Omnichannel Isn’t Just Another Buzzword


Susannah Richardson explains that there is a difference between the multichannel and omnichannel customer experience.

As businesses start getting to grips with their multichannel strategies for customer service, they start hearing about the sudden rise of “omnichannel”. This phrase has emerged from the retail world and is being touted as “the next big trend” and is apparently something different to “multichannel”.

But is there really a difference? Aren’t we all in effect saying the same thing?

Though the terms themselves have caused some confusion in the industry as they seem only subtly different, their meanings are actually quite different.

Customers now expect to be able to receive customer service via the channel of their choice and to be able to seamlessly transition between channels for one single enquiry. Today’s customer journey might start in one channel such as webchat and go through several others channels such as voice and email, before being resolved.

Whilst many businesses offer different channels for customer service, the level of service provided across these channels is inconsistent due to many of them existing in silos. This gap between customer demands and business capability in customer service is key in understanding the difference and transition between multichannel and omnichannel customer service.

Multichannel provides choice but not consistency

Multichannel refers to companies offering customers a choice of channels such as voice, email, chat and social for customer service. Although adopting two or more channels, they are not necessarily focused on delivering a seamless/consistent level of customer service across multiple touchpoints. This is a result of procuring and managing several different systems to manage each individual channel.

Omnichannel enables seamless transition between channels

Omnichannel communication refers to companies who also use multiple channels to engage with their customers but differentiate themselves by providing a consistent experience across all channels through integrating their technology in to one single system. Omnichannel customer service allows a customer to start an enquiry on one channel and seamlessly transition to another. For example, a customer enquiry that starts on social media can be escalated to webchat or a phone call whilst keeping all relevant contextualised data preserved across the channels.

Omnichannel is multichannel done right

In etymological terms, ‘multi’ means more than two and ‘omni’ means every. Therefore, whilst a business may provide multiple channels, they are not omnichannel unless there is interconnect between every touchpoint from the perspective of the customer.

Susannah Richardson

Susannah Richardson

From an agent perspective, they are equipped to handle all channels from a single system and can seamlessly transition the customer between channels. For example, if an agent is on webchat to a customer but the topic of conversation becomes too complex, the agent is able to seamlessly escalate the webchat to a phone call and retain all customer information and data on the same system.

Omnichannel is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer and orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated and consistent. It anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution and addresses the seamless flow of information and channel transition. Simply put, omnichannel is multichannel done right.

With thanks to Susannah Richardson at mplsystems

Published On: 8th Jul 2015 - Last modified: 18th Dec 2018
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