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How the Heck Do You Omnichannel?

The buzz in retail these days is “omnichannel” – we see slogans such as “Engage with Today’s Omnichannel Consumers,” “Develop Your Omnichannel Business” frequently. Cisco itself uses this word often. But in all honesty, I don’t think many people fully grasp the concept and its potential. And I don’t know of any retailer that has a complete approach to it. That’s right: None. 

Omnichannel retailing is about opening the store, its products, and services to shoppers in an immersive way that drives customer interaction across any point of access, at any time. “Omnichannel” is not just about connecting existing systems, it’s a transformational way to look at how you conduct business.

Becoming an omnichannel retailer is a broad undertaking, and many retailers are creating new executive positions to lead this strategy. However, I think these companies may be missing the boat. When thinking about omnichannel strategies, consider three key points:

First, a customer-centric strategy cuts across all organizations in the business – it can’t be sidelined into one business function such as IT. I often consult with retailers who experiment with different capabilities in a disconnected way; essentially, they throw technologies at the wall and wait to see what sticks. Instead, why not start by asking, “What does my customer want? How can I build a loyal relationship with them?” It’s all too easy to assume that showrooming is the enemy. But, really, why, for example, is Amazon successful? It’s not because they are available on a mobile phone. It’s because they are easy to do business with, offer good pricing, and deliver quickly. It’s about the way they address customer needs.

Next, I think stores often try to do too much at once (see wall-sticking, above). Instead, I recommend a phased approach that starts with the low-hanging fruit – projects that have the highest probability of effectiveness and can be measured against business targets as a whole. Every store has its niche, and one size does not fit all. By achieving rapid successes up front, retailers gain funding for the next piece of the strategy, building from success to success.

Finally, accept the fact that an omnichannel business will change how people work. Are you avoiding Internet access because you think associates will waste time surfing the web? Some may – but your good salespeople will be able to leverage online information to help them serve shoppers. Concerned that showrooming on the floor will drive customers away as they find lower prices online? Build your own identity, brand, and incentives into the online environment to drive sales. Worried that an online storefront or call center will undercut in-store sales? Run the numbers on losses over time as consumers find your store is the only one without convenient mobile customer support.

Omnichannel is not about the technology. Rather, it’s about finding the best outcome for you and your shoppers. To achieve success, IT and business must work together to solve customer problems for the store as a whole – there’s no other way to do it with complete success. Check out this great blog by Cara Waters, Five Lessons in Retail Trends.

I love retail trivia! Comment below if you know the answer to this question: What is the oldest US retail company?

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Connecting Experts to Customers with Omnichannel Delivery

Are you familiar with the bank of yesterday? One where trying to meet with an expert can translate into being required to travel across town or deal with lengthy wait times and lines? Where it can take days and even weeks to receive and sign documents to close a mortgage or open a new account? And yet many other aspects of your life can be addressed from the privacy and security of your home, at a time that is convenient to you.

I suspect many have encountered these or similar frustrations while attempting to gain valuable advice and support from a financial expert at a bank. However, these are becoming issues of the past thanks to the emergence of the omnichannel banking model.

The bank of now is here. Customers may make their own choice of when, where, and how they want financial service interaction. The omnichannel model orients the bank to focus on the customer, independent of product or geography, enabling customers to connect with the right expert at the right time at their preferred channel. One key to executing this strategy is recognition that a bank has to go beyond yesterday’s multi-channel integration by leveraging technology to virtually connect customers with the people who are best suited to address their needs. To get started down the omnichannel path, Read More »

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The Evolution of Immersive Video in the Retail Bank Branch Series (3): Remote experts in action

July 22, 2013 at 8:45 am PST

In part two of this three-part series detailing the “Evolution of Immersive Video in the Retail Bank Branch,” I looked at Cisco’s Remote Expert Solution more in-depth and discussed how the solution’s contact center enables virtual face-to-face meetings with high-definition video. By offering customers instant access to knowledgeable experts, even when customers are in remote areas, banks can provide personal service resulting in improved customer confidence in the relationship and greater loyalty. Now that we understand how the solution works, I’d like to take a deeper look at the solution in action and discuss how Remote Expert can meet customer needs in three key business areas.

Wealth Management Services

Remote Expert’s video sharing capability allows investment advisors to visually see the customers they are pitching new products and services to and helps them to gauge how to lead the conversation. In some cases, portfolios may be complex, especially when involving trusts, so video adds an additional medium in which to connect with the customer and explain the approach being presented by the wealth advisors. This is something that cannot be accomplished easily over the phone and traditionally has involved air travel to meet the customer in person. For ultra-high-net worth customers (> $2 MM), Remote Expert also provides a way for multiple advisors to join the conversation remotely to guide the client through the estate planning or wealth planning discussion.

Mortgage Sales

Today, there are many mortgage programs and products available. In addition, many state and federal regulations exist as it relates to quoting and working with customers on mortgage programs. Video has been shown to be an effective way to drive additional understanding of those various mortgage products and a way to work with the customer through the pre-approval process and up to the point of underwriting. We are finding that banks are still opting for the traditional in-person closing process, but more and more institutions are experimenting with completing the entire mortgage process using Remote Expert and the available video capabilities it provides. Read More »

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The Evolution of Immersive Video in the Retail Bank Branch Series (2): Bring an expert to any branch

June 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm PST

In the first part of the “Evolution of Immersive Video in the Retail Bank Branch” series, I discussed how the retail banking industry is currently undergoing organizational changes that are affecting customers’ banking experience, including the knowledge and interaction they receive upon entering a bank.

