Omnichannel contact centers let consumers seamlessly interact with your sales and support teams on the communication channel of their choosing.
Given that a study by Harvard Business Review found that over 70% of retail shoppers use more than one communication channel throughout the customer journey, offering several channels is an essential part of meeting customer expectations.
But today’s consumers don’t just want to be able to make purchases and access marketing materials on several different channels.
They also want omnichannel customer service that allows them to reach out to agents via phone, email, chat messaging, and even texting.
Is your customer service department keeping up?
If current statistics are any indication, probably not.
While 9 out of 10 consumers want an omnichannel customer experience, less than 30% say they get it.
But what is omnichannel customer service, why should you offer it, and how do you deliver it?
Table of Contents
- What Is Omnichannel Customer Service?
- Omnichannel vs Multichannel Customer Service
- The Benefits of Omnichannel Customer Service
- How to Deliver an Omnichannel Customer Service Experience
- Discover Top Omnichannel Contact Center Solutions
Omnichannel customer service allows consumers to connect with a business’s customer service department across multiple communication channels. Popular communication channels for customer service and support include:
- Live Chat Messaging or Chatbots
- Social Media Messaging
- SMS Texting
- Video Calling
Omnichannel communication doesn’t just provide options for how customers and agents can connect during the customer journey. It also automatically syncs conversations, notes, files, and any additional customer information seamlessly across every channel.
This makes it easy to switch in between channels, devices, and touchpoints during one conversation or throughout multiple follow-ups.
It also ensures that, even if multiple agents assist clients during the support process, each agent will know exactly where the conversation left off, who the customer previously spoke to, what was solved, and which issues still need to be fixed.
Omnichannel Customer Service In Action
To better understand exactly what omnichannel customer service and support means, let’s take a look at an example.
A customer needs assistance installing a software upgrade.
First, they go on the software company’s website, where they attempt to find a solution by reading online support documents.
They can’t find the answer they need, so they type their question into a chatbot box. From there, they are connected to a live agent via telephone, who can see what the customer typed into the chatbox and come ready with solutions. During the call, they take notes about the customer’s problem, proposed solutions, and any other key information.
A few days later, that same customer direct messages the company’s Facebook page, letting agents know the problem persists.
A different agent assigned to social media receives the message, but because the software company uses an omnichannel customer service strategy, they can access the other agent’s notes to see what the issue is, what solutions they’ve already tried, and the date/time of past customer interactions.
The rep handling the Facebook page helps the client set up a video call with a third agent who can use remote screen control to better guide the customer through the upgrade process. That third agent quickly reviews the interaction history, finds the ideal solution, and resolves the customer issue.
The customer used several customer service touchpoints and channels throughout their journey: the website, the online knowledge base, live chat, the telephone, social media messaging, and finally, the video call.
Though many assume that omnichannel and multichannel customer service are identical, there are a few subtle differences to look out for.
Omnichannel communication is all about integration, unification, and synching communications across channels.
It lets the customer, not the company, choose which channel to communicate on, and it’s easy to switch between channels at any time without skipping a beat or losing information.
Multichannel communication is the process of connecting with customers (and in marketing, leads) on many channels in order to increase a company’s likelihood of reaching the customer.
Multichannel communication lacks the sense of unity and seamless communication that omnichannel communication offers.
While customers and agents can pick up where they left off, regardless of the communication channel with an omnichannel experience, multichannel experiences mean customers will usually need to retell their stories each time they connect with an agent on a different channel.
It’s less about giving the customer the choice of which communication channel they prefer, and more about sending out information on as many channels as possible to ensure that a customer service agent can eventually connect with a client.
Messages and available services vary from channel to channel in multichannel marketing, as the idea is that users of one channel will communicate in different ways than users of another.
The below table outlines the main differences between multichannel vs omnichannel communication and customer service.
|Omnichannel Communications||Multichannel Communications|
|Customer-first approach||Company-first approach|
|All communication channels are integrated and connected||Communication channels are separate|
|Messaging is consistent across channels||Messages vary from channel to channel|
|The primary goal is to provide a seamless customer experience regardless of channel||The primary goal is to provide as many ways for customers and agents to connect as is possible|
Below, we’ve outlined the biggest benefits of offering omnichannel customer service solutions — and the data to back these claims up.
