Blog 17 January 2020

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel – what’s the difference?

by Richard Farrell


This is the first post in a new series called #NetcallExplains. Over the next few months, we’ll be picking apart some of the most misleading and confusing terminology in our industry with the goal of demystifying key trends, technologies and concepts. This week we look at two different types of contact centre with similar names – omnichannel vs multichannel.

Over the last ten years the contact centre market has been defined by two words – omnichannel and multichannel. Every vendor has claimed to offer one or the other, or both; sometimes even within the same pitch – “Our omnichannel contact centre is based on a multichannel approach…”.

This has created a lot of confusion. Are these terms describing the same thing? And if not, what’s the difference?

This post provides some clarity. We define both concepts, explain how they differ and why this matters.

Let’s start with the basics.

What’s an omnichannel contact centre?

An omnichannel contact centre incorporates all of the communication channels that a customer can use to engage a business. It also ties these channels into one queue, so all interactions are visible in one thread.  

What’s a multichannel contact centre?

A multichannel contact centre will include some communication channels – like voice, SMS and email – but it’s unlikely to incorporate all of them. Crucially, none of these channels will be blended into one queue.

Why integration matters

The main benefit of integrating all of your channels is that it gives your agents a single view of customer interactions. They can see who the customer has spoken to in the past, the channels they used, when they got in touch and what was said. This context is invaluable as it empowers them to deliver better experiences.

Here’s an example of what we mean:

Omnichannel in action

Let’s say you run an omnichannel contact centre for a mobile phone provider and one of your customers is looking for an upgrade. They’re interested in a specific offer they received via SMS and they’ve already made some enquiries via the chatbot on your website. Now they’re calling you to iron out some details.

When your agent answers their call they have access to all of this information – they can see the promotional text message and the chatbot history. That means they can pick up where the chatbot left off. 

This leads to a much more satisfying experience for the customer. They don’t have to repeat themselves and they don’t get passed between agents. Instead they have a useful conversation with someone who can answer their questions in the moment.

But this is just one example. Now imagine what happens when every customer interaction follows this same pattern. The benefits are huge. CSAT scores surge, agent productivity rises, retention rates spike and sales soar.

And the uptick in key metrics can be stratospheric. For example, research from Aberdeen shows that companies who provide an omnichannel customer experience achieve a 91% higher year-over-year increase in customer retention.

An omnichannel future

Today, businesses can choose between multichannel and omnichannel. But soon this may not be the case. 

The typical contact centre is already juggling over a dozen channels and this number is growing all the time thanks to the proliferation of instant messaging and social networking apps. 

Speed of service is also becoming more important. 64% of customers now expect brands to respond and interact in real time. And it pays to meet this demand – research from InsideSales found that 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendors who respond first.   

The only way to do this is to invest in a flexible, open and tightly-integrated technology platform. Or, in other words, an omnichannel contact centre.

The age of multichannel may well be coming to an end.

We offer a true omnichannel contact centre solution – Liberty Converse – that lets you tie all communications channels together to create a single view of customer interactions.

Learn more here.

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