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Today’s CX leaders are facing a significant, worrisome decline in customer satisfaction. In 2024, US consumer perceptions of customer experience quality are the lowest they’ve been in over five years. [*]

Efficient and consistent omnichannel customer service improves the overall experience, increases agent and customer retention rates, and eliminates common CX problems.

In this post, we define omnichannel CX and give real-world examples, explain how it benefits you and your customers, and share some best practices.


Compare omnichannel contact center software



What Is Omnichannel Customer Service?

Omnichannel customer service allows consumers to connect with a business’s customer service department across multiple touchpoints and channels through all stages of their customer journey. Popular communication channels for omnichannel customer service and support include:

  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Live Chat Messaging or Chatbots
  • Social Media Messaging
  • SMS Texting
  • Video Calling
  • In-Store Shopping

Omnichannel Customer Service

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 to provide a consistent, streamlined experience.

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.


Multichannel vs Omnichannel Customer Service

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.

Multichannel vs Omnichannel

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 support 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


The Benefits of Omnichannel Customer Service

Providing omnichannel customer service is convenient, centers customer preferences, makes getting support easier and faster, and creates a consistent customer experience across channels.

Below, we outline the biggest benefits of omnichannel customer service.


Multiple Communication Channels 

Over 23% of consumers cite not being able to get support on their preferred channel as one of their top customer service frustrations–and 16% say the inability to switch channels during a support interaction is a major irritation.[*]

Given that consumers today connect with businesses across an average of six touchpoints, providing multiple communication channels is an essential part of meeting customer expectations.[*]

Omnichannel communication lets your customers reach you on their preferred channel and switch between channels without having to restart the support process from scratch, streamlining workflows and boosting agent productivity in the process.


Faster Support and Solutions

Nearly 50% of customers say long wait and hold times are consistent customer service issues, while over 25% say excessive transfers and escalations create a negative experience.[*] Further, 89% of consumers say fast response times and speedy resolutions are the most important aspects of a successful service and support experience.[*]

Omnichannel service shortens customer support queues, connects callers to live agents to meet customer needs, and shortens average handle times.


Personalized Customer Service

90% of consumers are willing to spend more with businesses that provide personalized customer service.[*]

Omnichannel customer service solutions give agents in-conversation access to CRM data, conversation transcripts, account histories, notes from other agents, and even integrated helpdesk tools–making it much easier for agents to provide the highly personalized level of service customers expect.


Increased Customer Spending

Leveraging omnichannel marketing and customer service strategies has been shown to increase consumer spending and customer loyalty.

Businesses that connect with consumers across at least three channels have a customer order rate that’s almost 500% higher than companies that only communicate with customers on one channel.[*]

Even better?

On average, omnichannel customers spend four times as much as single-channel customers.[*]

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

Companies offering omnichannel communication strategies have annual customer retention that is 91% higher than companies without them. By contrast, 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.


Best Practices For Omnichannel Customer Service

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

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 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. Also, be sure to regularly collect and analyze customer feedback via automated post-interaction surveys to eliminate data silos between channels and optimize operational efficiency.


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 customer 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 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.


Omnichannel Customer Service Examples and Use Cases

Here are two examples of companies using omnichannel customer service.


REI Offers Multi-Dimensional Self-Service

REI, a vendor of outdoor clothing and equipment, provides its customers a large bank of self-service tools on its website or mobile: a knowledge base, expert community forum, chatbot, live chat, email support, and voice calling.

REI omnichannel customer service example

The Conversations tab connects a community forum with shared REI-related interests, where customers create threads, discuss REI-related topics, and gain information to make informed purchasing decisions. Customers can ask questions and seek advice about damaged products or missing parts, using images to convey a clearer picture to each other and monitoring administrators.

In the Expert Advice tab, users can learn more about relevant activities and topics–such as camping, hiking, fitness, and family–with relevant articles, gear guides, buying advice, and checklists.

Users can schedule virtual fittings, using video chat and a Microsoft Teams integration so that customer support staff can help users select the best-fitting item without ever heading into a store.

virtual appointment booking

The chat icon navigates to the REI chatbot, with conversation options for returns and exchanges, membership and rewards, order tracking, and order cancellation. At any time users can access live agents through chat, email, or voice calling.

REI chatbot

During all email, voice, chatbot, and live chat interactions, REI agents access real-time customer information–previous orders, site browsing history, products viewed and purchased, forum conversations, and account information–to provide personalized support that saves customers from needing to repeat themselves.


Disney Individualizes the Parkgoer’s Experience

The My Disney Experience web portal integrates applications ranging from a media hub, to a calendar, to a day planner, unifying aspects of the Disney parkgoer’s customer service experience that were previously fragmented and stressful: planning, booking, reserving, dining, and avoiding long lines.

Dysney Parkgoer's experience

In the portal, the My Plans tab guides users through every step of planning a day at the park: guest list, hotel selection, ticket purchasing, ride passes, and dining reservations. Each option in this planner is clickable and self-service, utilizing APIs to integrate into a singular hub.

