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The Time Is Now for An ‘Optichannel’ Customer Engagement Strategy

By Sajeel Hussain

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Over the past few years, many banks and financial services providers have embraced an ‘omnichannel’ approach to customer engagement. It makes sense. The ability to interact with customers over an ever expanding number of digital touchpoints —phone, web, mobile, chat, email and even video—theoretically should delight customers. More choice translates into greater satisfaction, right?

Some of that has happened. However, ‘omnichannel’ approaches can feel more like a cheap buffet than a fine dining experience.  Sure, customers get a broad range of interaction options, but often quantity trumps quality. More is not better, it’s just more. In fact, experiences may actually grow worse. As more channels are supported, costs tend to rise accordingly and limit the ability to deliver personalized, high value services within any touchpoint. Oh, and the customer journey can become more fragmented too, since companies now have to find some way to maintain continuity for customers who have the option to engage multiple people in multiple ways from virtually anywhere.

The Optichannel Difference

These issues are not lost on financial services providers or other enterprises with a similar focus. Many businesses are beginning to contemplate an ‘optichannel’ engagement strategy that uses the most optimal, most appropriate customer engagement channel based on the situation. This approach relies on a coming together of data analytics and collaboration technologies. Optichannel finds the best medium by leveraging contextual analytics, such as previous customer transactions, prior online activity and other data to steer the consumer to the most suitable channel.

For example, if a customer calls in for a complex transaction, like filling out a loan application, a video chat session with co-browsing and document sharing may be most appropriate. Simpler transactions, such as a call to check an account balance, may trigger a redirect to a visual self-service menu on the customer’s smartphone. Or a call from a mobile app may stay on that channel but leverage the user’s app credentials to bypass voice prompts and avoid re-authentication so that customers can reach experts faster.

The heart of the optichannel strategy is the integration of customer data with a flexible and full-featured RTC-based customer interaction platform. This combination gives financial institutions purpose and clarity when engaging customers instead of trying to support a broad set of generic interactions. Businesses are starting to try out new channels and run analysis on customer demographics and behaviors to determine which scenarios are most relevant. A great example is American Express, which launched a video chat service on iPad for Premium cardholders and obtained some key findings about this high touch experience. You can read the article here.

Banks and other financial institutions are taking note. According to a survey that was published in The Financial Brand, 53 percent of all banking providers believe they will achieve a unified strategy within two years, and 89 percent predict it will happen in five years. Most telling is a statistic that indicates the necessity of the optichannel approach: Only 64 percent of banks believe a digital-only communications strategy makes sense, instead opting for a hybrid model of physical and virtual meeting points.

Only 64 percent of banks believe a digital-only communications strategy makes sense

The ability to leverage the most appropriate channel at the appropriate time is key to delivering superior customer service. Banks aggressively compete to attract and keep customers, and they recognize the necessity of reducing friction and streamlining the customer experience.  But the essential question is how to do it. Optichannel customer engagement gives enterprise the ability to deliver the right services that truly delight customers without breaking the bank.  

CafeX will be participating at the BBA's Annual Retail Conference in London on 29th June 2016.  Meet us there to discuss how we can help your organization move towards an optichannel customer engagement strategy.  Not attending?  Book a complimentary slot with us by visiting our web calendar and we’ll be in touch!

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