5-minute read

Quick summary: Customer service organizations are shifting from omnichannel service to an optichannel approach, streamlining interactions to focus on optimizing the most effective channels for ideal customer experiences.

In a recent Salesforce study, 80 percent of the consumers surveyed agreed with the statement “Customer experiences should be better considering all the data companies collect.”

For customer service organizations who have held up omnichannel service as their holy grail for the past several years, this insight should be a wakeup call. Today’s customers don’t care how many methods are available for getting answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. They care about having a positive, efficient experience that speaks to their needs and preferences.

Enter the optichannel approach. While omnichannel aims to integrate multiple channels, the goal of optichannel is to configure customer service around the most effective channels for meeting each customer need, prioritizing rapid problem solving and an optimized user experience.

Today’s customers care about having a positive, efficient experience that speaks to their needs and preferences.

The shift from omnichannel to optichannel

Driving the shift from omnichannel to optichannel service is a fundamental change in how businesses view customer interactions. The omnichannel approach, which emphasizes the quantity of engagement channels, can lead to resource dilution and inconsistent experiences. By attempting to cover as many platforms as possible, companies may spread their efforts too thin, resulting in a lack of focus and leaving customers frustrated with disconnected, inefficient interactions.

Optichannel, on the other hand, focuses on quality over quantity. By analyzing their data to identify which channels deliver the most value, customer service organizations can tailor their services to optimize interactions. They can offer customers a more personalized, efficient, and satisfying experience that aligns with their individual needs, enhancing engagement and building loyalty.

71 percent

71% of customers prefer different channels depending on context. (Salesforce)

The case for optichannel customer service

Organizations are uncovering compelling reasons to adopt an optichannel strategy, including:

Call deflection and cost reduction

One of the greatest benefits of optichannel service is the ability to deflect calls from more costly service channels, like phone support, to more efficient ones such as chatbots and self-service portals. This not only reduces the strain on call center personnel, but also cuts down on operational costs.

Simplified management

Managing fewer, highly effective channels leads to more streamlined operations. Organizations can focus on optimizing a select few channels rather than spreading resources across many, enhancing the quality of service in the areas that matter most to customers.

Improved customer experience

An optichannel strategy ensures that interactions are optimized for efficiency and effectiveness, resulting in:

  • Seamless transitions between channels without the customer having to repeat information
  • Consistent information and context across all interactions, regardless of the channel
  • Faster resolution of inquiries and issues with minimal customer effort

Data integration and utilization

By concentrating on fewer channels, companies can more effectively gather and analyze data to understand customer preferences and behaviors. This approach—going deep instead of wide—allows businesses to enhance their understanding of customer needs, while also enabling targeted service improvements and more personalized experiences through better analytics.

Consumers’ #1 frustration with customer service organizations is disconnected experiences. (Salesforce)

Evolving to optichannel customer service

The journey to optichannel customer service requires a strategic overhaul of how channels are managed and integrated, driven by a deep understanding of current service delivery and the preferences of each customer segment.

1. Conduct a current state assessment

  • Evaluate the current channel mix: Analyze the performance and usage data of existing channels to understand effectiveness and customer satisfaction levels.
  • Dive into channel preferences of key personas: Segment the customer base to identify distinct preferences and behaviors, focusing on how different segments interact with different channels.
  • Identify overlapping functionalities: Look for redundancies across channels where similar services are delivered, and pinpoint opportunities to consolidate or eliminate underperforming or redundant channels.

2. Build a strategy around core channels

  • Use results from the assessment to determine core channels: Select channels that maximize engagement and align with the preferences of major customer segments.
  • Integrate core channels: Ensure seamless integration of core channels so that data and context flow freely between them to create a cohesive customer experience.
  • Eliminate unnecessary touchpoints: Simplify the customer journey by removing redundant steps and ensuring that each interaction adds value to the experience.

3. Leverage automation and AI strategically

  • Implement AI for simple requests: Leverage AI technologies to deliver fast responses to frequently asked questions and address simple requests (such as resetting passwords), reducing the load on human agents.
  • Integrate AI with agent desktop applications: When customers engage with human agents, AI can enhance the interaction by analyzing conversations in real time and proactively suggesting solutions and resources to the agent.
  • Use AI to analyze customer experiences: Employ AI-driven analytics to continually assess and improve the customer journey, ensuring that the optichannel strategy adapts to changing customer needs and preferences.