For example, in the Dining tab, users can sort restaurants by type, environment, and characters on-site, viewing images, pricing, reviews, and seating availability–all before booking the reservation. The My Photos tab allows users to store and share photos taken on rides, at restaurants, or with characters. Best of all, these processes are entirely self-service.

Dysney dining

Users have easy access to email, voice, and webchat if they’d prefer a live agent. During live interactions, Disney agents can access the customer’s full profile, including all bookings, plans, and media–providing an omnichannel approach that leverages self-service.


Additional Omnichannel Customer Service Use Cases

Here we’ve listed additional use cases for omnichannel customer service:

  • Banking and Finance: Banking companies like Chase and Wells Fargo provide self-service mobile apps with tools like check depositing, appointment scheduling, texting, live chat, chatbots, email, and call-in numbers. This lets customers easily turn cards on/off and verify transactions from any location, provides instant account balance updates, and even get notifications about changes to their credit scores.
  • Education: Online universities and tutoring businesses connect with learners via real-time video chat, post course syllabi in user forums, and conduct parent-teacher conferences via phone. Students can submit assignments and review grades on interactive online portals, and even use chatbots to register for classes.
  • Retail: Retailers of all types–makeup, sporting goods, toys, video games, e-commerce, furniture–can let customers browse and order items, search knowledge bases and FAQ pages, participate in forums, use a chatbot for simple processes, or speak with a live agent. Customers can receive order confirmation and shipping updates via email, SMS, or phone.
  • Food and Drink: Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts allow customers multiple ways to make orders–in person, via desktop browser, or via the company’s mobile app–before picking up in the store. Customer order history is logged for seamless support and future ordering.
  • Fitness and Coaching: Gyms and fitness products, such as Peloton, use mobile notifications and text messaging to send customers workout summaries or class updates, and allow customers to schedule workouts or contact their trainers–all logged for improved live support.
  • Service Marketplaces: Applications like TaskRabbit, Upwork, and Rover provide applications where customers can post and schedule tasks. When a client accepts a task, the customer receives a text or app notification with useful updates about the accepted task, client, and scheduling.


Omnichannel Customer Service Challenges

Some of the biggest challenges to implementing an omnichannel customer experience are:


Seamless Channel Integration

87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a seamless omnichannel experience–so that the customer transition between channels requires no wait time or repetition.[*]

Solution: Provide each agent with training and access to all channels, so that when a customer wants to switch mid-conversation, the same agent can switch alongside. Also, integrating a customer relationship management (CRM) platform with your contact center updates customer information in real-time, allowing new agents to resume where the previous agent left off.


Maintaining a Personal Experience Across Channels

Self-service options like chatbots and IVR play a key role in an omnichannel customer service strategy, but these options often come at the expense of the personal tone that real agents provide.

Solution: Reserve automated functions for simple, repetitive, or mechanistic customer queries, and in these cases, provide distinct conversation flows for each path within the IVR or chatbot conversation. Allow customers the option to easily transition from self-service to a live agent.


Data Management Across Channels

Contact Center analytics provide administrators access to tons of data about their contact center and channels–daily, weekly, and seasonal statistics about agents, usage, and more. This data can be overwhelming and difficult to use effectively–especially for those new to using an omnichannel support center.

Solution: Begin by implementing just the channels that your customers will use the most. It can be counterproductive to start with too many channels, so start with a simple structure such as calling, live chat, and email. Over time, add more and monitor the usage of each one, aiming to capitalize on the most popular.


Discover Top Omnichannel Contact Center Solutions

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 contact center software solutions.

The below table outlines the top omnichannel communication providers.

Provider Pricing Top Features Best For More Information
NICE CXOne 7 plans from $71-$249+/user/month
  • Enlighten Copilot
  • AI Routing and behavioral insights
Larger-scale enterprises or companies in the healthcare or telemarketing industries NICE CXOne Review
RingCentral RingCX  2 plans from $65/agent/month
  • Unlimited SMS and MMS messaging up to 1,000 characters
  • Advanced omnichannel analytics and reporting
SMBs with under 100 employees with primarily remote or blended support teams RingCentral Review
Five9 5 plans from $175-$325+/month
  • Inbound Agent Assist
  • Advanced email routing
Midsized contact centers that rely on digital-first communication or entirely remote customer service teams. Especially popular in the financial industry (debt collection, etc.) Five9 Review
Twilio Pay-as-you-go pricing, volume discounts, and commited-use discounts available, plans from $1 per active user per hour, or $150 monthly per user
  • Advanced chat messaging
  • Programmable video chat support
Call centers that need a highly customizable solution, as well as those who want to purchase individual APIs/communication channels Twilio Review
Genesys 5 paid plans from $75-$155/month per agent
  • Genesys PureEngage self-service
  • Ease of use, intuitive interface
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 Genesys Review