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What does omnichannel actually mean?

17th Nov 2015
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Like many other sectors, there are often a lot of buzzwords in the customer experience world. One of the most commonly used terms is ‘omnichannel’. But what does it actually mean? How does look in practice, and does it differ from multichannel or multimodal?

What is Omnichannel? 
Omnichannel looks to provide customers with an optimised and seamless experience by gathering context and information across all the channels where customers are engaging with a brand or company, throughout the course of the entire customer lifecycle.

Omnichannel CX is somewhat similar to multimodal experience in that it can make use of multiple channels during one customer engagement, including voice, text, email, chat, social media, online FAQs, and more.

So, for example, if in either a multimodal or omnichannel interaction, an online shopper asks a question over web chat and he or she chooses to call the company’s call centre, the agent may be able see the details of the web request so the customer won’t have to make the same enquiry or ask the same question again.

However, a multimodal experience only involves a specific customer engagement that spans multiple channels. Omnichannel CX, on the other hand, uses a ‘meta-view’ of all interactions, across all channels—multimodally or otherwise, over time.

This means then that, in an omnichannel experience, the agent can see how many times a particular customer called or engaged with an agent online, the details of those conversations, and the customer’s personal information and preferences—and then apply all of that customer information in the moment of a new interaction, fluidly and proactively.

In other words, multimodal provides the basic cross-channel functionality required for smooth customer engagements, but omnichannel goes several steps further and applies that multimodal functionality in the context of a long-term customer journey.

What’s the result of an omnichannel experience like this? The representative gains a clear overview of each customer’s journey from start to finish in order to facilitate smoother interactions across multiple channels in real time.

How does Omnichannel look in practice?
Let’s say a banking customer has a question about a change to their mortgage rate, which happens to be a variable rate mortgage. The customer might call to speak to a call centre agent. A few years later, when their rate fluctuates again, he or she might call to ask another question. As the customer is calling, the agent will be able to pull up all the details about the customer and their specific situation, as well as find out whether the question they asked a few years ago was resolved.

Assisting the customer becomes easier for the agent with the context of that customer’s history. Without the omnichannel context, they would have to frustrate the customer with a number of background questions before being able to resolve their query.

What’s more, the multimodal aspect of an omnichannel experience enables an agent to text the customer a confirmation and/or a link to further information, while the customer is still on the phone. If the customer needs to end the call prematurely but wants to continue the conversation by email, or follow up a few hours later by live chat, that’s also easy.

Any agent who continues the engagement will be able to pick up where the previous agents left off with full context, presenting “one face” to the customer. It’s almost like hitting the pause button on your TV and resuming the programme just where you left it.

Omnichannel: better than multichannel or multimodal

Omnichannel allows for the customer experience agent to have a bird’s-eye view of the customer journey, bridging the silos between channels and departments in a way that most multichannel approaches can’t.

Omnichannel takes multimodal CX a step further, by arming representatives with every detail they need about a customer to provide the most seamless CX possible. It’s almost as though omnichannel combines data-rich mobile and web experiences with the personalised touch of a retail or branch office face-to-face customer experience. It makes customer service agents the most efficient they can be using the latest technology, leading to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, while also reducing business costs.

Ultimately, omnichannel customer experience is the most detailed and efficient CX an organisation or company can offer to its customers. Omnichannel represents the next step on from multichannel, by leveraging the power of multimodal. It can also help convert one-off customers to long-term brand loyalists because of outstanding service if offers these customers. In the end, everyone wins with an omnichannel experience.

Genesys recently launched AppFoundry, a marketplace that helps customers discover, research and connect with a broad range of customer experience applications, integrations and services that address their unique customer needs.


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