To better understand omnichannel, let’s quickly define two other descriptors of customer experiences: multichannel and multimodal customer experience.
In the context of customer experience (CX), the term multichannel means exactly what its name suggests: the ability to engage and communicate with customers over multiple channels—for example: voice, text, email, social or chat.
While multichannel customer experience creates the possibility of engaging with customers over more than one channel, a multimodal experience makes the use of multiple channels, together, during a single interaction possible. Also, known as cross-channel, multimodal customer experience begins to connect and integrate communication channels. Limitations for a seamless customer experience is still met quickly, as often a multimodal experience does not contain context of concurrent engagement.
Omnichannel seeks to provide the customer with the optimum seamless experience by gathering context and information across all engagement channels throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Omnichannel CX is similar to multimodal experience in that it can make use of multiple channels within a given interaction: voice, text, email, chat, social media, online FAQs, and more. For example, in either a multimodal or omnichannel interaction, if an online shopper asks a question over web chat and he or she chooses to call the company’s call center, the agent might be able to see the details of the web request so the customer won’t have to ask the question again.
However, unlike a single multimodal experience, which involves a specific customer engagement that might span multiple channels, omnichannel CX utilizes a “meta-view” of all interactions, across all channels—multimodally or otherwise—over time. So, in an omnichannel experience, the agent can see how many times a 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 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 to facilitate better, smoother interactions across multiple channels in real time.
What does Omnichannel CX Look like in Practice?
Let’s say a bank customer has a question about a fluctuation in their mortgage rate, which happens to be an Adjustable Rate Mortgage. The customer might call to speak with a live representative. 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 several background questions before being able to resolve their request.
Moreover, the multimodal capacities inherent to an omnichannel experience enable an agent to text the customer a confirmation and/or a link to further info while the customer is still on the phone. If the customer is late for a meeting and 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 in full context, presenting “one face” to the customer—and a surprisingly smart face, at that. Almost like hitting the pause button on a DVR and resuming the program right where you left off.
What Makes Omnichannel Better?
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 don’t even begin to approach. 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 personalized 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.
In the end, an omnichannel customer experience is the most granular, detailed, and efficient CX an organization or representative can provide. Omnichannel fills the gaps left by multichannel, leverages the power of multimodal, and can convert first-time customers to long-term brand loyalists because of the wealth of information available to the customer experience agent. Ultimately, everyone wins with an omnichannel experience.