It’s Time for a Real Digital Transformation

I have a bone to pick; there's no two ways about it. The concept of omnichannel service has been in the contact center market since 1997, as have some of the newer channels. Back then, service across various channels was referred to as multichannel support.

Today, consumers and many business partners want, expect, and might even need omnichannel support, but service providers, many of whom are the large enterprises and organizations that people deal with every day, are not providing it.

True omnichannel support means each customer's history is available to agents, regardless of the channel. Only a few leading companies provide this.

Then there are companies that take omnichannel in a different direction and provide only digital support. While this might be fine in a limited number of situations, DMG Consulting believes strongly that there is a time and place for calls as well, even when the phone is not the preferred or primary channel for customers.

Digital Transformation and the Contact Center

In the business press and many annual reports, companies claim to be investing major resources in digital transformation. Sounds good, but I've got to wonder where the money is going. It looks like many companies are using the term digital transformation to mean updates to 30- and 40-year-old operating systems that should have been retired 10 or 20 years ago. While new solutions are often necessary, acquiring them is not a digital transformation, it's simply a system refresh. Digital transformation is where a company reviews all of its internal and external-facing (customer) procedures, policies, activities, interactions, and systems and determines how they can be updated to position the many departments to compete in the digital era. Organizations need to analyze, rethink, and re-imagine everything that that they do and how things are done, something that should be assessed every few years for companies to maintain their differentiation. There are always new ways to improve performance and meet customer needs.

Given the ambitious goal of true digital transformation, the question is which departments should lead the way and how to begin. To do it right, companies should set up a governance process to manage their enterprise-wide digital transformation. The first step is to review and possibly update the enterprise strategy and mission statement. The next step is for every department in the company to draft goals that will enable the company to deliver on its mission and strategy. (It would be great if many of the customer-facing functions share some of the same goals, but that is a topic for another column.) Once this is done, every department should analyze performance and make recommendations for changes and enhancements that will position it for success during the next 10 years. This means addressing changes in people, processes, and technology. There are no shortcuts in this process. It is challenging and will take a substantial amount of time, but, if well planned and coordinated, it will position the company for success.

While the name has been changed from multichannel to omnichannel to protect the guilty, many companies that profess a commitment to delivering outstanding customer and possibly agent experience are still doing it the old way—with a phone team and possibly email or chat handled by a totally different group of agents. (In some of these organizations, this is what omnichannel means.)

These companies are missing the point and what their customers want. Sure, they don't have to make investments and enhancements in their service organizations, and, as a result, they think they are saving money. But the opportunity cost from lost business and negative impact on their brand, if quantified, would likely justify the investments needed within three to five years to create a truly omnichannel, digitized service department. Going omnichannel is not an option for most organizations; it is what their customers expect. It's only a question of when and how much a company is going to hurt itself until it catches up with the times.

Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, is an expert on contact centers, analytics, and back-office technology. She has 30 years of experience helping organizations build contact centers and back-office operating environments and assisting vendors to deliver competitive solutions. She can be reached at