Multi-Channel Vs. Omni-Channel Customer Experience – is there a real difference or is it just another buzz word?
As businesses start getting to grips with their multi-channel strategies for customer service, they start hearing the sudden rise of “Omni-channel”. This phrase has emerged from the retail world and is being touted as “the next big trend” and is apparently something different to “multi-channel”. But is there really a difference? Aren’t we all in effect saying the same thing? Though the terms themselves have caused some confusion in the industry as they seem only subtlety different, their meanings are actually quite different.
Customers now expect to be able to receive customer service via the channel of their choice and be able to seamlessly transition between channels for one single enquiry. Today’s customer journey might start in one channel such as web chat and go through several others channels such as voice and email, before being resolved. Whilst many businesses offer different channels for customer service, the level of service provided across these channels is inconsistent due to many of them existing in siloes. This gap between customer demands vs. business capability in customer service is key in understanding the difference and transition between multi-channel and Omni-channel customer service.
Multi-channel refers to companies offering customers a choice of channels such as voice, email, chat and social for customer service. Although adopting two or more channels, they are not necessarily focused on delivering a seamless/consistent level of customer service across multiple touch-points. This is as a result of procuring and managing several different systems to manage each individual channel.
Omni-channel communication refers to companies who also use multiple channels to engage with their customers but differentiate themselves by providing a consistent experience across all channels through integrating their technology in to one single system. Omni-channel customer service allows a customer to start an enquiry on one channel and seamlessly transition to another. For example a customer enquiry that starts on social media can be escalated to web chat or a phone call whilst keeping all relevant contextualised data preserved across the channels.
In etymological terms multi means more than two and Omni means every. Therefore whilst a business may provide multiple channels, they are not Omni-channel unless there is interconnect between every touch point from the perspective of the customer. From an agent perspective they are equipped to handle all channels from a single system and can seamlessly transition the customer between channels. For example is an agent is on web chat to a customer but the topic of conversation becomes too complex, the agent is able to seamlessly escalate the web chat to a phone call and retain all customer information and data on the same system.
Susannah Richardson, Marketing Director at mplsystems comments “Omni-channel, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated and consistent. Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution and addresses the seamless flow of information and channel transition. Simply put, Omni-channel is Multichannel done right.”
Therefore, is there a real difference between multi-channel As businesses start getting to grips with their multi-channel strategies for customer service, they start hearing the sudden rise of “Omni-channel”. This phrase has emerged from the retail world and is being touted as “the next big trend” and is apparently something different to “multi-channel”. But is there really a difference? Aren’t we all in effect saying the same thing? Though the terms themselves have caused some confusion in the industry as they seem only subtlety different, their meanings are actually quite different. and Omni-channel? Yes. Should businesses be doing something about it? Definitely.