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Multi-channel Vs. Omni-channel Support – Understanding the Difference
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In today’s digital world, customers have multiple ways of communicating with a business. They can send an email, talk to them over phone, or @mention them on social, for instance.
For a business, this means one thing: you have to be there for the customer where the customer is most convenient interacting with you.
And broadly speaking, there are two ways any business can do this today: by offering multi-channel or omni-channel support.
In this article, we dive into these two strategies and understand the differences between them. This would help you make an informed decision on which strategy is best suited for your business – when assisting customers.
Table of Contents
- What is Multi-Channel Support?
- What is Omni-Channel Customer Service?
- Multi-Channel Vs. Omni-Channel Support – Who Wins?
- Channels Involved in Multi-Channel Support
- Integration of Channels in an omnichannel support strategy
- The Right Approach For Your Business
What is Multi-Channel Support?
Multichannel support means offering multiple communication channels for your customers to reach out to your business. They can call you, send you an email, fill out an online form, or even DM you on one of your social media accounts. It’s like having a range of communication channels for customer engagement.
But why offer multi channel support? A report by Khoros shows that 62% of customers want to be able to engage with brands across multiple channels, most of which should be digital. So,the answer is simple – convenience.
Also, customers today look for instant responses. Hiver’s customer support survey shows that 52% of customers want their queries resolved within 24 hours.
Hence, it is a no-shocker that customers find multichannel support beneficial. If one channel doesn’t respond instantly, they can choose the other.
Recommended Read: Tips to Build a Multi-Channel Support Strategy for Your Business
But having great customer support is more than just having different communication channels. It’s also about ensuring that the experience is consistent across all of them. Nobody likes feeling like they’re talking to different brands while switching channels, right?
That’s where omnichannel customer service comes in!
What is Omni-Channel Customer Service?
Omnichannel support refers to the strategy of having a unified, holistic approach to assisting your customers. It’s where all your brand’s communication channels work together seamlessly. Through this, your support team can effortlessly switch between phone calls, SMS, emails, live chats, social media messages, and more.
Omnichannel customer service creates a consistent and personalized experience for your customers throughout their customer journey. They can start a conversation on one channel and continue it on another without missing the context.
Customers love a seamless omnichannel experience. One popular survey shows that brands offering solid omnichannel customer support retain 89% of their customers. The study also indicates that 9/10 customers want a seamless experience across platforms. They want to feel like they’re talking to one unified entity.
Thus omnichannel customer service is like having a support genie who knows every customer’s issue, no matter the channel.
Multi-Channel Vs. Omni-Channel Support – Who Wins?
Now that we know the basic definitions of both these support strategies, let’s understand the key differences between multichannel and omnichannel support.
1. Channel Integration
While customers get access to various communication platforms in multichannel approach, they all operate independently without much inter-connectivity. It’s like every channel is its own thing.
Omnichannel customer service, on the contrary, brings all the channels together and syncs them up. It’s like they’re working in harmony, seamlessly transitioning between each other. This synchronization gives a consistent branding experience to your customers.
2. Customer Experience
One of the significant factors to consider in omnichannel vs. multichannel support is the experience both provide. With multi-channel support, customers might feel like they’re jumping between channels. They might have to explain their issue numerous times and end up getting a disjointed and frustrating experience. In fact, a latest customer support report by Hiver shows that 3 out of 4 customers get frustrated for having to repeat their queries multiple times.
But with omnichannel customer service, it’s a whole different story. Customers can reach out through mulitple touch points but still have a unified experience. Customers can start a conversation on one channel and easily continue it on another without losing the context. This way, they get a smooth and consistent customer experience. For example, a customer may DM you on Twitter about a product issue; your support team can then email the customer, referencing the Twitter conversation and provide further assistance.
Recommended Read: Top Customer Experience Trends to Drive Revenue
3. Data and Information Management
In multi-channel support, customer data tends to be scattered across channels. At times, data can get misplaced, leading to a lack of visibility. Since the data is not shared across channels, it can result in repetitive requests and delays. For example, a customer emails a support query to you and later follows up via phone. The support agent on the phone doesn’t have access to the email history, making the customer repeat the information. This data scattering across channels leads to repetition and delays, hindering a swift resolution.
However, omnichannel service brings all that data together in one central place. It’s like having all the puzzle pieces in one box, allowing your support agents to provide personalized interactions based on the complete picture. It helps your team to optimize the customer experience across various channels. In the centralized hub, agents can get complete access to customer details, history of previous customer interactions, and transactions carried out. This way, issues are resolved quickly, since agents have full context of the customer issues thereby improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
4. Communication and Collaboration
In multi-channel support, there’s not much communication going on between support agents across channels. It’s like they’re in separate rooms, making it harder to solve problems efficiently. This can lead to customers having to repeat themselves. .