4. Build in continuous improvement

  • Leverage data to drive ongoing enhancements: Use data from all customer interactions to continually refine and improve processes, understand developing customer needs and behaviors, and tailor the service experience to meet those needs effectively.
  • Integrate AI-driven technologies: Use AI technologies to identify and eliminate bottlenecks, optimize channel performance, and enrich the customer experience. The recently launched GPT-4o, for example, is capable of reasoning across audio, visuals, and text in real time, creating new possibilities for customer interactions.
By concentrating on fewer channels, companies can more effectively gather and analyze data to understand customer preferences and behaviors.

Addressing potential challenges

The journey to optichannel customer service is not without its technical and strategic challenges. With the right approach, these can be effectively managed to ensure a smooth transition and an optimized customer experience.

Integrating AI with existing systems

  • Challenge: Integrating new AI technologies with existing customer service platforms can be complex and may require significant changes to infrastructure.
  • Solution: Adopt a phased approach to integration, starting with pilot projects to test the compatibility and effectiveness of AI solutions. Use middleware and APIs to facilitate communication between new AI tools and legacy systems.

Managing data privacy concerns

  • Challenge: Integrating new AI technologies with existing customer service platforms can be complex and may require significant changes to infrastructure.
  • Solution: Adopt a phased approach to integration, starting with pilot projects to test the compatibility and effectiveness of AI solutions. Use middleware and APIs to facilitate communication between new AI tools and legacy systems.
    79 percent

    79% of consumers say they are increasingly protective of their personal data. (Salesforce)

    Ensuring seamless customer transitions

    • Challenge: Handling customer data responsibly is crucial, especially considering the growing number of data privacy laws and increased public awareness.
    • Solution: Implement robust data governance policies and ensure compliance with relevant regulations. Use data encryption and anonymization techniques to protect sensitive information. Regularly audit data practices and provide training to employees on data privacy best practices.

    Balancing automation with human touch

    • Challenge: Over-reliance on automation can lead to a lack of personal touch, which is important for complex or sensitive customer interactions.
    • Solution: Use automation for routine tasks and inquiries while ensuring that human agents are available for more complex issues. Equip agents with AI tools to enhance their capabilities and enable them to provide a more empathetic and effective service.

    Industry examples and best practices

    An optichannel service strategy can enhance customer service efficiency and satisfaction across multiple industries. Following are real-world examples from various sectors that demonstrate the effectiveness of optichannel approaches.

    Utilities

    San Diego Gas & Electric has built a customized portal for its public safety partners, which recently received the 2024 Chartwell Best Practices Award. Local emergency management agencies have a single point of entry for accessing the information needed to keep communities safe, including up-to-date emergency alerts, weather reports, emergency response timelines, and training resources.

    Retail

    Amazon uses data extensively to optimize its customer service by integrating advanced data science techniques. Using customer feedback, call transcripts, and purchase histories, the retailer leverages machine learning algorithms to identify common issues and trends. This enables Amazon to provide personalized support, quickly resolve customer complaints, and proactively address potential problems before they escalate.

    Healthcare

    The American Hospital Association recently published an executive insights document on “digital front doors”—single points of entry where patients can access information and interact with providers. Executives from 13 health systems shared best practices for creating an optimal digital-front-door experience, including:

    • Offering personalized content, services, and recommendations based on each patient’s preferences, medical history, and needs
    • Ensuring a consistent experience across multiple platforms, including desktop and mobile browsers as well as mobile applications
    • Prioritizing security and privacy to protect patient information and build trust among users
    • Continuously analyzing data on patient interactions, preferences, and outcomes to identify areas for improvement, optimize processes, and deliver more personalized and effective care

    Realizing the promise of optichannel

    The shift from omnichannel to optichannel marks a notable change in customer service philosophy, focusing not on the quantity of channels but on the quality of interactions. Taking a strategic approach allows companies to predict and adapt to customer preferences more accurately, paving the way for superior service and elevated customer loyalty.

    As customer service continues to evolve, businesses adopting an optichannel approach position themselves to lead the way, mastering customer engagement through the most impactful channels and securing sustained success in a competitive landscape. By constantly refining their approach to align with market demands, companies can maintain a competitive edge and drive long-term business success through enhanced customer experiences.

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    Melanie Tran
    Amit Unadkat is a Senior Manager in Logic20/20’s Digital Transformation Practice.
    Alison Braun
    Alexis Sears is a Senior Manager in Logic20/20’s Digital Transformation Practice.
    Breanne Raso
    Dmitriy Buslovich is a Director in Logic20/20’s Digital Transformation Practice.
    Breanne Raso
    Alena LaScola is a Manager in Logic20/20’s Digital Transformation Practice.

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