Multichannel vs. Omnichannel: What’s the Difference Anyway?

Omnichannel and multichannel are similar sounding terms that get thrown around quite a bit. It can be difficult to discern the difference between the two. But when it comes to customer experience and employee productivity, there is a very important distinction between these separate communication strategies—and it directly impacts your bottom line.

Why all this talk about channels?

Gone are the days when customer communications were limited to just phone calls and direct mail. Today’s consumers look to connect with businesses in a variety of ways—through email, text messaging, live chat and social channels, just to name a few. In fact, recent research found that today’s buyers engage with companies via no less than 13 different channels.

In order to stay competitive, you must have the ability to meet your customers where they are—and your customers are everywhere. This is why most agencies have already made the move toward multichannel communication.

What is multichannel communication?

Just as the name implies, multichannel communication simply means communicating with your clients through multiple channels. If your agency sends out emails and text messages, answers phone calls and runs a website, you are already engaging in multichannel communication.

A multichannel approach is all about meeting the ever-increasing demand for choice. The idea is that by maintaining a diverse digital presence, you enable your customers to choose where, when and how they interact with your agency. This way, regardless of which channel they engage, you’ll be there to greet them with the right information, the right offer, delivered in just the right way, at the best possible time.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well…

How are you supposed to staff all these different channels? How do you develop and deliver content that is consistent across platforms? How do you ensure your clients receive excellent customer care no matter how they contact your agency? And how do you even begin to keep track of it all?

Fortunately, the omnichannel approach was specifically developed to solve these problems.

So what is omnichannel communication?

Just like multichannel communication, an omnichannel approach involves connecting with your clients through multiple channels, such as email, text messaging, live chat, phone calls, etc. The critical difference comes down to the depth of integration—the degree to which you successfully bring these disconnected systems into alignment.

Consider this scenario:

If a client texts a photograph of property damage to your agency and then visits your website a few days later to ask questions about his claim, how long will it take your live chat agent to track down all the relevant history needed to best help him? On a follow-up phone call, will your customer service rep have any clue what your client previously discussed via live chat?

It turns out that frontline employees typically spend about 10% of their time reconciling disconnected systems. That’s a notable portion of their day that is lost to accessing and managing different communication tools and records. Not only does this kind of fragmentation cause a significant productivity loss, the impact on customer service is undeniable.

And when it comes to customer service, it is important to keep in mind that customers have only one relationship with your agency. No matter how they choose to contact you, your clients experience your brand as a whole. They expect to receive the same quality of help and service over the phone, in person, via email and text message.

And what’s more, they expect that all of your representatives will be fully aware of every previous interaction they’ve had with your agency.

In fact, two-thirds of consumers report that the most frustrating aspects of customer service are waiting on hold and having to explain the same information to multiple representatives.

There is no disputing that customer experience is a powerful competitive differentiator. These days, customers don’t hesitate to break away from brands that don’t deliver the experience they expect. This is exactly why many agencies make the move to multi-channel in the first place. But if you don’t take it one step further by implementing an omnichannel strategy, you still run the risk of falling short of the customer expectations you’re striving so hard to meet.

So how do you elevate to omnichannel?

Omnichannel communication happens when you interweave your customer interactions across platforms so that one touchpoint builds off another, working in concert to amplify their impact and build momentum. This is accomplished by integrating all your communication tools with a unified system of record.

For example, when you go omnichannel, all of your agency’s text and picture messages, emails, call history and voicemail transcripts, live chat history and e-signed documents are consolidated and stored neatly in your existing management system so you and your team can access the info you need, the moment you need to.

This holistic approach takes into account each channel and device your clients use to interact with your agency. It consolidates everything in one place so that the customer experience is seamless and none of your own people lose time hunting down the knowledge they need to effectively do their job.

It’s all about simplifying.

Where multichannel communication can lead to fragmentation and disorganized messaging (not to mention a confusion of logins, histories and separate billing), omnichannel communication is like a symphony—the many different instruments come together, all artfully playing the same tune at the same time.

Want to learn more about how to implement omnichannel communications? Get in touch with us today and we’ll work with you to create a strategy just for your agency.

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