The term 'Contact Center' frequently appears in discussions about customer support and service these days.
As you know, providing top-notch customer service is essential in today's competitive market space.
The question remains: should you opt for an omnichannel or multichannel contact center?
Before we delve into the meaty details of 'omnichannel vs. multichannel Contact Center,' let's brief ourselves with these terms to ensure we're all on the same page.
Contact Center: A hub where all customer interactions occur across multiple channels. It's like a more sophisticated form of a call center that handles not only phone-based interactions but also email, social media, live chat, and more.
Multichannel Customer Service: Refers to using multiple channels to interact with customers. Whether it's via email, social media, live chat, or phone calls, the idea is to be where your customers are.
For example, a customer's interaction on social media might stay there without being communicated to other channels like the contact center's phone service.
Omnichannel Customer Service: Embraces all of the multichannel approach's channels but connects them to offer seamless communication. When customers move from one channel to another, their information and interaction history moves along with them.
But while both multichannel and omnichannel involve selling across multiple physical and digital channels, the difference lies in the depth of the integration and the level of customer experience.
In short, to decide the winner in the 'Omnichannel vs. multichannel Contact Center' debate, one must understand their business requirements, customer expectations, and what each model offers.
A multichannel contact center represents a method of customer communication that utilizes multiple avenues or channels.
It is designed to give your customers more than one way to contact your business.
These communication channels may include traditional calls and emails, social media channels, live chat, SMS, and more.
Organizing so many channels under one roof makes a multichannel contact center a critical factor in the overall customer service experience.
Multichannel Customer Service is dedicated to enabling customers to contact a business via the channel that suits them.
This could be via social media like Facebook or Twitter, phone again, more traditional methods like email, or even more advanced technologies like live chat.
However, what differentiates it as a 'multichannel' is the fact that, while all these channels are available, they are treated individually and mostly operate in isolation.
Moreover, the user's communication history or interactions on one channel do not transfer. Each channel functions independently of the others.
A customer interaction that begins on social media may remain there without being communicated to other channels such as email or phone.
However, it is essential to understand that the success of a multichannel contact center is not just about making every possible channel available for the customer to consume.
Instead, the effectiveness lies in selecting the right combination of channels that bind with the communication preferences of your own unique customer base.
Today, it is all about meeting customers where they are and on their preferred mode of communication.
So what role does a Multichannel Contact Center play? And what benefits does it afford?
1. Channel diversity: As businesses continue to cater to customers' evolving, diverse communication preferences, having multiple channels of interaction becomes an absolute necessity. A multichannel Contact Center allows businesses to balance traditional communication methods with newer ones, ensuring a broad coverage for all types of customers.
2. Customer convenience: By giving your customers multiple contact options, you're making it easier and more convenient for them to interact with your business. Whether they prefer emails, phone calls, or quick interactions via social media, a multichannel approach enables you to serve customers on their terms, which in turn enhances their service experience overall.
3. Increased reach: A distinct advantage of a multichannel strategy is being able to engage with your customers across different platforms. This means you can reach your customers in more ways than one, potentially covering a larger, more diverse audience.
4. Feedback and insights: Multiple channels mean multiple places for feedback. This can offer businesses a wide-ranging understanding of what customers like or dislike about their products or services. These insights can help businesses tailor their offerings to suit their customers' needs better.
5. Competitive advantage: Offering a multichannel service could very well set a business apart from its competition. It offers customers a choice and ensures that a business stays relevant in a market where customer preferences constantly change.
Putting it simply, an Omnichannel Contact Center takes all the available communication channels in a multichannel approach and connects them to provide seamless and superior customer service.
However, it goes much deeper than that. This model doesn't just allow customers to reach businesses through their preferred channel.
Instead, it ensures that a customer's interaction history across different channels is interconnected and easily accessible, thus providing a unified customer experience.
For example, if a customer commences a conversation through email and then chooses to continue it over a phone call, the support agent would have full knowledge of the previous interaction, allowing for a smoother and more personalized continuation of service.
Unlike a multichannel contact center where each channel operates independently, the omnichannel contact center approach ascertains that the customer experience remains consistent across all channels and during all interactions.
Omnichannel Customer Service is centered around the idea of providing seamless and coherent interactions across all available channels.
