Communication is a basic human need. The need to "be heard" and "responded to" is fundamental yet hard to achieve. Why? Because there is content (a lot of it), there is context, connotation, tonality, body language/structure, choice of vocabulary, time of the day, state of mind and will of the parties involved, and many other unknown variables. Any communication's effectiveness comes from knowing all variables involved and assigning these variables proportional weight so that your message is received loud and clear.
Meanwhile, omnichannel has become a buzzword used loosely. Be it omnichannel eCommerce, omnichannel marketing, or omnichannel engagement, and everyone wants to go omnichannel in what they do. But when it comes to communication, an omnichannel approach can be highly complex. Effective communication requires attention to detail, collecting and analyzing feedback, and incorporating the feedback through multiple iterations.
To elaborate on the scope of omnichannel communication, let me share an excerpt from my conversation with Sam, who manages software products for organizations in the Business to Customer (B2C) or Direct to Customer (D2C) space.
Me: Hey Sam! How are you? What are you up to these days?
Sam: Hi Tarun, I am doing well, just keeping busy with work, I have a release coming up that enables sending push notifications to customers whenever they place an order, and each time there is an update on the delivery status.
Me: Oh, Wow! That's interesting. Have you considered going omnichannel with your communications, or do you plan to stick to push notifications and text messages only?
Sam: What is omnichannel communication? can you decode the term for me?
Me: It will be my pleasure! In simple terms, communication is the relay of information between two or more parties. The medium through which this information is relayed is called a channel, and omnichannel communication means communicating through all the available channels.
Sam: Isn't "All" too generic and too broad?
Me: Yes, it is. Given that there are numerous options in the current era," all" is overreaching. If you want to communicate, you must choose the "right" channels for communication.
Sam: What channels should I choose?
Me: It is subjective and depends on who "I" here is and the target audience. I mean, don't you ever text some friends and call the others? It does not necessarily have to do with the kind of relationship you have with your friend. It might be because of the type of information you want to share, its criticality, the other person's schedule, and other behavioral aspects.
Sam: Let us say "I" is an organization that wants to communicate with its customers.
Me: Oh, Man! Now we are talking. Let's assume the first party is "XYZ Organization," which engages with customers across the globe and delivers value for another organization or direct customers.
In a typical B2B scenario like this, you, the organization, can use the following options:
- Phone calls
- In-Person Meeting
- Digital collaboration channels like Zoom, Teams, Slack
- Digital Platform of either party, specifically for communication
- Printed media
However, in the case of a direct customer, there are fewer options:
- Phone calls
- Printed media
- In-person meeting
You may also use text messages and mobile app push notifications if the other party agrees to receive them; that way, you will ensure that:
- The other party will expect the communication to come through that channel
- Your messages will be read and not ignored or lost in the clutter.
- You relay the communication in real time.
Because the text messages and push notifications are delivered immediately (<5min), you must keep in mind the recipient's constraints like time zone and schedule. Hence, knowing their preferred time to receive each kind of communication will be extremely helpful in building a solid relationship.
But what comes in fast goes out even faster, so you should complement these communications with a certain level of traceability. You must be able to confirm or deny if a message was sent, delivered, or read via these channels, and it can be viewed later. For all communications, both parties must make a choice mutually and establish a process for sensitive information.
Omni-channel communication is a broader term encompassing all the different possibilities through which communication can be delivered; it is not limited to traditional and well-established channels. It also includes the new unexplored territories of the modern technology era.