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Multi Channel vs. Omni Channel Contact Center

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Multi Channel vs. Omni Channel Contact Center

Customer communications now flow through many channels. The days of simply calling a 1-800 number to then navigate a call center’s phone tree for customer support are over. People now reach out via whichever channel is most convenient or readily available to them, whether that’s email, live chat, text message, or social media. And they expect a seamless experience regardless of which mode of communication they choose.

For contact operators, the stakes couldn’t be higher for meeting these heightened expectations:

  • According to Bain & Company, consumers are four times more likely to buy from a competitor because of customer service issues than ones that are product-related.
  • Salesforce Research has estimated that over 60% of shoppers share negative buying experiences with their friends and families.
  • Another Salesforce study found that 80% of respondents felt that the experience a company provided was just as important as what it was actually selling.

In this context, scaling-up effective customer service across multiple channels can seem daunting. Customers seek prompt, accurate service and a personalized experience whenever and wherever they choose to reach out. In response, many organizations have invested in multi channel and omni channel contact centers.

These two solutions are similar but not the same. Both of them encompass multiple channels, toward the goal of supporting a superior customer experience. However, these channels are more interconnected in an omni channel solution than in a multi channel alternative. Let’s go through the key details of each approach to better understand them and how they fit into a comprehensive approach to customer service.

What is a Multi Channel Contact Center?

As it name makes clear, a multi channel contact center is one in which there are multiple ways to reach an agent. In addition to standard voice calls, the other channels might include some or all of the following:

  • Email.
  • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.).
  • Live chat or instant messaging (IM), including Apple iMessage.
  • SMS text.
  • Fax.

The Advantages of a Multi Channel Contact Center

The point of having more than one channel is to give customers diverse options that correspond to their varied preferences. For example, individuals who are uncomfortable with the particular protocols and niceties of telephone conversations might opt to reach out over live chat instead. A multi channel contact center provides this extra flexibility that appeals to a wide range of customers.

A 2018 study by Bold 360 found that 71% of companies expected live chat to be the most popular customer communication channel by 2021. The 2019 eCommerce Customer Service Experience Survey study corroborated these findings in part, revealing that 59% of respondents said that chat was easy to use – more than any other channel, and one of only three (the other two being phone and email) that over 50% of customers rated positively.

Providing multiple channels also helps customers chose different ones for particular issues. For example, the phone was by far the preferred method of communication for urgent issues in that study, but not as decisively ahead of chat or email for more general inquiries.

Indeed, specific channels have their strengths and weaknesses, so the best way to account for these differences is to simply make most or all of them available to customers, in a multi channel contact center:

  • Whereas a voice call is a great way to describe an issue in real-time, it can be intimidating for some people who aren’t used to speaking on the phone regularly, not to mention delay-prone if there are a lot of other callers in the queue.
  • On the other hand, live chat has minimal barriers to entry (i.e., it’s easy to start a chat and get a response in a service such as Apple Business Chat), but can face potential issues during off-hours when automated chatbots might have to shoulder the workload.

The Drawbacks of a Multi Channel Contact Center

Although multi channel contact centers excel at giving customers multiple options for connecting with an agent (or chatbot), they’re not as good at creating context. In other words, they don’t connect all the dots within a customer’s journey and create a holistic picture of their interaction histories and preferences.

This is a significant problem. One of the surest ways to drive away customers is to force them to repeat information and re-describe problems across multiple channels. The State of Global Customer Service report from Microsoft found that, for customers, two of the three most important aspects of having a good support experience were “not having to repeat myself if I’m transferred to a new agent” and “getting my issue resolved in a single interaction.”

Another way to understand multi channel contact centers is as a series of informational silos. A customer who reaches out via email might call in a later date, yet it’s possible that the agent on the other end of the line would have no visibility into that previous outreach. That’s a recipe for frustration for both the customer and the agent.

The answer to the often siloed nature of multi channel contact centers is to upgrade to an omni channel contact center.


What is an Omni Channel Contact Center?