It focuses on the consistency, coherency, and uniformity of customer experiences, regardless of where and how the customer has chosen to interact with the company. Here's how it achieves this seemingly complex goal.
Imagine a scenario where a customer sends an email to the support center, follows up through a phone call, and then jumps onto a live chat session on the company's website.
Omnichannel ensures that each of these interactions is seamlessly linked together.
This ability to remember the context of every interaction across all channels sets Omnichannel Customer Service apart from the multichannel approach.
After we've unraveled the concept of Omnichannel Customer Service, it's time to discuss its advantages – the factors that potentially make it an integral part of the modern contact center.
1. Consistency across all channels: Omnichannel customer service ensures that customers get a uniform experience no matter where they get in touch. The customer representatives are always updated about previous interactions, leading to less confusion and more efficient service.
2. Improved customer experience: As frustration due to repeated explanations or lingering queries gets reduced, the overall customer experience improves. This consistent and personalized service can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
3. Better customer insights: With information flowing across all channels, businesses can gain more in-depth insights into customer behavior and preferences. This data can be invaluable for tailoring products, services, and experiences to customer needs.
4. Increased efficiency: Employees are not restrained by channel-specific information, so they can concentrate on solving customer issues. Access to end-to-end customer interaction history minimizes duplication of effort and can significantly improve efficiency.
5. Greater scalability: With a more streamlined approach to managing customer interactions, businesses can scale their operations without having to worry about maintaining continuity and consistency in their service quality.
In summary, while a Multichannel Contact Center allows customers to choose their preferred channel, it is an Omnichannel Contact Center that ensures they enjoy a seamless, personalized, and superior service experience, no matter which channel they opt for.
This comparison will allow us to clearly understand what makes each platform unique and thus aid you in your decision-making process.
The main distinctive feature of the multichannel model is the diversity and autonomy of its channels.
It is designed to offer customers various ways to interact with your business, catering to a broader audience and enriching customer experience.
However, each channel is considered a separate entity, often lacking coordination and communication.
This platform gives independence to each channel, allowing room for tailored strategies that might be channel-specific.
From a business standpoint, investing in a multichannel platform could offer convenience but may also provide challenges when it comes to monitoring performance and tracking customer movement across channels.
On the other hand, the omnichannel model is defined by its seamless channel integration and uniform customer experience.
This platform ensures a cohesive interaction history irrespective of the channel the customer chooses to use.
It creates an environment where information flows smoothly from one touchpoint to the next, allowing for a more thorough and personalized interaction every time a customer contacts the business.
For businesses, this model offers cross-channel visibility, better customer insights, and, ultimately, superior service.
Another aspect to consider while comparing is measuring value creation and return on investment (ROI).
It can be challenging to calculate the ROI of a Multichannel Contact Center due to the separate functioning of each channel.
To understand the value of your multichannel investment, you need to measure the performance and acquisition cost for each channel separately while simultaneously trying to understand the customer's preference for channels and the shift from one channel to another.
This knowledge will enable you to invest further in profitable channels and find ways to improve underperforming ones.
The benchmark ROI metrics often used include the following:
* Sales revenue: How much business each channel is driving.
* Customer acquisition cost (CAC): The complete cost of securing a new customer on each channel.
* Customer lifetime value (CLV): How much value a customer will likely bring over a relationship with your business.
* Retention rate: The percentage of customers you retain over a specific time period.
* Net Promoter Score (NPS): A measure of customer loyalty.
Reminder: Your multichannel strategy's success lies not just in providing numerous channels but in understanding how, when, and why your customers choose one over another.
When a business shift from a multichannel model to an omnichannel one, a significant transformation occurs in how customer experience is delivered.
Firstly, customer journey mapping in omnichannel contact centers allows organizations to visualize the entire customer journey, detect friction points, and understand the customer's needs, emotions, and motivations at different stages.
It efficiently answers your customers' queries and extends its function to include proactive service, predictive service, and even the capacity for self-service.
Secondly, the omnichannel approach eliminates any communication gaps between the channels, ensuring that the customers are not required to repeat information.
This means not only a more natural journey for the customer but a higher customer satisfaction score for the business.
Lastly, the omnichannel model provides a unified view of customer data, granting agents quick and easy access to purchase history, preferences, and past interactions across all channels.
