OmniChannel Support: What Is It? Do you offer many different types of channels for the customer to reach your company? Better yet, do you KNOW what channels your customer prefers to reach you? Even more importantly, do you know if your customers prefer to reach you via several channels? Most organizations offer a variety of ways for customers to reach out for assistance, but there are still many that really don’t think about how those channels work together. They simply view them as independent ways for a customer to get service when they need it. First-class customer focused organizations know that it is not just important to make channels available to customers (multi-channel), but it is equally important to think about how those channels are integrated together to build a seamless, consistent customer experience (omnichannel). Many organizations believe multi-channel and omnichannel mean basically the same thing. This is, of course, not the case and both are becoming more critical as consumers choose to interact via several channels, sometimes simultaneously, to get service. Multi-channel Let’s start with multi-channel first. Multi-channel is the idea of providing your customer the ability to connect with you via several methods, such as phone, chat, email, social media and others. While all of these methods may be available to customers, there is little thought given to how they work together. They are viewed as independent contact channels, with the experience lacking consistency of branding, policies, and quality. Internally, these channels are sometimes managed by different groups completely, which means there is not a lot of cross-pollination in terms of knowledge and expertise about how one channel works with another. It is important to have a multi-channel approach, for sure, but thinking about how all of these channels work together with today’s customer is critical. Omnichannel Omnichannel, on the other hand, is the same as multi-channel in the sense that several methods of communication are available, including phone, email, chat, social media, and others, but there is one very significant difference. The channels are set up and managed in a way to create a consistent brand experience at all times, no matter how the customer chooses to interact. This is critical because today’s consumer is likely to interact with your organization via several channels, versus picking their one preferred method. Further, today’s consumer may communicate via several channels at the same time. For instance, the other day I was online looking through some information on my mobile phone account. I ended up calling customer service to get more information, but remained with my account online. The agent was able to tell me exactly how to find the information I needed online and even shared some other things about the site to make my experience better in the future. I can give you endless examples of this, and I know this is how the consumer of today wants to be serviced. He or she expects to get the information they need wherever they want it, and they expect it to be consistent across any channel. What Does The Research Say? According to research conducted by the Aberdeen Group, omnichannel contact centers had 55 percent less customer complaints and 44 percent increases in customer retention on an annual basis, compared to multi-channel contact centers. Other research like this shows an omnichannel approach is increasingly beneficial to contact centers, however, the biggest task is having to handle and manage all of the channels at the same time. Since omnichannel requires that the experience must stay the same throughout every channel, there has to be constant management to ensure consistency. Use Contextual Support An effective way to determine what specific channels are most important is to look at your contextual support and see how your customers prefer to contact you and how they get to that point. This can help with prioritization, determining if a few channels are sufficient, or if an omnichannel approach would improve the customer experience. Moving to an omnichannel approach is no easy task. It requires a strategic approach to customer care and the ability to execute on all of the tactical components associated with it day in and day out. Does your organization need to implement an omnichannel approach? Bobbie Jo Barry Bobbie Jo Barry has more than 19 years of contact center experience in multiple areas, including designing client facing solutions, managing day to day operations of two contact centers, leading workforce management and contact center managers to success, managing client relationships, and providing employees with a foundation for success. She has vast experience with omnichannel solutions and various business technologies, including design and implementation of CRM/ticketing systems and IVR applications. She has proven her ability to innovate and create successful tailored solutions for clients, as well as adapt to the client's changing needs.