Often times, we hear feedback from customers that is at odds – sometimes dramatically or extremely. You may hear from one customer that they only want to work one way on something just as another customer insists they’d never work with you that way.

How do you make sense of these competing customer needs and know what to build to meet them?

The answer that is becoming a focus of so many of the conversations I have across carriers is about omni- or multi-channel approaches. I would broaden this notion out a step further to call it omni-experience thinking.

What is “Omni-Experience”?

Omni-experience is about creating flexibility for customers, employees and the various technology and tools you deploy for people to navigate them fluidly, as their situation and preferences dictate.

For example, if you are communicating with a customer via text message and they choose to call to continue the process, they should be allowed to. But beyond just allowing them to call, they shouldn’t have to start the process all over, going through all the details and information they already shared via text.

If someone wants to buy from you online, directly for one policy like their personal Auto coverage, but then work with an agent or broker to add Home and Umbrella (assuming you are a multi-channel-distributed carrier), they should be able to and still have a single, household-view of their accounts with you.

While we talk about people doing so much digitally and through self-service solutions across their lives these days, what they really are doing is engaging as they want to, when they want to. They’re not being forced to work one way or another, and you hear complaints when they are.  For example, Amazon is often held up as a gold standard in the online shopping experience, and their customer support is typically fantastic. But when people struggle to get a human when they need one, you see that sparking strongly-negative feedback.

How do you Build an Omni-Experience?

One reason we have struggled to offer customers interactions and solutions that met their different and changing preferences is the complexity it took to deliver each experience, and how that complexity often inherently meant there were walls between experiences so people couldn’t move seamlessly back and forth.

Today, the growing universe of API-enabled tools and richness of API libraries means more and more tools and systems can be interconnected, allowing customers and employees to flow back and forth between them easily. And because APIs allow for easier, faster integrations often measured in weeks rather than the months or years of the traditional world, we can deploy seamless, multi-experience paths more readily than before.

We’ve talked in the industry for years about the growing expectations of customers to do things multiple ways without duplication of effort, but those expectations are already here, and they’re becoming demands or table-stakes rather than differentiators customers would give us credit for offering. Today, the tools to meet those demands are here.

The one last ingredient is an openness on the part of the industry to respond to customers’ wanting seemingly-opposing things from us with a willingness to embrace the flexibility afforded by the raft of new solutions and ways of interconnecting and enabling them.