Omni-Channel – what does it mean for your workforce?

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But what is Omni-Channel? What does it really mean? How does it differ from Multi Channel? Let’s begin by cutting through the jargon….

Channel of Choice

Multi (many) Channel encompasses all the different ways that customers choose to interact with your business. These can range from phone to text, web chat to online, face-to-face, mobile, social media or email.

The Omnipotent Customer Experience

In the omni-channel world all these channels are connected……… which forces the operation to view the customer experience through the customers eyes. Stop and think about what customers see when they look into your organisation.

They might connect in one channel and then veer off to another.  They may make contact 2,3 even 4 times – it doesn’t matter how many times, or how many channel they use –  they view it as just ‘one transaction’. Therefore the customer journey through different digital channels needs to be joined up.

Equally, customer data should flow to employees so that there is no need for customers to repeat information.  In an omni-channel operation each customer journey is individual – tailored and tracked to meet their authentic needs. They will use different devices to access information online, such as smart phones, tablets, laptops and mobile apps, so make sure the brand, feel and the message is consistent across the channels.

Customers want a frictionless, inter-channel experience where their issue is resolved or their purchase is made easily – not an emotional roller coaster.

Employees’ Experience

We are trying to eliminate effort for the customer. But what does this mean to your people?

To be effective, omni-channel requires the sort of customer obsession that isn’t always widespread in traditional businesses. There is going to be a real cultural shift. They say change is constant but the pace of this one has caught many businesses unaware and open to market disruption.

Leadership in these traditional businesses have got a tough job ahead.  Apart from the obvious need for investment in key technology, they will need to buy in staff with digital skills who can define a unique digital agenda andcustomer experience. Right now, these are in scarce supply as every other business aims to catch the trend, thus current employees who can learn fast and embrace change become ‘gold dust’.  Digital experts don’t do the 9 to 5 drudgery.  They want flexible options, remote options or to work in an innovation hub

Employees expect HR tools and services which have a ‘consumer type’ feel – slick, simple and effective

Agenda for Change

Formal training on new technology features and how to capture and use customer information will step up to a whole new level.  Employees want to engage with customers in the best way possible – learning how the glut of information they have on individual customers can be turned into knowledge that helps customers make the right purchase.

Workforce models, team structure, incentives, and business measures will change so that employees support a common goal of attracting more loyal, valuable omni-channel buyers. Some current roles and skill sets are likely to become redundant as new channels and different work requirements emerge. All areas of the business, frontline, back office and even support functions are set to become customer obsessed, with support staff focusing on how they can help managers get on with the business of serving customers…..and these workers will not need to do this from a traditional office base.

This means the HR operating model will also need to change to reflect the digital strategy.  In the same way as customers are expecting a frictionless journey through various channels, savvy employees will expect HR tools and services which have an almost ‘consumer feel’ to them – simple, slick and efficient – so that staff are not distracted for long and can get on with helping customers.

Flexibility – not a ‘nice to have’

Organisations that don’t view employees as a part of the omni-channel experience will fail. The flexible workforce is not a ‘nice to have’. 24/7 omni-channel opening hours requires flexible and dynamic work practices, robust workforce management and stellar levels of communication.

All these changes will impact your business culture so it is time to think about what elements of your current one will work in the new omni-channel world and what may cause barriers. Embedded culture is extremely tricky to change and it’s not something that can be shifted overnight. Start to review it now.

Embarking on omni-channel? It’s time to rethink your business design, structure and culture…..and your HR model!

Ruth Gawthorpe is the owner of The Change Directors and helps businesses to develop their digital agenda, aligning the employee experience with the customer experience to create sales and growth. If you want to find out more about how we can help your business then contact Ruth via email

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