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Omnichannel vs Multichannel Customer Service

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Customer Service

July 23, 2024

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Customer Service

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Build customer loyalty. Scale cost-efficiently.
"We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job to make the customer experience a little bit better." – Jeff Bezos.

Bezos is absolutely right. And to create that welcoming, engaging party atmosphere, brands are now leveraging a multitude of communication channels. They're connecting with customers through AI chatbots, WhatsApp, email, SMS, social media, and even personalized calls or meetings.

Despite the best intentions, there's always room to improve the customer experience, and many of us have encountered moments where it could be better.

In a 2024 study, Forbes indicates that 64% of customers admitted they would switch to another brand if they found poor customer service, even if they liked the product. To overcome this, businesses are now focusing on making data-driven decisions. 

They also seek to enhance their customer service with two distinct approaches: omnichannel customer service, which can retain 89% of customers year over year and multichannel customer service, which leads to an increase in both in-store and online sales.

Although omnichannel and multichannel customer service sounds similar, they are distinct approaches. Omnichannel customer service involves providing a seamless experience across channels, whereas multichannel customer service is more siloed, offering support on separate channels.

In this blog post, we’ll deconstruct what they are, how they work, and how to select the right one for your business growth.

Let’s begin!

What is Multichannel Customer Service?

Multichannel customer service offers support on multiple channels, such as email, phone, and social media. However, each interaction is handled separately. 

As a result, this approach can lead to significant drawbacks. For example:

  • In a multichannel contact center, customer support teams often operate in silos, lacking access to a complete view of the customer's interactions across different channels. This results in disjointed conversations and vague responses, ultimately leaving customers frustrated and dissatisfied.
  • Customers may have to start from the beginning for each new interaction until they receive satisfactory support, which can turn them away and result in lost sales.

Imagine a customer emailed a company about a problem with their recent order. However, this customer had previously called the company to discuss the same issue, but the email representative had no record of that call. So, the customer ends up having to repeat their entire story and explanation, causing frustration and a sense of being unheard.

This is a classic example of the disconnect that can happen in a multichannel contact center.

Such a lack of synergy in multichannel customer support highlights the priority of goods and services over customer satisfaction, which can potentially hamper future purchasing decisions.

What is Omnichannel Customer Service?

On the other hand, omnichannel customer service establishes a frictionless omnipresence of customer service. It provides interconnected, all-time-present, and consistent customer engagement across all communication platforms. 

As a result, regardless of the platform that customers choose, there is no room for a disrupted and annoying experience. Instead, customers receive highly tailored solutions based on their individual interactions and purchase history, fostering a sense of loyalty and understanding.

For example, consider PayPal Happy Returns to understand the omnichannel environment. To streamline PayPal's omnichannel return solution process, customers can initiate returns directly from the retailer's website instead of a separate website or app. They receive a QR code, visit a Return Bar location (partnered with Ulta Beauty), scan the code, and get a real-time refund without packaging or labels.

To be specific, an omnichannel contact center revolves exclusively around customers' requirements and priorities rather than products or services first.

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Customer Service: A Quick Comparison 

Key factors Omnichannel customer service Multichannel customer service
Focus All channels are interconnected to ease cross-channel communication and build a personalized customer-centric solution. Multiple channels are used to communicate independently, without uniformity, and execute different strategies.
Data management & its usage Customer data is centralized in one place to provide a 360-degree view of their journey. Customer data is scattered across different channels, making it hard to manage and use at the right time.
Metrics analysis flexibility An overall view of customer service metrics can be tracked and compared in a single stack. It doesn’t depend on channel-specific metrics. It depends on channel-specific metrics.
Communication & collaboration capacity Smooth communicative and collaborative hand-offs between agents and channels can be easily done. As it works on an asynchronous workspace, it can limit interaction between agents and channels.
Customer experience Customers experience consistently personalized moments throughout their journey. Customers may face a fragmented, less connected, and frustrating experience.
Customer preference 70% of global consumers prefer brands that provide a seamless experience through omnichannel service. Comparatively fewer customers prefer multichannel service, as they find it difficult to hop between separate channels without clues.
The impact on cost It demands higher investment to drive long-term value in the future. Although the upfront cost is comparatively lower, multichannel service is less future-proof.

Benefits of Omnichannel Customer Service

According to Deloitte, with omnichannel relationship management, you can earn loyalty from up to 62% of customers. Let's explore how it can be accomplished:

✅ Unified customer context

First, your customer support teams need a cohesive context to win over your customers’ buying psychology. For this, they gather consolidated data through omnichannel communication, segregate it, and map a strategic customer journey to suit their needs.

