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Omnichannel vs multichannel explained

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Last editedNov 20222 min read

In an increasingly connected world, consumers expect to be able to engage with businesses across various platforms. They also want these platforms to be cohesive and consistent, and if they have a problem, they want the solution to be uniform across all channels and delivered through the channel that best suits them, whether it be over the phone, on social media or through live chat.

This is the situation facing businesses today, but is this approach omnichannel or multichannel? And are they two words that mean the same thing or different approaches to the same solution?

What is multichannel retail?

Multichannel refers to the various channels a customer might use to contact a business. A multichannel approach offers a range of contact options such as email, phone or social media chat, but all of these channels operate independently. This means you are unable to move a conversation from one channel to another and keep a log of that conversation.

These channels are often operated by different agents and even completely different teams in many cases. While it doesn’t mean a multichannel approach can’t be effective in certain situations, it does mean that customers need to start from scratch every time they start a new line of communication on another channel.

This leads to agents getting a less clear overall view of the customer journey and agents perhaps offering different answers to the same question. This, in turn, could lead to customers feeling frustrated as they have to keep repeating themselves and getting inconsistent responses. There are also inconsistencies between channels regarding everything from tone of voice to strategy, and that can lead to customer dissatisfaction.

What is omnichannel retail?

In many respects, omnichannel operates similarly to multichannel as it uses several different channels for customers to access the business. The difference is that omnichannel aims to offer a seamless experience that connects all customer engagements, regardless of the channel or platform from which they originate.

The beauty of an omnichannel service is in being able to migrate conversations from phone to email, with the agent jumping channels with the customer. It also means all customer data is stored and transferred between channels, so if a customer wants to pick up a query in a few days from a different channel, they won’t have to go through the tedium of repeating their issues to a different agent or team.

It's a system that syncs conversations, files and any other information seamlessly and brings together all customer data to provide a complete picture of the customer and their query. It can then be used to not only make that single customer experience better, but to make all future customer experiences better too.

Benefits of omnichannel

Speedy communication and resolution – The ability to store data and use it across channels allows you to sort problems faster.

Personalisation – The ability to create a unique customer service experience that’s consistent across all channels.

Self-service – The addition of AI chatbots means data can be collected automatically and that the tedious early parts of the conversation can be expedited.

Multichannel vs omnichannel example

If a customer has noticed fraudulent amounts being taken from their bank account and contacts the bank via the live chat app, they might eventually be told to call the team to continue the conversation if the situation is too complex for the live chat team to handle. In a multichannel scenario, the customer then needs to start from scratch over the phone, whereas in an omnichannel scenario they can continue to query without missing a beat.

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