Through these new organizational changes, banks are integrating new technology as part of their business processes to attract the more tech-savvy customers that desire choices and convenience when banking. Through Cisco’s Remote Expert solution, banks can meet these customer needs while making their business processes more cost and time-efficient and improving the customer experience. The Remote Expert solution enables virtual face-to-face meetings with high-definition audio and video.

RE Expert

Through Remote Expert’s integration with Cisco’s contact center, retail banks can leverage their existing database of enterprise-wide, skills-based information on the organization’s experts and make it available to customers at any time during business hours. Remote Expert allows a customer in the branch to find the right banking expert to meet their needs, including inquiries about annuities or questions specific to mortgage brokers.

Not only does Remote Expert enhance the bank’s existing channels and provide convenience for banking customers, it also reduces costs for all parties involved. Read More »

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ATA 2013 – Not All TeleHealth Markets Are Created Equal

Being able to participate at an American Telemedicine Association event in Austin, Texas has been a true highlight of 2013. The conference and its attendees were a-buzz with more remote monitoring devices than I knew existed, infinite possibilities to provide “care anywhere,” and a fantastic array of new connections in this growing facet of our industry. Thought-provoking conversations centered on convergence of healthcare and ICT, needs and opportunities for telehealth stakeholders, and telehealth’s impact on treatment and prevention.

ATA 2013 – Not All TeleHealth Markets Are Created Equal A common theme throughout the event was the current state of the industry and how connected health solutions are creating pathways to transform healthcare. This includes things such as workflow optimization, provider and patient engagement, and new application opportunities in the field of care. Telehealth has the power to impact both treatment and prevention in healthcare, which is crucial to shifting the burden of healthcare costs down, and the ability to improve outcomes.

During the event, I was privileged to take part in a Market Watch panel, “Not All Telehealth Markets are Equal,” hosted by Frost & Sullivan. This panel consisted of representatives from companies focused on remote monitoring, video telemedicine, mHealth, and home healthcare. We discussed key differences and similarities between these top market verticals concerning challenges, business models, and future growth.

Each of the panelists were asked several questions:

  1. What are the most innovative or transformative use examples of telehealth solutions you are seeing live in practice, which can impact change and outcomes?
  2. What restraints and challenges are people facing out in the market now especially in terms of realizing revenue growth and potential for telehealth solutions? Why will the future be different from the past?
  3. What are some best practices you have seen in getting patients engaged with mobile and telehealth solutions and actually driving behavioral change?
  4. Would you agree with our (Frost & Sullivan) view of the importance of video telemedicine in leading markets in telehealth, and what realized uptake is being seen in practice currently and what other factors are important to make this work?

Innovative telehealth use

There is a great deal of innovative  telehealth use, but one example I shared involved doctors recording patients’ visits (using Show ‘n Share) and sending a link of the recording to the patients after the fact so they can easily watch it again, and share with family and friends. This represents an innovative and different use of telehealth technology – it supports patients who are likely inundated with information during their visit and allows them to relive their consult remotely. 

Restraints and challenges

Telehealth now encompasses so many different channels patients want to use to interact with their healthcare system – telephone, mobile, social, email, text, web chat, etc. This means health care providers and payers must invest in the proper operational infrastructure to support these consumer connection expectations.  I gave the example of a patient with an illness, who wants to talk to a doctor remotely, and expects to be “seen” within 15 minutes. A payer or provider cannot expect to deliver that specific level of service unless they have a centralized infrastructure that is dedicated to operations. In order for this to be scalable, health systems will have to invest in elements such as contact center, unified communications, secure wireless infrastructures, and endpoints with solutions like Jabber and WebEx. These are just examples of some solutions that can be deployed in order to make telehealth work seamlessly to provide patients with the best remote care experience possible.

Best practices

Many panelists discussed gamification and how it is becoming a tool to engage consumers, as it ties to human nature, competitiveness and camaraderie. I discussed this from my personal standpoint. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a strategy that healthcare should deploy more because many health systems are being asked to think and act more like retailers in-nature. Healthcare systems need to take a page from companies who have to know their customers well and respond. This requires a strategic shift in how they approach and interact with patients and families, creating an infrastructure that would allow patients and family members or loved ones to communicate and interact with their care professionals via the communication method they choose. A sophisticated CRM strategy and eco-system is necessary to manage this.

Importance of video telemedicine

To drive home the importance of video in telehealth and the need for more efficiency in healthcare, I highlighted the model for primary care. I noted that primary care itself could be more remote and centralized at the same time. This could be a market differentiator for the health systems that deploy such a model, because the cost structure would be significantly reduced. A key technology component that supports this is a call manager feature combined with  remote video technology that looks at hundreds of doctors to determine who may be available at any given time. As telehealth and telemedicine technology begins to grow and be widely adopted, this will be even more important. In order for it to scale and cross organization boundaries, it must be interoperable with different devices and endpoints and be able to connect in any way possible.

One thing is for sure; telehealth cannot exist without the support and adoption of the clinical community.  The only way to ensure successful adoption of new technology is hand-in-hand implementation that’s tailored to the desired clinical workflow and to ensure that clinicians are championing it across the organization.

Learn more about ATA and the “Not All Telehealth Markets are Equal,” panel I participated in. And let me know any thoughts you have about my responses to the panel questions.

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