Shift Your Focus from Omnichannel to Opti-Channel

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Customer Experience teams are focused on creating a great omnichannel experience for their customers – allowing customers to choose their preferred channel or touchpoint. And many of these teams are aware of the challenges of omnichannel – often trying to prise the experience from one channel into another. Too often we create sub-optimal experiences, forcing customers to work harder for the outcome than if they were using other channels.

I know there have been times when I have found it easier to jump in the car and drive to a store or service centre, rather than filling in a convoluted online form or navigating a complex online buying process. I constantly crave larger screens as full web experiences are often better than mobile web experiences (although perhaps that is my ageing eyes!).

One of the factors that came out in a study conducted by Ecosystm and Sitecore is that customers don’t just want personalised experiences – they want optimised experiences. They want to have the right experience on the right device or touchpoint. It is not about the same experience everywhere – the focus should be on optimising experiences for each channel.

We call this “opti-channel”.

Use an Opti-Channel Strategy to Guide Investment and Effort

This is what you are probably doing already – but by accident. I suggest you formalise that strategy. Design customer experiences that are optimised for the right channel or touchpoint – and personalised for each customer. Stop forcing customers into sub-optimal experiences because you were told to make every customer experience an omnichannel one.

The move towards opti-channel accelerates your ability to provide the best experience for each customer, as you ask the important question “Does this channel suit this experience for this customer?” before the fact – not after the experience has been designed. It also eliminates the rework of existing experiences for new channels and provides clear guidance on the next-best action for each employee.

Customer Experience Insights

There Will be Conflict Between Opti-Channel and Personalisation

The challenge for opti-channel strategies will be to align them to your personalisation strategy. How will it work when you have analytics driving your personalisation strategy that say customer X wants a fully digital experience but your opti-channel strategy says part of the digital experience is sub-standard? And the answer to this lies in understanding the scope of your experience creation – are you trying to improve the existing experience or are you looking to create a new improved experience?

  • If you are improving the existing experience, then you have less license to shift transactions and customer between channels – even if it is a better experience.
  • If you are creating a new experience, you have the opportunity to start again with the overall experience and prove to customers that the new experience is actually a better one.

For example, when airlines moved away from in-person check-in to self-check-in kiosks, there was an initial uproar from customers who had not yet experienced it – claiming that it was less personal and less human. But the reality is that the airlines took the check-in screen that the agents were using and made it customer-facing. Travellers can now see the seats and configuration and select what is best for them.

This experience was reinvented again when the check-in moved to web and mobile. By turning the screen around to the customer, the experience actually felt more human and personal – not less. And by scattering agents around the screens and including a human check-in desk for the “exceptions”, the airlines could continue to optimise AND personalise the experience as required.

Opti-Channel Opens Many New Business Opportunities

Your end-state experience should consider what is the best channel or touchpoint for each step in a journey – then determine the logic or ability to shift channels. Pushing customers from a chatbot to web chat is easy. Moving from in-store to online might be harder, but there are currently some retailers looking to merge the in-store and digital experience – from endless aisle solutions to nearly 100% digital in-store. Some shoe and clothing stores offer digital foot and body scans in-store that help customers choose the right size when they shop online. And we are beginning to see the rollout of “magic mirrors” – such as one retailer who has installed them in fitting rooms and you can virtually try different colours of the same item without actually getting them off the shelf.

Businesses are trying to change customer behaviour – whether it is getting them into stores or mainly shopping online or encouraging them to call the contact centre or to even visit a service centre. Creating reasons for why that might be a better option, while also providing scaled-back omnichannel options is a great way to meet the needs of existing customers, create brand loyalty and attract new customers to your company or brand.

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Ecosystm Snapshot: Uniphore Consolidates Agent Assist with Jacada Acquisition

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Uniphore, a provider of Conversational Automation solutions, has announced their intention to acquire Jacada, an Israel-based autonomous customer experience solution provider. Jacada’s low-code/no-code platform will help Uniphore solve complex contact centre challenges using AI and automation. Jacada’s strengths include a low-code optimised interface and AI-enabled contact centre capabilities leading to automation across agent and customer engagements, enhanced knowledge-based guidance for agents and end-to-end analytics and insights.

