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The evolving multi-channel organisation

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With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and social networks, businesses are embracing new ways to serve their customers - but do they always get the balance right?


Our Optus Future of Business Report 2013 released recently surveyed 550 decision makers to uncover how organisations are using digital and traditional channels to engage customers, and to offer insights into how they can realign their multi-channel strategies with Australian consumers' expectations.

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Our research found that most of the 2177 consumers we surveyed are not embracing newer digital channels as quickly as organisations expect. However, consumers and organisations broadly agree about the role online, which we define as organisations' websites, and contact centres will play over the next three to five years.


This raises the importance of organisations optimising the digital experience for their customers while continuing to invest in traditional channels which consumers value such as physical stores and contact centres.


Some of the key insights in the Optus Future of Business Report 2013 include:


Organisations are yet to deliver a seamless customer experience


Only 12% of organisations surveyed have fully integrated channels today to offer a consistent customer experience. However, nearly two thirds of consumers surveyed expect access to the same services and features across all channels. Technology integration emerged as the biggest hurdle for 51% of organisations surveyed, followed by cost (37%). The implication is that organisations may be spreading themselves too thinly by offering new digital channels before they can deliver an integrated multi-channel experience.


Organisations and customers are aligned on the role of online


More than half of consumers and nearly all organisations say that online will in the next three to five years become their preferred channel (56%) and top investment priority (87%), respectively. Consumers and businesses also expect online to become the most important channel to buy and sell products and services in the future.


Traditional channels take on new roles


Despite the rise in acceptance of online, consumers still value traditional channels - and these are channels that organisations are keen to maintain. Of the channels, consumers rated contact centres as their top choice for receiving care and support in three to five years. Organisations are responding, with 42% citing that contact centres are a priority of investment during this time.


What our research shows is that businesses mapping their multi-channel strategies need to consider how each channel builds on and supports the whole customer experience, and not just consider them in isolation.


Other strategies organisations may wish to consider to develop their multi-channel offerings are:


  • Expanding the role of the contact centre - As the number of channels proliferates, the contact centre is emerging as a lynchpin for coordinating customer interactions across multiple channels and ensuring a consistent customer experience.
  • Demonstrating value of newer digital channels - Consumers are less clear on how to engage with organisations through social media and mobile. This is an opportunity for businesses to optimise these channels and show how they can offer an enriching experience and unique value to customers.


Thriving in the customer-driven economy requires organisations to balance traditional and digital channels while being clear on how to orchestrate the unique strengths of each for a holistic customer experience. The goal for organisations is to provide a compelling and consistent experience for their customers across all of their channels.


By Scott Mason, Optus Business Vice President, Marketing, Products and Strategy.


All views expressed are the author's own.