Features and Analysis

Omnichannel: Moving from hype to making it happen

Omnichannel has been a hot topic for a while, but evidence suggests businesses are starting to move from words to actions.

Customers want to shop and interact when, where and how they choose. Companies that don’t support this notion will lose out and most of them are well aware of this – that’s why businesses of all kinds, from retailers and telecoms companies to digital service providers, are grappling with how to take an omnichannel approach, where they can offer:

  • Consistency and cohesion across all channels
  • Higher degrees of personalization
  • Seamless crossing of channels
  • Continuous flow of contextual and historical information between channels

The urgency to get omnichannel right, and fast, is evidenced by the fact that TM Forum has three new omnichannel Catalyst projects about to start. These rapid-fire, proof-of-concept projects will cover various aspects of omnichannel, including:

  • Implementation strategies and technologies during the ‘buy’ stage of the customer lifecycle
  • Personalization as a key omnichannel approach, with 360-degree view of the customer as an enabler of omnichannel
  • The use of machine learning to optimize which channel you want to guide your customers to use to create the best possible customer experience

We also have an active omnichannel project group, looking at:

  • Developing an extensive list of omnichannel requirements that can be used for product definition or RFx creation
  • Definition of business processes around omnichannel interactions
  • Refining the Forum’s omnichannel maturity model to help companies understand their strengths and weaknesses in creating seamless customer experiences

All of the projects and work areas above reflect what TM Forum members define as critical elements of omnichannel success.  Service provider members have provided significant input around the fact that while lots of companies have tackled the low hanging fruit for creating cross-channel interaction, there is much work to do. To create a truly integrated and seamless experience, both from the customer’s perspective and the back office integration, business approaches, technologies, data management processes and organizational/cultural changes will be needed.  The projects aim to help Forum members move the needle from the definition or ‘good idea’ phase to implementation-ready, scalable approaches.

Reap the rewards

In our research into omnichannel in 2014, all the companies interviewed acknowledged the fundamental needs of an omnichannel approach. The vast majority are at the beginning of their journey. Implementing a full-blown omnichannel approach is challenging but rewarding.

For example, achieving an omnichannel ‘single view’ of the customer journey has paid off for one German telco operator. With 24 million customers, 4,000 employees and 400 stores across Germany, this operator is focusing on delivering cross-channel functionality that drives additional traffic into its stores. While just 60 stores have gone live with an enterprise-wide roll-out that will eventually see 200 stores go live by the end of the year, the operator is already projecting its customer-centric omnichannel programme will yield an additional one million packages as well as 11,000 additional subscriptions/tariffs, 35,000 additional insurance contracts and sales of an additional 3.5 million accessories.

Action plan

Here are our recommendations for successfully implementing omnichannel, based on research results from our members:

  • Gain top management support– something this broad and strategic must reflect overall corporate strategy. Companies in many sectors have recognized the importance of being customer-centric, and omnichannel goes hand in hand with it.
  • Personalize– the long-term key to omnichannel success lies in highly personalized engagement, driven by rich content, strong analytics and flawless execution.
  • Recognize the value of data and manage it carefully– almost every aspect of omnichannel hinges upon the accuracy and accessibility of data. Real differentiation relies on richness of content. Privacy is a critical aspect of data management to gain and maintain customers’ trust and loyalty.
  • Program management is critical – careful, cross-organizational management is necessary to achieve goals and minimize risk given the scope, complexity and organizational inertia to be overcome by omnichannel programs.
  • Consider continuous improvement – omnichannel platforms are relatively new and typically involve steep learning curves. The ethos of continuous improvement establishes and sustains momentum and less risk, promotes good will among project team members, and builds senior stakeholders’ confidence.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – given the breadth and complexity of the issue, any help with best practices, data management and domain frameworks will be useful.

At TM Forum there are a number of useful assets for businesses grappling with omnichannel, including:

Rebecca Sendel will be talking more about how a collaborative approach can help businesses in the drive for customer-centricity, and signposting some of the most valuable best practices at Customer Experience Management in Telecoms, October 20-22, Atlanta, Georgia. Register here.

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    About The Author

    VP, Services and Catalysts

    Rebecca manages key projects at TM Forum, including Customer Centricity and Big Data Analytics. Rebecca has worked in the communications industry for almost 25 years, focusing on operational and business support systems for the majority of her career.

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