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I was talking to an omni-channel executive at a major retailer and he shared an interesting story with me.

He and his daughter were driving in Midwest USA when they saw a truck next to them that read: “Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.”  His daughter turned to him and asked, “Dad, isn’t that what you are trying to do at your company?”. He smiled and nodded, however, he didn’t have a good answer to her question. It got him thinking: If a trucking company is talking about this, how could traditional omni-channel create a lasting differentiation for his or her company?. The executive took this experience back to his company and used it to drive a more holistic transformation that includes elements of Omni-Channel, but goes much further than a traditional Omni-Channel Initiative.

Is Omni-Channel the Silver Bullet?

Not really, but a superior Customer Experience is! It was the heart of retailing yesterday, even more relevant today and will remain at the core of retailing in future. How many retailers have a truly cross-function leader responsible for Customer Experience who is not the CEO?

Omni-channel is a key driver of Customer Experience. While having a person spearhead the Omni-channel initiative is important,  creating a broader role to enable a winning Customer Experience is vital. The obvious question this raises is “why do we not see this role more frequently?” For one, Customer Experience touches every aspect of the organization which makes it difficult to define responsibility and accountability. It inevitably creates a matrix organization which is difficult to manage. But the value of re-purposing the existing role or creating a new role is huge to a retailers.

The discussion about Omni-channel or Customer Experience czar is important because it sets the tone for how an organization prioritizes and executes upon improvement initiatives. Today, these investments might be skewed towards Omni-channel without a full understanding of the overall Customer Experience, what is the benefit of each initiative and how the various initiatives are being synchronized.

In summary, Omni-channel is important but it should be evaluated and synchronized in the broader context of Customer Experience. Organizationally, broadening the responsibility of a Omni-channel executive to total Customer Experience can be very beneficial to a retailer.

Vikas Goel