Jacada has been in the market for around three decades and over time they have built various unified desktop and process optimisation products including RPA for customer service and support.

The acquisition follows Uniphore’s USD 140 million Series D funding round led by Sorenson Capital Partners in March 2021. Earlier this year, Uniphore acquired Emotion Research Lab to add AI and machine learning video capabilities that identify the emotion and engagement levels over video-based communications.

Growing Importance of Agent Assist Solutions

With agents facing pressure in offering customers satisfactory outcomes and at the same time having to manage the high volume of inbound transactions, Agent Assist solutions are high on the agenda for organisations. Remote working has made things even more complex where agents are cut off from their supervisors and not able to walk up to them to seek guidance. These “immediate challenges” have not yet been addressed in every contact centre even a year after the crisis. This presents a good opportunity for Uniphore to own the front and back-office integration piece. The back-office integration segment has become increasingly important as there is a need to fulfill customer requests by ensuring the conversation thread with back-office systems is followed through and communicated back to the agent. This need was heightened during the pandemic due to delays in product arrivals, in shipments, and other delays and miscommunication.

The big challenge also lies in making Agent Assist help the agent perform better and not make their lives more stressful! The design element of Agent Assist is critical. The solution must fit well into the other systems and applications such as CRM, Knowledge Management, and Speech Analytics. You don’t want another solution being pushed on to the agents when they are under pressure to meet customer demands during a 15-minute call.

Conversational Automation and Agent Assist must be evaluated carefully as you are integrating the solution into multiple environments with the clear objective of ensuring that agents only get the right information, in a manner that makes sense for them and at appropriate intervals.

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The Growing Importance of Low-code No-code (LCNC)

As contact centres focus on business agility and pivoting fast to cope with sudden market shifts, organisations will benefit from moving programming closer to the contact centre – requiring very little assistance from IT teams.

Having a LCNC platform will now allow Uniphore to build front and back-office experiences in a multi-vendor environment. The need to use intelligent APIs to build workflows is high on the agenda and it helps eradicate the costly efforts and time spent on developers to further extract and build new capabilities at speed.

Jacada has been pushing their value proposition on RPA and Conversational Automation for some time now and this blends well with where Uniphore is going with AI and Automation in the contact centre space. The acquisition will also give Uniphore access to other contact centre technologies that will help them to compete better with a wider range of solutions. With the challenges in managing the agent experience, we can also expect the Workforce Experience Management (WEM) segment to play an important role and intersect with Agent Assist to manage and elevate the agent experience.

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Business Aware IT Service Management Finally Delivers on its Promise

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Many years ago – back in 2003 – I spent some quality time with BMC at their global analyst event in Phoenix, Arizona and they introduced the concept of “Business Service Management” (BSM). I was immediately a convert – that businesses can focus their IT Service Management initiatives on the business and customer services that the technology supports. Businesses that use BSM can have an understanding of the impact and importance of technology systems and assets because there is a direct link between these assets and the systems they support. A router that supports a customer payment platform suddenly becomes a much higher priority than one that supports an employee expense platform.

But for most businesses, this promise was never delivered. Creating a BSM solution became a highly manual process – mapping processes, assets, and applications. Many businesses that undertook this challenge reported that by the time they had mapped their processes, the map was out of date – as processes had changed; assets had been retired, replaced, or upgraded; software had been moved to the cloud or new modules had been implemented; and architectures had changed. Effectively their BSM mapping was often a pointless task – sometimes only delivering value in the slow to change systems – back-end applications and infrastructure that delivers limited value and has a defined retirement date.

The Growth of Digital Business Strategies

Our technology systems are becoming more important than ever as digital business strategies are realised and digital interactions with customers, employees, and partners significantly increase. Many businesses expect their digital investments to remain strong well into 2022 (Figure 1). More than ever, we need to understand the link between our tech systems and the business and customer services they support.

