Explore the best contact center approach for your business: Multi-channel vs. Omni-channel. Understand the advantages and considerations to make an informed decision. Optimize customer experience, agent productivity, and implementation. Your contact center is a revenue hub—prioritize superior customer service for lasting success. Choose the path that aligns with your goals and enhances your customer experience.
When it comes to your contact center, there are different approaches to consider: multi-channel and omni-channel or another hybrid approach. Both have their merits and drawbacks and understanding the differences between them can help you make an informed decision about which one is right for your business. The key idea to keep in mind is that your contact center is the hub for customer service. The importance of customer service cannot be overstated. When companies have excellent customer service, they may have to pay more at the front end, but down the road, they enjoy more success and gains. It is the key to building lasting customer relationships, increasing loyalty, and ultimately driving deep and long-term revenue growth.
Multi-channel Contact Center: The first step in expanding the customer experience.
Most companies build their contact centers organically. They see the need to address customers’ concerns, complaints, and issues, so they choose the channel most efficient at the time. The multi-channel contact center allows customers to interact with your business through a number of different channels such as phone calls, emails, live chat, and social media. Each channel operates independently, with separate teams handling customer inquiries based on the chosen communication method. The channels rarely (if ever) interact with each other. Or, if they do, the process is complicated, and information can get lost along the way.
The advantages of a multi-channel contact center are evident. It offers customers the convenience of choosing their preferred channel of communication and provides flexibility in accessing customer support. Additionally, it enables businesses to cater to a wider audience and reach customers through different touchpoints.
However, multi-channel contact centers have their limitations. With each channel operating independently, customer interactions will probably be convoluted. When the customer needs to switch channels to communicate with the next specialist, it can easily result in loss of information or sometimes misunderstanding.
One of the most irritating things is that customers often have to keep repeating the same thing again and again. (How many times have you had to give your name, email address, postcode, password, PIN, etc.? Then you know you’re dealing with a multi-channel contact center.) This buildup of frustration for customers may result in loss of customers and can certainly damage the company’s reputation. Not only that, managing and coordinating multiple channels can be complex and be an extra drain on resources. Because the multi-channel contact center often grows organically, they often have disparate systems with disparate licenses. These form the contact center, but the systems never integrate. Each disparate system comes with its own licensing, fees, and interface.
Omni-channel Contact Center: A further step in the customer experience
An omni-channel contact center (OC3) takes the customer experience to the next level by seamlessly integrating all communication channels. It aims to provide a unified and consistent experience, regardless of the channel customers choose to engage in.
The benefits and advantages of an omni-channel contact center are compelling. By connecting all the different channels, the company can then gather and share customer data across all channels. This enables the contact agents to have a complete view of each customer's interactions and history no matter what channel the customer chooses to communicate in. This allows for specific and personalized and contextualized experiences, where customers feel understood and valued across every touchpoint. The ability to switch channels without losing context enriches efficiency and satisfaction.
You can have an agent who is capable of supporting several different channels, either at separate times or even at the same time. (Your company could have 5 chats running simultaneously with different customers all under one agent.) You may be able to reduce the number of agents because have all the customer information in front of them.
With the OC3 you get cost savings and the benefit of dealing with a one-stop shop. This means your licensing costs will be lower on a true omni-channel system. Although, the cost of setting that up in the first place will be more expensive.
Implementing and maintaining an OC3, however, comes with its own challenges. It requires robust technology infrastructure and integration capabilities to ensure smooth channel synchronization. Additionally, training agents to handle various channels effectively and maintaining consistency in messaging can be demanding.
Multi-channel Or Omni-channel Contact Centers: What’s best for you?
When comparing multi-channel and omni-channel contact centers, key aspects come into play: customer experience, agent productivity and efficiency, and implementation complexity and cost. In terms of customer experience, multi-channel contact centers offer flexibility but may lack cohesion between channels, leading to a disjointed journey for customers. On the other hand, omni-channel contact centers prioritize seamless interactions, ensuring consistent experiences across all touchpoints.
Regarding agent productivity and efficiency, multi-channel contact centers allow agents to specialize in specific channels, potentially leading to faster response times and expertise. The downside to this is the need to switch between channels and handle fragmented customer information. This can be time-consuming and hold up productivity. Omni-channel contact centers allow agents to have a comprehensive view of customer interactions, promoting efficiency and personalized service delivery.
Implementing a multi-channel contact center is relatively straightforward. For the most part, it is simply implementing new channels onto the existing system. The drawbacks are that managing and coordinating these channels separately can be overly complicated and costly. In contrast, implementing an omni-channel contact center requires a robust technology infrastructure and integration capabilities, along with investment in training and development. But in the end, the cost of an omni-channel contact center can be the same or less than a multi-channel contact center.
What many misunderstand is the cost of running the center. A multi-channel contact center might look simpler and cheaper to run when often it isn’t. At the start, the omni-channel contact center integration may cost more. Although there are serious advantages:
- Having everything in one place
- Time savings
- No need to continuously send customer information across multiple channels to other departments
All this can massively reduce costs on the company’s side.
What’s your next step?
When deciding between a multi-channel and omni-channel contact center, several considerations come into play.
The first question to ask:
“Where are you in your growth as a company?”
If you have few products, then you may not need an OC3, and a multichannel contact center is fine for you. If you find you’re spending more time passing communications back and forth through email to solve customer issues, then an OC3 could be just the answer you need. (Think of how many various bundles and offerings a bank or insurance company has.)
Also, look at it from the point of view of the customer. What are the customer’s expectations and preferences? How are you when you look at your competitors and the market as a whole? Evaluate the available resources and technology infrastructure to determine feasibility.
It's worth noting that the trend today leans toward omni-channel experiences. Customers expect seamless interactions and personalized service across all touchpoints. Meeting these expectations can foster stronger customer relationships and drive long-term growth.
Choosing the Path Forward
In the dynamic landscape of customer service, both multi-channel and omni-channel contact centers have their strong points, especially considering where you are in your growth as a company. Understanding the differences and considering your business requirements and customer expectations will guide you toward the most suitable approach.
Remember, your contact center is not just a necessary evil but a revenue-generating hub. (Repeat that phrase when you think of cutting your costs.) By prioritizing excellent customer service and choosing the right contact center approach, you can attract, retain, and grow your customer base while maximizing your return on investment. So, take the time to evaluate your options and embark on the path that will elevate your customer experience and drive sustainable business success.