Omnichannel vs. multichannel contact center support: Turn key differences into competitive advantages

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When it comes to customer service, customers expect fast and accurate support through the channel of their choice. It’s up to businesses to figure out how to best meet those expectations. This typically means choosing between omnichannel versus multichannel support.

At first glance, the terms multichannel and omnichannel appear interchangeable. After all, they both involve multiple channels. However, there are significant differences between these terms and recognizing those differences could determine whether a business delights or disappoints its customers.

In this blog post we’ll look at both multichannel call centers and omnichannel contact center approaches, examine the key differences, and explain how to leverage the best aspects of each to optimize results.

What is omnichannel support and what are the benefits?

A defining characteristic of omnichannel support is that customer support is available across all communication channels, delivering a consistent customer experience. The key to an omnichannel strategy is giving the support team access to customer data and metrics across any channel. In an omnichannel contact center, associates can share notes about previous interactions with the customer across touchpoints. It also saves customers time from having to repeat their question or issue.

Customers want fast and convenient service through any channel. Omnichannel support does exactly that by connecting the customer experience and journey across channels and touchpoints, allowing brands to deliver the quick, personalized resolutions that customers crave.

Omnichannel support has also been shown to increase customer satisfaction and retention – a significant benefit to a company’s bottom line. In addition to increasing customer engagement, an omnichannel contact center adds value by centralizing data and tools under one system, which reduces resolution time while increasing efficiency and savings.

What is multichannel support and what are the benefits?

In contrast to omnichannel support, multichannel support means a company provides customer support through multiple channels, but those channels are not necessarily connected. In a multichannel contact center, for instance, associates would not be able to tell that a customer who reached out through live chat is the same customer who later made a phone call, since each channel accounts for different streams of conversation.

The benefit of a multichannel approach is that it allows brands to offer many support options without taking the time to unify them. This approach could be ideal for a new company that wants to quickly engage with customers through their preferred channel of communication. And if a company doesn’t have high customer volume yet, associates may not need to transition customers from one channel to another or track the context of previous interactions.

So, is one approach better than the other?

When comparing omnichannel vs multichannel contact centers, the bottom line is that companies must assess their needs, resources, and goals. Omnichannel support’s emphasis on interconnected channels might seem to be the better choice, but only if a company’s people, processes, and technology are appropriately aligned. It is also possible to start with a multichannel support experience before transitioning to omnichannel.

The application of a few simple best practices helps to make the process of planning, investing, and implementing a customer support approach even easier.

1. Identify and prioritize high value service experiences. Is the goal to give customers as many options as possible to engage with your company or is it to ensure that customers have a seamless service experience? Focus on the experience that would deliver the biggest payoff. For some organizations, that might mean enhancing the quality of service versus focusing on acquisition processes or vice versa.

2. Be agile. Keep track of new software developments and learnings, adopting a more iterative approach to implementation versus a one and done. Capture value immediately by embracing progress over perfection with the knowledge that the experience will be improved over time.

3. Be bold. The benchmark for reshaping the experience cannot be internally focused. Keep track of the marketplace and understand that the expectations of customers are shaped by their best experiences in any space or industry. Making investments to optimize a bad or even average experience might be worse than not investing at all.

What is the best way to use an omnichannel approach?

While a multichannel approach is geared toward engaging customers on multiple channels and making them aware of the brand, omnichannel is about providing a smooth and consistent customer experience. With that said, identify the parts of the customer journey where customers expect a seamless experience.

Make it easy for customers to interact with the company through multiple channels and ensure that they won’t have to repeat information each time they switch to a different channel. This means employees should be equipped with the tools and training to provide an omnichannel experience. A customer care associate, for instance, should be able to see that a customer already reached out and be able to review the interaction.

In addition, an omnichannel approach doesn’t mean that every channel should provide an identical service. Customer support channels, for instance, serve different purposes. An automated chatbot is best suited for simple, predictable questions whereas live associates are better suited for answering complex questions. However, both channels should be integrated in an omnichannel approach.

Focus on the customer

Multichannel and omnichannel approaches are both critical to running a competitive business and increasing customer loyalty. A business should be where its customers are and engage with them on customers’ preferred channels. And even a multichannel strategy should include a plan for drawing consumers further into the business.

An omnichannel experience is undoubtedly more complicated than a multichannel strategy; it requires the integration of numerous systems and platforms in addition to providing employees across the organization with the right training, tools, and mindset in an omnichannel culture. But by understanding the key differences between multichannel and omnichannel and how to best leverage these approaches, companies can succeed in today’s fast-paced, digital-first world.

Omnichannel vs. multichannel support in a nutshell

Selecting the right customer support can be difficult but understanding the nuances of each makes the decision easier. Both omnichannel and multichannel support enable brands to assist customers via different channels but they offer different experiences. With omnichannel support, all the support channels are interconnected, creating a seamless experience for both employee and customer. Associates can share information about customer interactions across channels.

Multichannel support doesn’t require integration processes and technology, which could appeal to new companies. The drawback is less insight into how customers interact with the company. This could potentially increase average handle times and churn due as associates repeatedly ask for information from customers. Regardless of the support option, ensuring that it meets your customer experience goals and expectations will put you on the road to success.

More omnichannel contact center resources 

Create Effortless Omnichannel Experiences – Phone calls, chat, messaging, social media, email, customer expect multi channel support. At the same time, agents and customers benefit when the entire customer journey is seamless. Team members benefit because customer information is all in one knowledge base, and customers benefit because the contact center associates are able to more quickly and efficiently provide personalized support. To achieve this, call center multi channel support for customer queries is not enough. It is also important for companies to provide effortless omnichannel orchestration across those channels. In our omnichannel strategy guide, learn how to create improved customer experiences through omnichannel support and gain insight into the top challenges, and best remedies, for overcoming contact center infrastructure challenges.

Multichannel 101 – The complex art and simple science of developing a differentiated multichannel strategy.

Measuring the Omnichannel Customer Experience – As companies become more adept handling customer inquiries across channels, the measurements used to track performance will also evolve.

The Plight and Promise of the Omnichannel Journey – These five key approaches will move organizations’ omnichannel efforts in the right direction.