Use of Digital Technologies 2021 and Beyond

I recently had the opportunity to attend a briefing by ServiceNow regarding their new “AI-Powered Service Operations” that highlighted their service-aware CMDB – adding machine learning to their service mapping capabilities. The upgraded offering has the ability to map entire environments in hours or minutes – not months or weeks. And as a machine learning capability, it is only likely to get smarter – to learn from their customers’ use of the service and begin to recognise what applications, systems, and infrastructure are likely to be supporting each business service.

This heralds a new era in service management – one where the actual business and customer impact of outages is known immediately; where the decision to delay an upgrade or fix to a known problem can be made with a full understanding of the impacts. At one of my previous employers, email went down for about a week. It was finally attributed to an upgrade to network equipment that sat between the email system and the corporate network and the internet. The tech teams were scratching their heads for days as there was no documented link between this piece of hardware and the email system. The impact of the outage was certainly felt by the business – but had it happened at the end of the financial year, it could have impacted perhaps 10-20% of the business bookings as many deals came in at that time.

Being able to understand the link between infrastructure, cloud services, applications, databases, middleware and business processes and services is of huge value to every business – particularly as the percentage of business through digital channels and touchpoints continues to accelerate.

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Personalisation – The New Digital Imperative in Financial Services

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If you are a digital leader in the Financial Services industry (FSI), you have already heard this from your customers: ‘Why is it that Netflix and Amazon can make more relevant and personalised offers than my bank or wealth manager?’ Digital first players are obsessed with using data to understand their customer’s commercial and consumer behaviour. Financial Services will need to become just as obsessed with personalisation of offerings and services if they want to remain relevant to their customers. Ecosystm research finds that leveraging data to offer personalised service and product offerings to their clients is the leading digital priority in more than 50% of FSI organisations. 

Banks, particularly, are both in a strong position and have a strong incentive to offer this personalisation. Their retail customers’ expectations are now shaped by the experience they have received from their favorite digital first firms, and they are making it increasingly clear that they expect personalised offerings from their banks.  Furthermore, they are well positioned as a facilitator of commercial relationships between two segments of customers – consumers and merchants. The amount of data they hold on consumer interactions is comprehensive – and more importantly they are a trusted custodian of their customers’ data and privacy. 

The Barriers to Personalisation

So, what is stopping them? Here are three insights from over 12 years of experience driving digitisation of Financial Services:

  • Systems Legacy.  Often the data and core banking systems do not allow for easy access and analysis of the required data across the data sets required (eg. Consumers and Merchants).
  • Investment Priorities. There is still a significant investment happening in compliance and modernisation of core banking systems. Too often the focus of these programs can be myopic, and banks miss the opportunity to solve multiple pain points with their investments driven by overly focused problem statements.
  • Culture and Purpose. Are banks stuck in a paradigm of their own making – defining their business models by what has served them well in the past? Will Amazon think about its provision of working capital to their small and medium business partners the same way as a bank does?

Vendor Focus – Crayon Data

Thankfully, there is a new breed of tech vendors who is making it easier for banks to drive personalisation of their offerings and connect customers from across segments. Crayon Data is a good example, with their maya.ai engine unearthing the preferences of customers and matching them to offerings from qualified merchants. It benefits all parties:

  • The Consumer receives relevant offers, is served from discovery to fulfillment on a single platform and all personal data and information guarded by their bank. 
  • For Merchants, it allows them to reach the right customers at the right moment, develop valuable marketing and insights and all this directly from their bank partner’s platform.
  • For Banks, it provides a scalable model for offer acquisition and easily configurable and measurable consumer engagement.

maya.ai leverages patented AI to create a powerful profile of each customer based on their buying habits and comparing these with millions of other consumers drawn in from their unstructured data sets and graph-based methodology. They then use their algorithms to assist their Financial Services client to make relevant offerings from qualified merchants to consumers in the right channel, at the right moment. All of this is done without exposing personal client information, as the data sets are based on behaviour rather than identity.