Omni-channel customer service changes the game altogether. It enables collaboration and smooth handoffs between agents and channels. It’s like they’re working together, passing the baton to provide a better and faster customer experience. Here’s an example to explain this: Imagine you could inquire about a product’s pricing on a retail store’s website by talking to one of their agents on chat. Then, you go to the physical store, and one of the in-store employees there cite the conversation you had online and are able to contextually provide recommendations. That’s how omnichannel support system works. It shows that a brand is eager to meet their customer expectations and provide a hasselfree experience.
Channels Involved in Multi-Channel Support
When we talk about multi-channel strategy, we’re referring to the different ways customers can reach out for help. There’s a channel for everyone’s preference, and here are the most commonly used channels for customer touchpoints:
- Phone support – This usually involves dialling a company’s toll free numbers and evading through multiple options to get the assistance needed.
- Email support – Sometimes, customers want to write a detailed message explaining their problem. That’s where email support comes in. It’s an excellent option for those who prefer written communication. If your business majorly depends on email for customer support, ensure that you never leave any email unattended.
- Live chat – Picture this: You have an ecommerce store and your customer visits your website to browse through products. They have a few questions they want to ask. They could email you or phone you but you know what’s better? Having a live chat widget on your website. This helps them get assistance in real-time, then and there. They can ask questions, get instant responses, and sort out their issues quickly. That’s live chat in action!
- Social media support – The power of social media is unimaginable. Nowadays, businesses offer support through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. Customers can publicly tweet their concerns or send a direct message and expect a response. It’s a convenient option, especially among the pro-social media audience – which is a large segment of today’s customers. In fact, according to Forbes, 58% customers prefer interacting with a brand on social media.
Integration of Channels in an omnichannel support strategy
An omnichannel support strategy is all about bringing multiple channels together in a holistic way.
Picture this: a seamless experience where your customers’ information and needs smoothly transition between phone, email, live chat, and social media. So that even if customers change their channel of communication, your support team knows exactly what to do. The context never goes missing. This is one of the major benefits of omnichannel strategy.
Here’s how an omnichannel support strategy can help you:
- Seamless customer experience: The goal is to provide a seamless and consistent user experience across all channels. For this, you’d need to centralize all your customer conversations, so that you don’t have to start from scratch when your customers switch between phone, email, live chat, or social media. It will help create a continuous journey where information is carried over effortlessly.
- Unified customer data and information: In an omnichannel approach,customer data from various channels is centralized in one single place. It means that no matter which channel your customers use, your support team has access to the same information. That’s why they can recognize them, understand their history, and provide personalized support – making way for improved retention and customer loyalty.
- Contextual interactions and personalized support: Imagine this: your customers seek support from their preferred channel, and your team instantly knows who they are, their past discussions, and preferences – thanks to an omnichannel strategy. Agents can see the full picture of a customer query, including prior interactions, allowing them to have contextual conversations.
The Right Approach For Your Business
Once you understand the difference between multichannel and omnichannel support, it is important to set the right strategy that goes well with your brand. So how to find it?
- First, start by understanding your customer needs. Are they looking for convenience, quick responses, or personalized interactions? Take their preferences into account to shape your strategy – that needs to be customer-centric, in order to meet their needs and strengthen customer relationships.
- Try evaluating your business’s capabilities and resources. Can your brand handle multiple channels all at once? Do you have the right technology and enough support agents to reach customers through multiple channels and also provide a seamless experience to them? Evaluating your capabilities is essential to choose an approach that fits your operational capacity.
- Finally, evaluate your long-term goals. Are you planning to expand your customer base or maybe launch new products? It’s essential to consider scalability when deciding between multi-channel and omnichannel support. An omnichannel approach gives you the flexibility to grow your support strategy along with your business.
While multi-channel support offers various communication options, going with an omnichannel approach takes it up a notch. It’s all about unifying customer data, which means you can provide consistent and contextually relevant interactions across different channels. This plays a huge role in providing unified customer experience thereby helping in customer retention.
Speaking of unifying customer data and communication, you might want to check our Hiver. It unifies every conversation within your Gmail inbox! Which means, you don’t need to set up a new tool to centralize your customer data.
Also, with Hiver, regardless of the channel through which your customer reaches out, you can effortlessly pick it up right from your Gmail inbox. And what’s more? Hiver is packed with powerful features such as analytics, SLAs, and automations.
Interesting, isn’t it? Opt in for a free demo to know more!