Speed of Communication and Resolution
No one wants to wait to get an answer to a customer service issue — especially when that issue is urgent.
A Zendesk study shows that 89% of consumers believe that a fast response time and a speedy resolution are the most essential aspects of their customer service and support experience.
What’s more, the same study shows that over 60% of customers expect to get an immediate response to a customer service query, regardless of the channel used to contact support teams.
Offering more communication channels increases the likelihood that customers will be able to reach a customer service agent on their first contact.
Omnichannel communication helps companies meet customers’ expectations by storing key client data across channels, so that it’s accessible and up-to-date no matter the channel team members use to connect with consumers.
Another way omnichannel communication saves time?
It prevents consumers from having to constantly repeat their issues to multiple representatives — something that over ¾ of customers say is among the most frustrating parts of the overall customer experience.
Omnichannel communication isn’t just fast — it’s a seamless way to prevent data silos.
It also drastically increases first contact resolution rates (the percentage of customer support issues that are resolved within the first contact between customers and agents about a specific problem.)
Studies show that not only do higher first call resolution rates decrease customer churn by 67%, they also increase customer satisfaction levels. For every 1% increase in first contact resolution, customer satisfaction rates also increase by 1%.
Personalized Customer Service
Nearly ⅓ of consumers say they stopped doing business with a company because it failed to provide a personalized experience, and over 40% say they become frustrated with interactions that aren’t personalized.
Personalization makes customers feel valued, prioritized, and emotionally connected to your business, regardless of how “important” or high-value they actually are.
Omnichannel communication — especially when it comes to customer support — makes building lasting relationships and improving customer loyalty through personalization simple.
It lets customers connect with their preferred agents on the channel that they like the best.
Given that close to 40% of consumers expect to be able to connect with the same customer service representative they’ve had previous contact with, regardless of the channel they choose to connect on, this makes a huge difference.
Plus, agents can access key information like order history, previous interactions, account information, and more from any channel, providing more personalized insights and support based on the current products used, past purchases, and even from notes written by other agents.
Higher Customer Retention Rates
Companies offering omnichannel communication strategies have annual customer retention that is 91% higher than companies without them.
In fact, businesses with a poor omnichannel communication strategy only retain about 33% of their existing customers year to year.
Giving clients as many ways to connect with your business as possible decreases customer churn — and helps to create those essential personal relationships with customers we mentioned above.
Increased Customer Spending
A Harvard Business Review study shows that the higher the number of communication channels a business offers, the more money consumers will spend (even if they also use these communication channels for customer service queries.)
The study discovered that consumers presented with omnichannel support and shopping options spend 4% more each individual shopping trip than those given only one communication channel.
The more communication channels businesses offer, the more money consumers will spend. And even if these customers end up making their purchases in a brick-and-mortar store as opposed to online e-commerce shops?
They’ll still spend 13% more in the physical store of a company that offers an omnichannel approach than they would if they only had access to a single channel — and it’s easier to upsell clients when they’re presented with an excellent customer service team.
The specific way you choose to deliver and implement your omnichannel customer service strategy will depend on the preferences of your target market and your individual company.
However, the best practices below outline tips that everyone adopting omnichannel communication will benefit from.
Offer Self-Service Options
Studies have shown that about 40% of consumers would rather use self-service options than interact with a live agent.
Self-service ensures customers get instant help, eliminates the back-and-forth between agents and clients, and also leaves customer service reps more time to assist customers with more complex support issues.
Omnichannel self-service lets customers access knowledge bases, tutorials, and even user experience support forums on the channel that works best for them. These customers can also switch in between channels and pick up right where they left off in support documents.
In addition to knowledge bases, customers can also interact with chatbots on the company website.
These automated chatbots can offer immediate assistance and answer questions using NLP (Natural Language Processing) and Artificial Intelligence (AI.) These chatbots can collect customer data, route agents to the right support documents (or live agent, if needed,) and gather feedback to improve the self-service process.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is another key aspect of customer self-service.