Salesforce State of Service highlights that it’s nearly impossible to provide great customer service without full customer context. Therefore, focus on these aspects to build more context: 

  • Have a sharp eye on your customers' queries, be it their problems or interests
  • Distribute data across different channels with ease
  • Help customers smoothly transition from one platform to another
  • Create a clear feedback avenue for your team members as well as customers

✅ Lower resolution time

Naturally, customers tend to prefer effective assistance without waiting in a long queue or going through multiple follow-ups. With omnichannel support, you can reach them through a wide range of touchpoints while taking positive action with valuable knowledge.

Since 90% of customers consider an immediate response within 10 minutes a sign of a better experience, omnichannel support helps you go this extra mile by lowering average resolution time. Doing so increases the possibilities of making your customers happy and turning them into your brand’s loyal advocates.

"Happy customers are your biggest advocates and can become your most successful sales team." — Lisa Masiello.

✅ Higher NPS and CSAT

With omnichannel customer service, you can efficiently provide what your customers want and treat them with the same care and consideration you'd expect from trusted friends and family. This personalized approach fosters a sense of value and belonging, making them feel truly appreciated.

This way, increasing the “Customer Satisfaction Score” (CSAT) no longer remains an unbeatable challenge, and it positively impacts the “Net Promoter Score” (NPS). Your satisfied customers continually engage in word-of-mouth marketing, recommending your brand to their dearest ones without hesitation, even before you ask for a referral.

✅ Better quality of collected customer data

Insights from PWC show that American consumers value speed, convenience, and knowledgeable help. This underscores how these factors can bring customer loyalty, reduce customer attrition, and enhance customer lifetime value.

However, achieving this may not be possible without clean and in-depth data, and this is where omnichannel service plays a bigger role. Adopting it can lead to a flawless understanding of opportunities and challenges and crafting data-rich strategies. 

To make it more accountable, the following approaches can be helpful:

  • Be thoughtful about which type of customer data you want to track
  • Prioritize data quality over quantity to head in the right direction
  • Remove redundant or bloated data from the system to stay updated at all times
  • Ensure cross-checking of the accuracy of individual customer data before making offers

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Customer Service: Which Approach Can Be Better for Your Business? 

To put it simply, neither is “better” than the other—it solely depends on the business's needs. All you need to do is decide which is essential to reducing customer friction

Here’s how you can proceed with choosing the most suitable option for your customer service:

👉 Know your customer well

Prompt assistance, more convenience, personalized interaction, or a hike in valuable offerings—consider what your customers are looking for. Taking their choices and feedback into account can shape your strategy with the right choice of customer service. 

After all, if your customers come first, they will last.

👉 Evaluate existing resources and their capacity

Next, identify your budget range. Can you satisfy your target audience with your existing resources, or do you need more? 

Finding specific answers to these questions and jotting down a list of your backup options can help you choose the right operational method through top customer service channels and smoothly run them.

👉 Think about your long-term goals

Will you target an expanding customer base? Or do you want to launch more unique features to level up brand value and customer experience? If you decide to make your path more scalable and flexible, sticking with or switching to a synchronized service would be a great choice.

👉 Make a decision based on your current situation

As Salesforce data suggests, 76% of customers expect a unified experience across all departments of a brand. Therefore, incorporating flawless omnichannel support becomes an obvious choice. However, it requires skilled people, modern technology, and sufficient financial resources. 

Based on your current capabilities, either move forward with omnichannel service or continue with multichannel, upgrading it later if resources are limited now.

Offer a Superior Omnichannel Customer Service with Plivo CX

Both omnichannel and multichannel customer service strategies aim to enhance customer interactions, but omnichannel provides a more integrated and seamless experience. This improves customer satisfaction compared to multichannel's potentially fragmented approach.

If you want to leverage the power of a true omnichannel customer service platform, Plivo CX comes with a Unified Agent Desktop that brings channels such as AI-powered chatbot that works for all messaging channels like voice, SMS, email, and WhatsApp together in a single interface. Handle interactions seamlessly without switching between multiple tools.

With OpenAI-powered chatbots, IVR and voicebots, you can optimize customer service costs while quickly handing over complex issues to suitable agents. No-code workflow builder empowers businesses to create personalized customer journeys across all communication channels. 

Plivo CX can also help you quickly integrate with the existing tech stack and homegrown systems. You can also coach agents with comprehensive live metrics and historical reporting

On top of everything, it is powered by Plivo’s award-winning, reliable and high-quality carrier network. 

To see Plivo CX in action, schedule a demo today!

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