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Multichannel Vs. Omnichannel Support – Understanding the Difference

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Multichannel Vs. Omnichannel Support – Understanding the Difference

May 28, 2024
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8 min read
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Today, customers have multiple ways of communicating with a business. They can send an email, talk to them over phone, or even or even reach out via Twitter or Instagram.

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 be accessible to customers today: by offering multichannel or omnichannel support.

In this article, we dive into these two support strategies and understand the differences between them. This would help you make an informed decision on which strategy is best suited for your business.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the difference between Multichannel and Omnichannel support: Multichannel is about multiple support channels working independently. On the other hand, omnichannel brings all support channels together so that you get a unified view of the customer journey.
  • When to Use Multichannel Support: It is suitable if customers generally stick to one channel f- say email or chat – when raising queries.
  • When to use Omnichannel Support: It becomes necessary if customers frequently switch between channels to reach out to your support team.

Table of Contents

What is Multichannel Support?

Multichannel support means offering multiple communication channels for your customers to reach out to you. 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 the customer to choose from.

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-brainer that customers find multichannel support beneficial. If they aren’t getting a response on one support channel, they can instantly switch to another one.

multichannel customer support mediums
Multichannel support helps customers contact businesses instantly

But great customer support is more than just having different support channels. It’s also about ensuring that the experience is consistent across all of these channels. Nobody likes to repeat their issues from scratch, and follow-up multiple times across multiple channels for a resolution, right?

That’s where omnichannel customer service comes in.

What is Omnichannel 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, emails, live chats, social media messages, and more.

Omnichannel customer service creates a consistent and personalized experience for your customers. They can start a conversation on one channel and continue continue the conversation on another without having to repeat themselves.

Did you know? 
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.

Multichannel Vs. Omnichannel Support – Who Wins?

Let’s take an example to begin with. Imagine a customer shopping online for a gift. They start by browsing your website on their laptop and initiate a chat to ask about product availability. Halfway through the chat, they need to leave for an appointment and continue the conversation on your mobile app during the commute.

With omnichannel support, the customer can seamlessly switch to the mobile app, and the chat history follows them. Later, they decide to visit your store in person to see the product. At the store, the store manager already knows about their previous chat and can immediately assist with personalized recommendations.

With multichannel support, when the customer switches from the website to the mobile app, they need to start the conversation over. Again, the store visit might require them to explain their query. Each interaction is handled separately, which works well for straightforward issues but may require more repetition for complex queries.

Now, let’s understand the major differences between the two channels:

multichannel support vs. omnichannel support
Multichannel Support vs. Omnichannel Support

1. Integration of Channels

In multichannel support, customers have access to various communication channels like email, phone, and chat. However, each channel operates independently without much interconnectivity. 

Whereas, in omnichannel customer service, all these channels work in tandem with one another. Simply put, they’re inter-connected and there’s a central dashboard to view what’s happenings across these channels.

For example, in a multichannel support setup, if a customer sends you an email and then follow ups on chat, they might have to repeat their issue from scratch. That’s because different support channels work independently.

On the other hand, in the case of omnichannel support, the customer simply has to mention any of their PII and the support team can easily pull up all related information to the customer and their previous interactions.

2. Quality of Customer Experience

The biggest difference between omnichannel and multichannel support is the end customer experience. With the former, the experience is disjointed and seamless. Customers might feel like they’re repeating themselves multiple times. As a result, issues take longer than usual to get resolved.

In fact, one of Hiver’s recent research studies on customer support shows that 3 out of 4 customers get frustrated for having to repeat themselves multiple times.

But with omnichannel customer service, the experience is different – it’s more seamless and consistent. Customers can start a conversation on one channel and easily continue it on another without losing the context. 

For example, a customer might DM you on twitter about a product issue. Your support team might have to look into it in detail and so you could suggest to the customer to continue the conversation over email – whilst providing the relevant support email ID of your company. This switching of channels happens smoothly, and the customer experience isn’t affected.

Also read:Top Customer Experience Trends to Drive Revenue

3. Data and Information Management

In multichannel support, customer data is scattered across different channels. This means support teams don’t have a complete picture on customer behaviour and preferences – something that would impact the assistance they offer. And owing to silos, it’s also possible that some important customer information goes missing.

But, in omnichannel support, all customer data is centralized in one place. Support agents can see the entire customer history – including previous interactions and transactions. This allows for personalized conversations and faster issue resolution, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

For example, in multichannel support, Let’s say a customer has bought something from your physical store. They reach out to you with a query via email. In the case of a multichannel setup, your support team wouldn’t have the information regarding the purchase that happened in the physical store. They’d have to contact the store behind the scenes, and fetch all relevant data before they can resolve the issue. 

Whereas in an omnichannel setup, all information about the purchase is logged into one central location – that any of your support agents can access anytime. There’s less back and forth behind the scenes.

4. Communication and Collaboration

In multichannel support, a specific set of support agents handle a specific communication channel, and there isn’t much collaboration between agents from different channels. It’s like they’re in separate rooms, which makes looping colleagues in or getting inputs internally on customer issues a lot harder.