Customers can get phone support or take actions like paying bills by entering responses to questions on their phone’s dial pad or speaking their responses directly into the phone.
Prioritize Live Chat Over Chatbots
Though we’ve illustrated the importance and efficiency of AI chatbots in omnichannel customer support, customers usually want to at least have the option to connect with a “real person.”
Omnichannel live chat support lets customers interact with agents in real-time on any channel.
Since the entire conversion is automatically synched across various channels, you won’t miss a beat switching from website chat to app messaging or social media direct messaging.
Chat logs allow for a seamless experience from one channel to another.
For example, maybe the live chat interaction starts via social media direct messaging. The customer, however, wants to discuss sensitive information. So, the agent suggests that they move the chat conversation to their secure mobile app or to the company website.
Users can opt to receive notifications when they receive a reply to a message, share files or links over chat messaging, and instantly transition to a phone or even video call if needed.
Use Analytics and Machine Learning to Improve Customer Service
Automation and AI aren’t just used to provide immediate support — they’re also great ways to get insights into customer behavior and the quality of your customer service.
Analytics and metrics offer essential insight into the digital channels your customers prefer, overall customer engagement levels, the number of daily/weekly/monthly support interactions, first contact resolution rates, customer demographics, and consistent service queries.
Machine learning helps bots to “get smarter” with every interaction, as they “learn” which responses have the highest success rate and better understand what customers want.
This leads to a much more efficient and effective customer-centric strategy, regardless of the communication channel.
Offer SMS Texting
SMS customer support allows two-way conversations between support agents and customers.
For example, a customer might send a quick text to a company’s SMS phone number asking, “What are your store hours today?” The agent can quickly respond not only via their mobile device, but also via desktop computer within the omnichannel interface.
SMS is ideal for quick, easy communication that doesn’t require much back-and-forth.
Texting is much more cost-effective than phone support, given that the average business phone call has a total cost of over $15.00, while business SMS costs between $1.00-$5.00 per complete conversations.
Plus, it’s convenient, offers a more informal and personal mode of communication, and lets businesses send important reminders about upcoming appointments, payments, account renewals, and more.
Don’t Overlook Email
Email is still an effective communications channel — especially when it comes to providing a highly personal level of customer service.
Plus, users can easily read up on earlier email messages and threads to get an understanding of previous interactions.
Emails are also an excellent way to go over exactly what happened during the customer service interaction, providing both customers and agents with a record of suggestions and solutions.
Integrate Key Business Software Into Your Omnichannel Solution
Omnichannel communication tools need to integrate with your existing business communication and collaboration software — especially your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software.
Integrating CRM tools into your customer service software provides even more detailed customer history and order data, along with personal notes, contact information, communication channel preferences, and much more.
Thanks to these integrations, agents can automatically access data stored in the CRM system whenever they interact with a customer on any channel.
Now that you understand what omnichannel customer service is, its benefits, and the best ways to offer it to your customers, it’s time to research omnichannel communication software solutions.
The below table outlines the top omnichannel communication providers.
|Pricing||Quote-based, starting from $90.00-$100.00/user per month||Quote-based||Quote-based, starting from $100.00-$175.00/month per agent||Quote-based, from $150.00/user per month||3 paid plans from $75.00-$140.00/month per agent|
|Best For||Larger-scale enterprises or companies in the healthcare or telemarketing industries||SMBs with under 100 employees with primarily remote or blended teams||Midsized businesses that rely on digital-first communication or entirely remote teams. Especially popular in the financial industry (debt collection, etc.)||Businesses that need a highly customizable solution, as well as those who want to purchase individual APIs/communication channels||Companies that need to offer a high level of customer self-service options, as well as those that will need to integrate lots of other business communication software into their Genesys platform|
|More Information||NICE CXOne Review||RingCentral Review||Five9 Review||Twilio Review||Genesys Review|
Looking for more detailed information on call center pricing, plans, features, and how the right tools provide a consistent experience for customers?
Our interactive Buyer’s Guide to the best contact center providers is the perfect place to start.