This enables businesses to deliver personalized and context-appropriate communication, making customers feel valued and understood.
In other words, an omnichannel contact center offers superior customer service and facilitates a deeper understanding of your customers, permitting you to anticipate their needs and exceed their expectations.
Adopting an omnichannel contact center is no longer a luxury for businesses but a necessity. However, that doesn't mean it can effortlessly replace the multichannel model.
Both have unique features that may suit different business needs and customer preferences.
By now, you have probably gotten the idea that 'Omnichannel' and 'multichannel' are not just industry buzzwords but influential strategies for providing meaningful customer service.
Both models help businesses interact with their customers, but they differ in a few key areas. Let's decrypt them!
Multichannel Contact Centers offer customers multiple interactions, i.e., multiple touchpoints or channels, to communicate with businesses.
They cater to the varied preferences of customers, who can choose their preferred mode of communication.
However, channel ownership is fragmented as each channel in the multichannel model exists in silos. Therefore, each channel operates independently, with minimal to no interaction with the other channels.
On the contrary, Omnichannel Contact Centers embrace every channel comprising a multichannel model but add a layer of integration, creating a harmonious and connected customer interaction environment.
All channels belong to the same ecosystem, and the ownership is consolidated. The channels don't just exist in parallel—they converge.
The focus here is on the continuity of customer experience across different channels.
The concept of Platform Integration and Data Continuity is more synonymous with the omnichannel model than with the multichannel one.
Multichannel platforms treat their channels as autonomous units; hence, each channel possesses its own distinct dataset.
Because of the lack of integration, data generated on one channel doesn't contribute to the customer's profile on another.
In contrast, omnichannel platforms understand the significance of a holistic view of customer data for delivering superior service.
All channels are interconnected, ensuring smooth data transition. An omnichannel platform offers data continuity by maintaining a consistent and single version of customer information across all channels.
This allows businesses to keep track of previous interactions and preferences, regardless of the channel used and provides a bespoke, context-aware customer experience.
Each channel operates separately in a Multichannel Contact Center, and customer service agents are typically channel specialists.
They work in their respective 'channel silos' and lack a complete view of the customer interaction landscape.
This specialization can indeed guarantee expert handling of issues on specific channels, but when customers hop from one channel to another, the context can get lost, hindering a seamless service experience.
Omnichannel Contact Centers advocate for connected agent experience parallel to the customer experience.
As the platform integrates the channels, it provides agents with a unified workspace to access customer data from all channels.
This consolidation empowers them to understand the customers better and customize their interaction based on past preferences and issues.
Also, they can effortlessly switch between channels as required, ensuring that an ongoing interaction isn't interrupted due to a channel switch.
So, in an omnichannel setting, agents can provide a consistent, channel-less service experience and gain better customer insights, enabling them to anticipate customer needs and personalize service, fuelling customer satisfaction and loyalty.
While the Omnichannel Contact Center model is gaining popularity for its superior and seamless customer service provision, it also requires robust technology and resource investment.
If you're beginning your customer service journey, you might start with a multichannel approach and gradually shift towards an omnichannel strategy as your business evolves and grows.
The fact is that the customer service industry has seen considerable evolution over the last decade.
Modern customers are equipped with more knowledge and options than ever before.
They appreciate swift, consistent, and custom-made service and are more than willing to switch brands if their service expectations aren't met.
In this context, the contact center models that enable businesses to meet these contemporary customer needs come to the forefront.
If employed effectively, both Omnichannel and multichannel models ensure efficient interaction management, availability across numerous platforms, and, most importantly, improved customer experiences.
One intrinsic advantage of implementing either of these models is the acceleration of service provision. Multiple avenues for customer interaction translate into reduced waiting times and faster problem resolution.
1. Reduced response time: Having multiple channels like email, social media, live chat, phone calls, etc., helps distribute the customer query load and thus accelerates the response times. It also increases the likelihood of customers finding a channel they are comfortable with.
2. Decreased call waiting times: With several interaction points available, customers are not restricted to voice calls to solve their issues or resolve their queries. This could lead to decreased call queue lengths, ensuring your customers don't have to wait for extended periods to get assistance.