“Omni” comes from a Latin word meaning “all” (think “omniscient,” literally “know all/everything”). As the word’s roots indicate, an omni channel contact center goes a step further than most multi channel contact center alternatives by linking all of its channel together for a more seamless experience for customers as well as agents. It includes all of the typical channels found in a multi channel setup (e.g., voice, IM, social media, etc.) but creates real context and continuity across them.

How Omni Channel Contact Centers Work in Practice

To see how an omni channel contact center is ideal for top-notch customer service, consider the following example:

  1. Someone is shopping for shoes on a vendor’s site, and they have questions about an ongoing sale and whether it applies to the pair they want.
  2. They use the live chat option embedded within the online store to ask an agent about that, getting a quick and informative response.
  3. Next, they add the shoes to their cart and get ready to checkout.
  4. Still, they ultimately decide to pass on making a purchase at that time, not being satisfied with the various exclusions that apply to the offer.
  5. A little later on, they receive an email about finishing their purchase, based on the fact that their cart still had items in it and that they had previously registered with an account.
  6. Their interest piqued, they go back to browse, but want a little bit more information on the promotion, so this time they decide to call an agent using a click-to-call option online.
  7. The omni channel system uses its automatic call distribution with global routing to find the best available agent at that moment.
  8. When the caller begins talking to the agent, the latter already has a dashboard in front of them containing a full history of the customer’s interactions – including the live chat transcript.
  9. That context allows for a more productive conversation, with less repeated information, along with a sense that the company really knows and cares about its customers.
  10. After that call, the buyer completes their purchase.

In this particular example, three different channels – live chat, email, and voice – were used during the customer’s journey from initial browsing to final purchase. More importantly, these channels all revolved around a common set of information about the customer. There weren’t any silos that prevented key details about their concerns and questions from being readily available to customer service agents.

The Glue That Holds an Omni Channel Contact Center Together

Because of it much more cohesive and unified than a multi channel contact center, an omni channel contact center requires specialized infrastructure to link all of its different channels together behind the scenes. This is where a solution such as the Telesystem omni channel contact center platform enters the picture.

A modern omni channel solution should include features that make life easier on both customer and agents. Some of the key capabilities include:

A streamlined dashboard interface (i.e., a single pane of glass) that doesn’t require multiple monitors to view.

  • Contextual pop-up windows containing callers’ interaction histories.
  • Integrations with key business apps such as CRMs, for painting a fuller picture of each customer and where they’re at in their buying journeys.
  • Sophisticated IVR technology for quickly and accurately directing callers to a knowledgeable agent.
  • Quality monitoring, via call recordings that can be used later, plus customizable tags and parameters for efficient search and retrieval.
  • Predictive analytics provides insights on how past interactions were handled and resolved, so those future ones can be approached with a similar playbook.
  • Switch-agnostic design, meaning its software can be layered over virtually any type of underlying IT infrastructure or existing phone system.

With the right omni channel solution in place, it’s possible to convert more customers and to reduce agent churn, too. That’s because it reduces frustration across the board by enabling easier navigation of support channels (for customers) and more streamlined handling of incoming requests (for agents). Another way of looking at it: Omni channel contact centers help boost sales while lowering the costly expenses of replacing employees in the traditionally high-turnover environment of a call center.

Other Ways an Omni Channel Contact Center Can Save You Money

An omni channel solution may be hosted and supported by a service provider, which is typically a much more cost-efficient setup than operating an on-prem call center.

For starters, it’s easier to deal with surges in customer demand. In a traditional call center, responding to a huge uptick in customer interactions might require procuring additional resources at considerable cost. Managing various licenses, equipment, and users can also be complicated and inefficient, leading to money being wasted on assets that aren’t even in regular active use.

In contrast, a hosted omni channel solution lets you pay only for what you really use. The provider also oversees updates and the rollout of new features. Overall, it’s a much more streamlined and cost-effective model that lets organizations reliably scale their customer service operations.

To learn more about how an omni channel contact center solution can revitalize your organization’s customer service operations, check out our main solution page. You can also contact our team for more information, or directly request a quote on any of our products using this link.

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