Mostly, in the customer service industry the two terms “omnichannel customer service” and “multichannel customer service” are used interchangeably. But there’s actually a big difference between them. In this blog, we aim to identify the differences between the two and educate on the implications of each approach in a customer service context – let’s dive in.
Multichannel customer service
Multichannel customer service is a strategy which aims to quickly communicate or deliver information to the customer using as many individual communication channels as possible or as is needed. The channels are not joined up as the multichannel approach favours a unique strategy for each separate communication channel.
Omnichannel customer service
The omnichannel approach means having a cross-channel strategy based on the simultaneous use of all available communication channels. Each channel is linked to another in such a way as to provide the greatest possible customer experience. In this situation, the user has the freedom to use all communication channels the company offers and importantly, can easily switch between them.
Now that we know the differences between the two terms, it’s important to note that companies who engage customers using an omnichannel customer service approach experience a higher customer retention rate of up to 90%, compared to companies who prefer using the other option1. And in a world where lead acquisition can be expensive, it’s really important to put emphasis on retaining customers. With that in mind, let’s explore the benefits of implementing an omnichannel customer service approach.
Meeting customer expectations
Customer expectations are constantly changing and with the rise of the Millennials and Generation Z businesses are being faced with new challenges. Customers not only expect to receive easy access to excellent customer service, whenever they want it and by their chosen channel, they also expect the experience to be equally satisfying and consistent across all those channels. Whilst it’s easy to meet half the expectations with a multichannel strategy, only an omnichannel strategy can fully deliver on the expectation that each channel is ‘equally satisfying and consistent’.
This is with the help of Integrated Communication (IC) technology, which supports an omnichannel strategy. It orchestrates customer interactions across multiple channels and can present them in a single desktop interface, ensuring that agents deliver outstanding customer care, that is ‘equally satisfying and consistent’. Customers would enjoy real continuity in their dealings with an organisation – regardless of their preferred contact channel.
Enriched data with all relevant history
Channels such as chat, social media, forums and even webinars, leave a recorded written customer trace. Accumulating this customer information and reviewing it could give you an insight into how your clients interact with your brand and their different needs across the various channels2, enabling you to make key business decisions.
On a functional level, a good omnichannel structure means that customers can switch between channels without complications, like loss of information; whereas in a multichannel situation this could easily happen, with omnichannel, it’s unlikely – An agent would have whole contact histories displayed in front of them, with a record of communication from all channels used.
Increased productivity of agents
In a multichannel communication environment, an agent can lose time switching from one channel to another. Omnichannel negates the need to switch and therefore saves a considerable amount of time. In fact, studies have shown that a unified approach can increase an agent’s productivity by up to 30% 3. This also takes into consideration that (with IC technology) an agent would have full context, i.e. they have full contact histories in front of them, which means they don’t waste time looking for information.
In conclusion, we can say the major difference between omnichannel and multichannel is the level of integration; multichannel is usually identified as a non-integrated way to approach customers while omnichannel requires coherent and absolute integration. Omnichannel is an increasingly popular strategy for companies because of the opportunities and advantages (as outlined above) related to integrating multiple channels.
If you have any questions on the subject of multichannel or omnichannel customer service after reading this blog, leave a comment below or contact us.