In the world of customer support, many businesses offer multiple channels of communication through which customers can communicate. These channels can include voice, text, live chat, email, social media and more. The advantage of offering more than one channel of communication is that customers can communicate via the channel that is preferable to them at any given moment. This can be in the form of omnichannel or multichannel support - two similar, yet different, approaches.
What is the Difference Between Omnichannel vs Multichannel Support?
Multichannel support is exactly what it sounds like--multiple channels through which a business provides customer support. At any given time, a customer can choose to use whichever method is convenient for them. For example, if a customer has a simple question, they may choose to communicate via SMS or a live chat option. If their question is more in-depth and difficult to articulate through typing, they may choose to call and speak to an agent directly. Multichannel support delivers convenience to customers, allowing them to choose the method of communication that works best for them in different scenarios. This approach shows that the business cares about the customer’s preferences and overall experience.
Omnichannel support takes the customer experience to the next level. This approach focuses on seamless integration of the channels available. Not only can a customer choose the method of communication that is most convenient for initiating an interaction, but they can transition between different methods in the same interaction. For example, if a customer is interacting with an agent through live chat but doesn’t feel the issue is being resolved, that same agent can call the customer directly to continue the conversation through a voice phone call. This allows for a more effective resolution in the same interaction. The customer doesn’t have to start over with a new agent or spend time figuring out which method of communication they should try next in order to resolve the issue. This results in a smooth customer experience, where the customer’s issue is resolved in one seamless interaction.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel Support: Which is the Best Approach?
From the perspective of the customer, well-executed omnichannel support will result in a smoother overall experience. Here are a couple of reasons why:
- Consistency: In multichannel, there is a tendency for channels to become siloed, possibly leading to a different experience for the customer in each channel. Even if those channels aren't utilized in the same interaction, the customer will notice a difference in experience over time. Omnichannel focuses on consistency across channels, so that no matter when or which channel, the customer experience will always be of the same caliber.
- Ease: While multichannel offers different options for the customer to choose from, it doesn't always make it easy for the customer to interact. If one channel isn't working for a customer, it's up to the customer to start a new interaction in a new channel, which can be frustrating and confusing. Omnichannel makes these choices and transitions easy for a customer to make, without them having to think about it. Customers don't want to think about channels; they just want an easy interaction that solves their issues quickly.
From the perspective of the business, omnichannel is a significant investment. Not only does it require highly integrated technology, but true omnichannel support requires every employee to operate from the mindset of
delivering a seamless and consistent customer experience. Channels cannot work in silos. Agents must be agile enough to toggle between channels without causing an interruption in the customer interaction. Each channel, although unique in the communication method, must provide a consistent experience for the customer, every time.
Ultimately, deciding between omnichannel vs multichannel support depends on the complexity of your business and the level of quality you are striving to achieve when it comes to customer support. The ultimate goal, no matter which strategy you choose, is for customers to never have to think about “channels” at all. Are your customers getting what they need, when they need it, through seamless interactions? If not, omnichannel support may be the worthy solution.