3. 24/7 customer service: While not necessary for all businesses, providing round-the-clock assistance can significantly boost customer satisfaction, especially for companies with international clientele or varying time zones. Technology-driven channels like chatbots or AI-driven assistants and self-service portals can ensure your customer gets the required aid no matter the time.
4. Increased first contact resolution (FCR): As multichannel platforms open up diverse customer communication avenues and Omnichannel ensures seamless, context-aware interactions, both models can potentially increase FCR rates. An enhanced FCR rate directly reflects on customer satisfaction levels and operational efficiency.
At the end of the day, whatever model you choose for your business should be able to elevate the customer experience.
Providing a multichannel contact center for your customers means they can reach your services through their preferred channel at any time—an element your customers will vastly appreciate.
The omnichannel model takes it a step further by ensuring that the interaction remains seamless, personalized, and superior no matter the channel.
1. Personalization: Omnichannel customer service allows businesses to track interactions and use that data to create a more personalized customer experience. However, even multichannel systems with independent platforms can use customer data to personalize customer interactions within each channel.
2. Consistency: Being available on multiple platforms is useless if the service quality differs across them. multichannel systems must ensure that service quality remains high across all platforms, while omnichannel platforms must focus on consistent experience across all touchpoints.
3. Convenience: Both these models, at their heart, aim to offer customer convenience. By ensuring service availability across various platforms, they cater to modern customers' needs for anywhere, anytime service accessibility.
4. Flexibility: By offering various platforms for interaction, businesses give their customers the flexibility to choose. Omnichannel platforms add another layer by providing versatile movement between these channels.
Both multichannel and Omnichannel models aim to reach the same destination - superior customer experience.
However, they take different routes to reach there. While multichannel does it by ensuring service availability on multiple distinct platforms, omnichannel does it through a seamless, unified customer experience across all platforms.
It's not about picking the better system; it's about understanding the unique needs of your business and selecting a model that fits those needs perfectly.
So, how do you make this decision? Let's figure it out together!
You need to ask yourself some critical questions:
1. Type of Customer Base
What are their communication preferences? Which channels do they frequently use? Do they frequently switch channels while interacting with you?
2. Availability of Resources
Do you have the tools, technology, and personnel to manage multiple platforms? If you look at Omnichannel, can you knit together an integrated, seamless experience across channels?
3. Customer Service Objectives
Are you aiming for broad channel coverage for customer convenience, or do you want to focus on seamless, personalized experiences for each customer?
4. Key Metrics
What are the key customer service metrics you aim to improve—Customer Satisfaction Score, First Contact Resolution, Average Handle Time, Net Promoter Score?
5. Growth Plans
Do you foresee the need to scale up your customer service operations in the near future? How would each model fit into this plan?
To weigh your options appropriately, you need to be clear about what you want to achieve with your customer service strategy.
Once you've articulated your needs, you can align them with the capabilities of each model:
Multichannel Contact Centers are apt if:
- You have a diverse customer base with varied preferred interaction platforms.
- You aim to provide the maximum possible contact points for your customers.
- You have limited resources to invest in channel integration but can ensure the management of multiple independent platforms.
- Your primary aim is to increase the breadth of your customer service coverage.
Go for Omnichannel Contact Centers if:
- Your customers frequently switch channels within the same interaction.
- You aim to provide your customers with a seamless and consistent service experience across all channels.
- You have the necessary technology and personnel to manage an integrated platform.
- Your key focus is improving customer satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty.
One essential thing is this is not an 'either-or' choice. Depending on your business requirements, customer preferences, and available resources, you might need to adopt a mix of these two models or gradually transition from one to another.
Both methodologies aim to elevate the customer experience, yet their methods differ, as do the business requirements they cater to.
The reality is that customer service is evolving rapidly.
With your customers becoming more tech-savvy and demanding, your strategies will need to evolve with them.
You might start with a multichannel approach, providing a wide range of avenues for your customers, and then move towards a more integrated, omnichannel approach as your business expands and customer demands shift.
Always remember that providing robust, reliable, and customer-centric service matters the most. Choose a platform that allows you to do that best.
Whether multichannel or omnichannel, the goal is to build a strong and enduring relationship with your customers. Given that, choose wisely, and don't hesitate to adapt as you go.
For further reading, you can also take a look at other beneficial blog posts that we have prepared!