However, in omnichannel customer service, support staff across channels have the ability to collaborate seamlessly. Everything is interconnected, both for the customer and for the support staff.

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Customer Support - Communication and Collaboration
Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Customer Support – Communication and Collaboration

For example, imagine your business provides multichannel support. A customer reaches out via chat to inquire about a product. Then, the customer visits the store to try out the product – based on information the support staff has provided. Now, chances are that the employee will have no context on what the customer is looking for.

With omnichannel support, the support staff handling the chat conversation can quickly notify the store employee that this customer is coming to the store to try out the product. The store employee can now be prepared and proactively help the customer choose a product that fits their needs.

Channels Involved in Multi-Channel Support

Like we discussed before, multichannel refers to the multiple ways in which customers can interact with your company. Some of these channels include:

  • Phone support – This involves a customer dialling your company’s toll free number and navigating through multiple IVR options to get the assistance they need.
  • Email support – A survey by Hiver found that 77% of customers prefer to reach out to businesses via email for assistance. Email is an effective channel when customers want to leave a detailed message. It also facilitates asynchronous communication and is very easy to use.
  • Live chat – Picture this: Your customer visits your website to browse. They have some questions on a product and they’d ideally want to get answers immediately. This is where having a live chat on your website can help. It helps customers seek real-time assistance, and has a direct impact on your conversion rates.
  • Social media support –  The ‘digital age’ has seen companies become more active on social media platforms. Customers can now publicly tweet or DM their concerns. It’s quite a convenient and easy way to get support.
Enable multichannel customer support right from your inboxTry Hiver for free

How to Implement an Omnichannel Support Strategy?

An omnichannel support strategy is all about bringing multiple channels together in a holistic way. 

In other words, it’s about ensuring the customer gets a seamless experience, irrespective of how and where they interact with your company. 

And here’s how you can do it:

  • Centralize Customer Data: Use a CRM system to collect and store all customer data in one place.This ensures your team has quick access to all relevant customer information – past tickets, interactions, and transactions.
  • Integrate Communication Channels: Connect all your support channels together. This can usually be done by investing in a helpdesk. Some options you can consider include Hiver, Zendesk, and Freshdesk.
  • Train Your Support Team: Ensure your agents are trained to handle interactions across multiple channels. They should be familiar with the CRM and ticketing system. They need to know how to navigate the interface, how to access and interpret customer data, and how to collaborate internally if needed.
  • Maintain Consistent Branding: Make sure your support team uses the same brand voice and tone across all communication channels. This helps in creating a unified customer experience.
  • Provide Self-Service Options: Setup a knowledge base and a chatbot. This allows customers to find answers on their own – especially for basic queries – without always needing human help.
  • Ensure Smooth Handoffs: When customers switch channels, make sure the transition is smooth. Agents should be able to pick up where the last interaction left off without missing any context.
  • Personalize Interactions: Use the centralized customer data to personalize support interactions. Knowing your customers’ preferences and support ticket history can help you tailor responses according to their individual needs.

Collaborate with your team to adopt a truly omnichannel support strategy

The Right Approach For Your Business – Multichannel or Omnichannel?

Choosing the right support strategy depends on your business needs and how customers engage with you.Here’s a quick guide to help you decide between multichannel and omnichannel support.

You might need multichannel support if:

  • Your customers stick to one communication channel. For instance, if most of your customers primarily reach out to you via email.
  • Your business is just starting out and you don’t need a very comprehensive customer support strategy.

However, you might have to switch to providing omnichannel support if:

  • Customers reach out to via multiple channels and often switch channels when making a purchase or contacting support.
  • Your business is scaling rapidly and all customer information needs to be centralized for easy access.

Final Thoughts

The best brands know how to treat their customers well. But what many don’t see is the work that goes behind the scenes to make this happen. 

You need important customer information and insights in one place. You also need all your support channels to work in sync, and ensure the voice and tone is consistent across these channels.

These are the pillars for a solid omnichannel strategy. And also the pillars for driving customer loyalty and trust in the long run.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Why should a business consider switching from multichannel to omnichannel support?
    Your business should consider switching to omnichannel support if customers frequently switch between channels – email, physical store and website, amongst others. Also, if your business aims to have complete context on customers – history of interactions and transactions. 
  1. How does omnichannel support improve customer satisfaction?
    Omnichannel support improves customer satisfaction by centralizing customer data, allowing support staff to easily get access to past support tickets, transactions, and preferences.
  1. How can businesses ensure a seamless transition between communication channels for their customers?
    Having a help desk can ensure that all customer queries – irrespective of the communication channel – are logged into one central location. So, if a customer sends an email and then follow ups on chat, it becomes very easy for your support staff to access this information  and get complete context- without any back and forth.
A B2B marketer, Madhuporna is passionate about breaking down complex concepts into easy-to-digest nuggets with a stroke of her pen (read keyboard). Her expertise lies in crafting research-driven content around customer service, customer experience, IT and HR. When off the clock, you'll find her binge-watching suspense thrillers or basking in nature.

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