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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Personalising Your Customer Experience is Standard Practice Today

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Back in 2019 – when life was simpler and customers only expected minor miracles from the brands they interacted with – personalisation of the customer experience (CX) was a “good idea but the time has not yet come” for the majority of marketing and CX professionals.

Fast forward 24 months and the world has changed – in more ways than we could have imagined! For a start, CX dropped off the top business priority during 2020 as businesses adapted to the changing market and employee experiences. But as some economies start to create a new sense of normal, CX has returned to the top of the list of business priorities (Figure 1) – renewing pressure on CX teams to create great experiences for customers.

Key Organisational Priorities - 2020 vs 2021

In 2020 many marketing teams went back to the drawing board to create truly meaningful customer experiences. Suddenly “trust” was a core expectation of a brand, and that lens allowed marketers and CX teams to rethink what a personalised experience looks like. It is no longer about selling more products and creating more chances for commerce – it is now about creating an experience that makes brands easy to deal with. It is about understanding the customer and creating an optimised experience when they want or need to interact with the brand. A great personalised experience feels normal today – it has lost the “creepy” edge and is now about the brand giving customers the service, products, or levers that they need when and where they need them.

For some brands and customers, a personalised experience is about getting out of the way of customers and just giving them the outcome they desire. For others it is about creating a memorable journey. Some customers require that extra hand holding along the way and need to be nudged in the right direction, and just need to be left alone to make their decisions – not requiring that extra EDM, alert or message.

In some sectors – such as Banking and eCommerce – if you are not personalising your CX you are a long way behind, but in others, such as Government and Insurance, personalisation is only beginning to gain traction today, and will see slow and steady growth over the next few years.

Good Data is Key to a Great Personalisation Strategy

Lack of data is the primary reason personalisation fails and why some marketing teams have abandoned their personalisation efforts. The right data may not exist completely within your business – you may need to partner or work with ecosystem providers to create a complete view of your customers – and new restrictions around the use of cookies is making this harder to achieve. Forward thinking businesses have already forged partnerships with third parties and partners to share relevant data to help them create the personalised experience their customers demand.

Personalisation Should Apply Across the Customer Journey  

A clear understanding of brand values, customer desires and ideal customer journeys is also important to ensure personalised experiences meet the needs of customers. Creating a personalised experience that deviates from brand values means that either brands don’t understand their customers, or customer experience professionals don’t understand their brands (or both!).

Personalisation needs to focus on the entire customer journey – from prospect through to customer and even through to churn. While you have significantly more data about your customers than your prospects, a personalised experience for non-customers is still possible and sets the scene for better and easier CX once your prospects take the longer journey with your brand. Creating a personalised churn experience – making the departure from your brand memorable, friendly and easy – provides the perfect springboard for return and tells your customers that you care about them through the entire journey.

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Build a Proof of Concept for Personalisation

If you have not yet started personalising your customer’s experience, now is the perfect time to build a Proof of Concept (POC) demonstrating the business and customer outcomes you can achieve. This will help the CX and/or marketing teams to understand what data you need to collect from existing systems and processes – or source externally to create the desired experience. Initially your personalisation experience may target a limited number of key personas – but it should have the capability to roll out to all customers and/or prospects, eventually considering many scenarios and requirements. It should continue to learn and adapt. Too many businesses discovered during the pandemic that static personalisation programs will fail when market conditions change.

The POC can provide the data that your senior leadership will need to deepen their investments in and think of personalisation as a business capability – not a single project. They can demonstrate the ROI (or lack of return) and will help to guide the larger spend should the POC be a success.

Invest in Behavioural Science Skills

Building a successful personalisation strategy often goes beyond simply listening to the experts within the business and even listening to your customers. Often your customers don’t know what affects their behaviour – and will mis-report motivations or mis-attribute actions. It is important to understand the science behind behaviour – what is possible, what can work, what is guidance and what is coercion. These experts, along with your legal or privacy teams, can help to set up the guide rails for the personalisation program to operate within, and help you create customer journeys where customers can achieve their desired outcomes.

Target Consent as a Key Customer KPI

Consent is a key enabler of deep personalisation capabilities. While some level of personalisation without formal consent can be created, the real benefits of personalised journeys come with consent to use customer data to offer better services. Many businesses ask for consent in the sign-up process, but often it feels like wishful thinking – not a serious attempt to offer a better customer experience. Businesses that make “Consent to Use Data” a CX KPI think more broadly of the customer journey, the brand promise and what that means to levels of consent. It isn’t a “tick-a-box” activity at sign-up – it considers what the customer wants to get out of the engagement or a longer relationship. It focuses on helping customers achieve their instant goals more effectively and the benefits the data can bring to nurture a longer-term relationship.

Businesses that seek a higher level of consent use more tangible outcomes, simpler language and no “sweeping statements” in their consent request. They are explicit how they will use data and what data they will use. Sometimes they don’t even ask for consent to use data at sign-up – they ask after they have formed a relationship and the customer has developed a level of trust in the brand or company.

Start Your Personalisation Journey Today

Your competitors are already thinking about personalisation – some have even implemented personalised elements within their existing or new customer journeys. Personalisation – while easier than ever – is still a significant capability to build within your business. You are likely to need new technology tools and/or platforms, new skills, and new budgets. The impact for your customers – and therefore for your business – can be significant. And the impact of no action can potentially be damaging. Start your personalisation journey today to help your business take the next step towards becoming a customer-obsessed, agile, and digital business.

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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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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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Whitepaper – Customer Experience Priorities in Small & Medium Enterprises

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Whitepaper – Think Your Business Offers an Omnichannel Experience? Think again!

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