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Conclusion

There are significant considerations for banks in offering these types of capabilities, such as:

  • Privacy. While the technology operates on non-identifiable information, the perception of clients being ‘stalked’ by their bank in order to drive business to a merchant is one that would need to be managed carefully. 
  • Consumer opt-out. The ability for customers to opt out of this type of service is critical.
  • Consumer financial wellbeing. It may be in the best interests of some consumer to not receive merchant offers, for instance where they are managing to a strict budget. These considerations can be baked into the overall customer journey (eg. prompts when the consumer is nearing their self-imposed monthly budget for a category), but care will need to be taken to keep customers’ best interests at heart.

While there are multiple challenges to overcome, the fact remains that personalisation is quickly becoming a core expectation for consumers. How will banks respond, and will we see AI use cases like Crayon Data become more prominent?

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Ecosystm RNx: Top 10 Global AI & Automation Vendor Rankings

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Ecosystm RNx is an objective vendor ranking based on in-depth, quantified ratings from technology decision-makers on the Ecosystm platform. In this edition, we rank the Top 10 Global AI & Automation Vendors.

If you are an End-User, you are realising that the right investments in Data & AI now will be the key to your future success. This vendor ranking will help you evaluate your buying decisions based on key evaluation ratings by your peers across a number of key metrics and benchmarks, including customer experience.

If you are an AI & Automation Vendor, it’s an opportunity to understand how your customers rate you on capabilities and their overall customer experience.

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Ecosystm RNx: Top 10 Global Cloud Vendor Rankings

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In this first edition of Ecosystm RNx we rank the Top 10 Global Cloud Vendors.

Ecosystm RNx is an objective vendor ranking based on in-depth and quantified ratings from technology decision-makers on the Ecosystm platform.  

If you are an technology user, this Cloud Vendor ranking will help you evaluate your buying decisions based on key evaluation ratings by your peers across a number of key metrics and benchmarks, including customer experience.

If you are a Cloud Vendor, this is an opportunity to understand how your customers rate you on capabilities and their overall customer experience.

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Whitepaper – Delivering exceptional customer experiences in an OJK-compliant environment

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The Financial Services industry (FSI) in Indonesia is increasingly investing in digital. This is driven by both user demand and governmental incentives. However, organisations can be at very different stages of their digital maturity. Some organisations are in the early transitional stages while others are investing to enhance capabilities, they started investments in long ago. An understanding of the digital maturity of a typical financial services organisation in Indonesia gives their industry peers an opportunity to benchmark their technology and digital roadmap.

FSI in Indonesia is intensely competitive with a large number of players. There is competition from the fintech start-up community that is increasing market size and has driven a growing reliance on digital. Why is creating an exceptional customer experience a key differentiator in this competitive market? What are the impacts of OJK regulations on customer data management? How can a financial organisation create a single customer view across multiple channels and deliver personalised marketing initiatives?

Read this whitepaper to find out how digital-savvy customers are driving transformation in the financial services industry in Indonesia including:

  • The key business priorities for 2021
  • The shift in engagement strategies and channels
  • The dependence on technology to support their marketing strategy

Click below to download the whitepaper

Whitepaper-Delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences In An OJK-Compliant Environment

(Clicking on this link will take you to the Sitecore website where you can download the whitepaper)


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Industries of the Future – Ecosystm Bytes

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Industries continue to innovate and disrupt to create and maintain a competitive edge – and their technology partners evolve their solution offerings to empower them.

We bring to you latest industry news from the Healthcare, Financial Services, Retail, Travel & Hospitality and Entertainment & Media industries to show you how organisations are leveraging technology. Find out more about organisations such as Services Australia, Paypal, Walmart, Zara and Amex – and how tech providers such as IBM, Oracle, Google and Uplift are supporting organisations across industries.

View the latest Ecosystm Bytes on Industries of the Future below, and reach out to our experts if you have questions.


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For more ‘byte sized’ insights click on the link below

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Woolworths to lift store presentation with Visual Merchandiser from One Door

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Woolworths have announced the adoption of a new Software-as-a-Service capability from One Door to support the quality and compliance of their in-store merchandising. There are some valuable lessons from this announcement for other retailers.  

