Once upon a time, setting up customer services meant providing a phone number.
And maybe a postal address for actual paper letters.
For a long time, that was as “multichannel” as it got.
But not anymore.
These days, inbound contact centers struggle to keep up with the number of viable channels.
And that’s not even the biggest challenge!
The biggest challenge is linking up all of those channels.
In other words – making the leap from multichannel to omnichannel.
(Fair warning; this article will make liberal use of the word “seamless”.)
Omnichannel vs. multichannel: more different than you think?
Let’s start with the obvious.
Omnichannel and multichannel strategies both offer customers multiple contact channels.
The goal of this is to be more customer-focused.
However customers want to reach you, they can.
This matters a lot: 9 out 10 consumers expect to continue chats across platforms.
But there are also big differences between omnichannel and multichannel
The most significant is the level of integration between channels – and what this enables.
Multichannel = rural dirt road
A multichannel setup is like a rural dirt road.
There’s only one lane; if you don’t like it, you’ve got to double back and find a different route.
In practice, multichannel contact centers can’t move between channels with customers easily.
On top of that, there’s minimal data sharing between channels. (As in, *zero* data sharing.)
And let’s be clear – just because conversations *can’t* move easily between channels doesn’t mean customers will just “stay in their lane.”
It just means that customers will switch, and have to start the conversation from scratch.
The result is delays. It means a weaker customer experience and a more expensive conversation.
Omnichannel = the interstate
Omnichannel is like a ten-lane highway.
Don’t like the lane you’re in? No problem!
You can slide into a different one.
- Seamless transitions between channels
- Data integration that maintains context-aware conversations
- Total channel consistency with KPIs and branding
That’s one giant leap towards excellent experiences in every channel.
The best part is that this works for support, sales and marketing.
Let’s look at how that works…
Omnichannel customer support
Omnichannel support has many advantages.
First and foremost, data is shared between channels. That gives your agents a deeper understanding of each customer’s issue.
So – imagine a customer has a problem with your product.
They can quickly create a chat ticket on your website. An agent picks that up, looks into the issue and then emails or messages the customer when it’s resolved.
If they need more information, or it’s a high-value or sensitive issuem, they can easily call the customer.
And, if the customer calls you, the agent will already know about the customer’s issue.
Because the CRM recognizes the customer’s number and brings up their profile.
The agent has everything they need to provide relevant help.
Omnichannel sales and marketing
We can rinse and repeat this in sales and marketing, providing a similarly seamless experience.
Imagine someone sees an online ad for a particular shoe offer.
They want to check the size before buying, so they head to a physical shop to try it on.
(Yes, real life is a channel now.)
The store has the same offer that was advertised online.
But what if the product isn’t in stock?
No problem: the sales rep simply orders the right size from the online store and has it delivered to the customer’s home.
The experience is the same on each channel. The offer they saw online is available in-store, over the phone and in messaging apps.
That puts contact center agents on the same level as in-store assistants – a vital addition in our increasingly digital sales environment.
The top 3 omnichannel *extra* benefits
If you had to sell an omnichannel strategy right now, there are just 3 things you’d need to say:
#1 It will help us personalize our services
Personalization is big business.
91% of consumers favor brands that remember them and provide relevant offers.
Almost 90% of businesses are currently investing in personalization.
Omnichannel service makes that personalization far more seamless than multichannel ever could.
The fact is, collecting and sharing customer data across channels means that reps get greater insight into who they’re talking to.
And it’s not just about the agents either.
You’ll probably find that contact center automation is the key ingredient for tailored experiences.
Using info like purchase history, customer loyalty and, yes – even past channel choice – will inform the services you offer to each customer.
#2 It will be far more efficient
Any duplication of effort – from you or from your customers – is a waste.
Think of each customer interaction as a building.
When they move between channels, are you continuing the same building?
Or starting a new building from scratch?
Customers badly want a simple and consistent experience from you.
If they don’t get that they’re going to be frustrated; 89% expect you to know who they are when they switch channels.
If you can’t do that, you’re going to upset some people.
#3 We’ll make a lot more sales!
When have barriers ever been a good thing in sales?
Never, that’s when.
You know what barriers are not?
They’re not seamless.
A study of 46,000 shoppers found that omnichannel customers are more valuable.
They spend 4% more every time they shopped in-store and 10% more online than single-channel shoppers.
The benefits only increased as customers used more channels.
Every new (integrated) channel is a new opportunity to connect.
That is pretty much what sales is all about.
Sounds good! What’s the catch?
The biggest issue for brands with a single or multichannel strategy is actually making the switch.
It can be challenging.
You may have to replace legacy tech for new solutions or at least have a way to integrate your existing tools.
You’ll need a solid CRM, helpdesk software that can bring in data from multiple channels and a way to connect your phone system to each of these tools.
(Hint: this probably means using VoIP).
You’ll also have to train your support agents in omnichannel best practices.
This may take some getting used to if employees have spent years working within the boundaries of a single channel.
But while the journey might not be straightforward, the benefits of making the switch… well, they’re obvious.