In the digital era, customers are eager to go beyond the single-channel mode of brand interaction. This trend gained further momentum during the pandemic. With customers unable to visit physical stores or help centers, their reliance on digital increased – and they quickly discovered the convenience of interacting with brands through more than one channel.
According to research by Salesforce, 76% of customers prefer different channels for different types of interactions and messages, up from 71% before the pandemic. As a result, contact centers must adapt to keep pace with customers’ evolving channel preferences.
To do so, companies tend to opt for either an omnichannel or multichannel contact center solution.
Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Contact Centers: Definition
Both multichannel and omnichannel contact centers offer a choice of customer communication channels. However, in a multichannel environment, each channel exists in a silo. Whereas, in an omnichannel environment, all channels are fully integrated.
These integrations allow information to follow the customer as they switch between channels. The contact center can then funnel the context of each interaction that a customer has with the business into one location.
Of course, this brings many benefits to agents, as all this customer context lies at their fingertips. However, it also helps to centralize customer data, enabling sophisticated CX strategies.
Finally, omnichannel solutions also enable agents to engage with customers across multiple channels within the same interaction. Multichannel users do not have this capability.
4 Differences Between Omnichannel Contact Centers and Multichannel Contact Centers
Thanks to integrations, omnichannel and multichannel solutions differ in many respects. Here are four prominent examples.
1. Simplicity of Tech Integrations
Typically, omnichannel contact centers are hosted in the cloud because the environment enables effortless API integrations. As such, it is easier to add other new technologies into the ecosystem, like analytics, which can feed on the centralized data source. As AI tools become more prevalent across the industry, this omnichannel feature is critical to ensuring their success. Of course, it is also possible to host an omnichannel contact center on-premise or in a hybrid environment. However, such a goal is much trickier to achieve.
2. Channel Shift
In an omnichannel environment, agents can seamlessly shift a conversation from one channel to another at the click of a button. For example, an agent can escalate a particularly challenging call from live chat to the voice channel to facilitate a quicker resolution. While on that call, the advisor can perhaps also send an SMS message to the customer from the same platform. An omnichannel solution also enables effortless routes for customers to switch between channels. Click-to-call and click-to-chat links embedded within self-service and chatbot solutions are excellent examples. When customers choose to follow these links, the agent who picks the query up will see the full context of the customer’s self-service journey or chatbot interaction. Therefore, the customer does not have to repeat their information, removing a classic customer pain point.
Accessing data from previous conversations and purchases not only enhances the ability of agents to problem solve, but it enables them to personalize CX. For example, if a customer follows up on an issue, the agent can access data from the previous interaction and get to grips with the problem right away. Also, consider how this benefits sales. A proactive strategy that segments customers based on purchase history and channel of choice – which an omnichannel solution brings to life – will likely achieve much higher success rates. It is also easier to integrate personalization tools into an omnichannel environment to develop more sophisticated personalization strategies.
4. Short-Term and Long-Term Costs
Generally, multichannel contact centers are less expensive to set up but may cost more in the long term. After all, many multichannel solutions will require a license for each channel, which increases costs over time. These contact centers will also find it more costly to scale as the business grows.
Are There any Similarities Between Omnichannel and Multichannel Contact Centers?
Yes, there are three significant similarities between omnichannel and multichannel contact centers
- Both are an upgrade on single-channel experiences – For a long time, contact centers were limited to only one channel, responding to queries via email or on call. Both solutions allow contact centers to diversify into new digital arenas and provide better experiences.
- Both may require more technical effort to set up than a traditional call center – Legacy contact centers are primarily telephony oriented. As such, they are cheaper to set up, manage, and even offshore, as the technical training involved is relatively simple. Multichannel and omnichannel contact centers need more robust digital infrastructure, adding to setup efforts. However, if the solutions are hosted in the cloud, users may access remote support from the technology vendor.
- Both empower the customer – The customer can choose their preferred channel, which is convenient and empowering. For both omnichannel and multichannel contact centers, this is true.
Ultimately, omnichannel is similar to multichannel – only with contextual information. Backend integrations power this context, and agents can harness this meaningful, contextual data to power excellent customer service experiences.
Eager to learn more about how to harness an omnichannel contact center to enhance CX? Check out our article: Delivering an Excellent Omni-channel Experience