The other day, I read an article that claimed “omni-channel” is just a buzzword word that means the same thing as “multi-channel.” I couldn’t disagree more. Omni-channel contact centers represent a major step in the evolution of customer service.
Look at the history of customer contact. The very first call centers were just that: call centers. They had one channel: the telephone. In other words, they were “uni-channel.” In the 90s, when email entered the picture, contact centers added that to their available ways of communicating with customers, and they became “dual-channel.” Unfortunately, the right hand often had no idea what the left hand was doing, and the customer sometimes felt as if he or she was communicating with two different companies. Once chat was added to the mix, the first true “multi-channel” customer service centers were born, but the customer experience was not necessarily any better.
Fast forward to the present, and you have people talking about the next step in this evolution: “omni-channel.” To understand the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel, it helps to look at the words themselves. “Multi” comes from the Latin word meaning “more than one, or many.” “Omni,” on the other hand, comes from the Latin word meaning “every, all or whole.”
Those three words – every, all and whole – provide a good outline of what an omni-channel contact center is designed to do:
- Leverage every channel the customer is using.
- Capture and integrate all customer touchpoints, regardless of channel, for a seamless customer experience, and
- Present a 360-degree view of the whole customer.
1. Leverage every available channel
Omni-channel looks beyond the big three: voice, email and chat. SMS, social media and mobile apps are playing an increasing role in how customers want – and expect – to get service and support. Take social media, for example. According to Gleanster Research, 73% of the top performing companies said their number one reason for investing in social media is not marketing, but customer service. With 71% of online adults using Facebook and 18% using Twitter, it makes sense.
2. Capture and integrate all customer touch points, regardless of channel, for a seamless customer experience
Omni-channel is not just about offering the customer more of the channels they want to use. It’s also about creating an integrated, seamless customer experience. “Multi” means many. And the problem with the old paradigm of multi-channel is that customers were having many different experiences when they reached out to the same company because they were handled by different agents who could not see the entire customer interaction. The goal of omni-channel is to present one consistent, continuous conversation and to do that, the agent and the organization needs to know where, when and what has transpired with a given customer.
3. Present a 360 degree view of the whole customer
And what makes that conversation satisfying for the customer is that, regardless of the channel they use or the agent they reach, they feel recognized and remembered. Because the customer is able to use whatever channel they are comfortable using, and because the agent has access to every interaction, the customer receives unparalleled support with a personal touch.
With customers expecting to use a wide range of channels – and getting more and more accustomed to a seamless, integrated customer experience – can you afford to stay stuck in the world of multi-channel?
If you have been thinking about omni-channel but don’t know where to begin, then we should talk. Our experts at Global Contact Services (GCS) will be happy to discuss your situation and offer guidance.