The power of data, particularly as the capability of specialist AI tools improves, continues to help retailers improve their offering to customers. 

SaaS Capabilities Offer Performance Improvements

Woolworths are working on improving the compliance of product merchandising in-store using One Door Visual Merchandising solution. 

One Door will improve the accuracy of data available to both the in-store teams and for the central supermarket merchandising team. The supply chain in Woolworths is already highly automated but getting the shelf presence right is dependent on the quality of data being captured. While store teams already use a range of electronic tools to capture this information, the compliance with store planograms and visual merchandising standards has been difficult to automate.  

One Door’s solution provides a single source of this information in an easy to use digital format. The AI tools that One Door have developed appear to be able to show the degree of compliance of the actual shelf layout and stock position. 

For store teams, One Door will simplify tracking layout changes by highlighting them and making the data available on the shop floor. This should deliver productivity benefits to the store – benefits that can be reinvested in new activities or on better customer service. 

Store teams will be able to verify that third party merchandisers are compliant. Major product manufacturers often use their own merchandising teams in supermarkets and One Door will provide a simple mechanism to verify they have done their jobs properly. 

The central merchandise teams will be able to quickly get data-driven feedback on how the stores are making planned changes, as well as verifying the quality of compliance with their store layouts. 

All of these factors should mean that the product that is available in-store is presented in the manner that the merchandising teams have defined, and the customers will see a more consistent presentation of products. 

Integration is Critical for Rapid Deployment 

Effective integration with existing systems and new cloud capabilities is critical to support the real-time operation in Retail. 

The ability to introduce and scale up new capabilities that can be delivered by cloud services such as One Door will only be effective if integration is simple and quick. This requires compatibility at a number of levels including data semantics and the ability to exchange data effectively. Woolworths have been growing their capability for managing and supporting APIs that will make this integration smoother. 

In addition, the cloud service providers have made the development of integration capabilities an investment priority.  

The introduction of One Door is showing how the company can integrate new capability and introduce it to almost 10% of their stores as a pilot capability, with the full deployment to be completed across their chain during 2022.  

Other retailers who don’t have this capability to integrate cloud services quickly, reliably and cost-effectively are going to lag companies that have invested to achieve this capability. 

CIOs and CDOs should be leading their organisations in the development of a rich and scalable set of APIs to enable the integration of this type of high-value specialised solution. 

Deployment without Consistent Architectures will be Complex 

Rapid deployment of new capabilities requires a well-architected cloud, network, and edge infrastructure – and a well-trained team. 

It is highly likely that the deployment of the One Door solution will be delivered over the existing Woolworths infrastructure. The capability is delivered from the cloud, with little or no deployment costs or time required. With the existing network and hybrid cloud capabilities that Woolworths have developed this type of rollout will be a relatively simple technical activity. 

The integration of the service into the Woolworths environment is likely to be the most complex activity to make sure accurate data is exchanged. 

It doesn’t take long to identify a wide range of different digital initiatives that Woolworths are pursuing. With the platform that they have established, they are well-positioned to take advantage of new capabilities as start-ups and existing suppliers develop them. 

Every retailer needs to maintain their focus on their digital capabilities. As companies such as One Door develop AI-based enhancements, CIOs and their teams need to be ready to integrate these capabilities quickly. 

Strong architectures for both infrastructure and digital services are needed to achieve these outcomes. 

Recommendations for Retailers  

Retail organisations continue to find new ways to leverage the power of the data that they are able to collect. The flexibility that SaaS developments deliver will be essential to maintaining an organisation’s competitive positioning. 

CIOs and their teams need to lead their organisations and ecosystems by: 

  • Identifying new SaaS capabilities that support the strategic positioning of their companies 
  • Preparing their environments by supporting a rich set of APIs to support the rapid integration of these new capabilities 
  • Developing and maintaining strong architectures that provide organisations a solid framework to develop within 

Checkout Alan’s previous insight on Woolworths micro automation technology adopted to speed up the fulfilment of online grocery orders

Woolworths Australia Automates Dark Store
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