The business ideal of omni-channel communication is rolled out with varying degrees of success. Although omni, the idea of a seamless customer experience across multiple contact channels, is the way to go, it must be implemented in ways that best serve customers. It is how it is used that counts writes Wynand Smit, CEO of Inovo.

According to the 2017 Global Customer Experience (CX) Benchmarking Report, more than eight in 10 companies recognise CX as a differentiator, the number one indicator of strategic performance, but few are delivering on this recognition – Omni-channel helps to deliver enhanced CX.

Omni-channel is complex, so much so that it’s a goal rather than an achievement for most companies, and a multi-channel approach is far more achievable but able to achieve far less than an omni-channel system.

The challenge of breaking down channel silos is one that has been neglected; according to recent research only 8 percent of companies have managed to connect all channels, 21 percent have managed to connect some channels, 45 percent have a few channels connected, while 23 percent have no channels connected at all.

In effect, customer contacts with your company will be far harder to manage with no (or few) connection between channels. The left hand won’t know what the right hand is doing, especially should the interactions require follow-up. If agents find it tricky to track interactions and speedily resolve queries, the negative impact on CX is notable.

The trick is to ensure that all channels are working seamlessly to provide a slick customer experience, and, according to specific business requirements and customer needs, to adapt accordingly so that all channels provide the best possible means of interaction with the company for effective resolution of the reasons for interaction.

Multi-channel, often misleadingly referred to as omni-channel is different, as it simply means offering multiple channel options, not necessarily ensuring that the channel experience is a seamless one for customers. While each channel (in multi-channel) often operates in an isolated silo, omni-channel breaks down those silos for more effective customer experience.

It’s immediately apparent when companies don’t have an integrated approach; having to repeat information to different agents, agents who cannot assist is an example of what happens when channels aren’t “speaking” to each other, that is, they’re stuck in separate silos without any means of letting other channels know what is going on in the customer contact journey, something we’ve all dealt with.

The benefits to centralising communication are plentiful, and a great start, although not conclusive, towards developing an omni-channel environment. Well-trained agents can access the right information to aid interactions, customers find that their queries and interactions reach a positive conclusion faster and more efficiently, no matter which channel they choose.

There’s no one-size-fits all solution, the many permutations that comprise different businesses, from strategy to implementation require that a customised solution be developed according to specific needs to ensure that your customer benefits directly from your approach, and that all the relevant boxes are ticked within business units – efficient service, workforce productivity and excellent customer experience.