel. Customers hate passwords, and they aren't shy about sharing their malcontent. While passwords may never completely go away, if you aren't already moving in the direction of eliminating them whenever and wherever possible, you aren't delivering a usable or secure experience to your customers. There are plenty of low-hanging opportunities to minimize the impact of access and authentication for customers: offering social sign-on options and providing single sign-on (SSO) across properties and offerings is a solid start, but isn't where your focus should end. Consider all of the lenses we could now apply to authentication:
What you know (password)
What you have (smart phone)
What the network knows (IP address, geolocation)
What the device knows (serial number, operating system, pin-code)
What the identity and access management (IAM) system knows (BYOD? Corp device?)
What the risk system knows (behavior)
Centralize Control Enterprises need to separate the notion of identity and authentication from their applications and begin to place it into a central process. Authentication, as a standalone business process unto itself, allows for extensibility to accommodate different authentication factors that are emerging over time to deal with different channels, as well as the ability to have a single control point across multiple business units.
What began as simple single sign-on technology has grown rapidly over the past decade at a rate that continues to accelerate with mass consumer adoption of mobile and the API economy. While we used to just be concerned with how a customer moved through the web experience, we now have to deliver to a fluid experience across all existing and future channels and consider how the authentication experience impacts the larger experience. The goal? Customers should be able to maintain states as they shift across different channels.
The next generation of identity solutions delivers a foundational layer critical to unifying disparate identity architectures of legacy systems and allows the enterprise to recognize the promise of the omnichannel experience.
So what channels are you supporting today? Can your users seamlessly transition between channels for a single business interaction? Add your comments below.