Multichannel vs. omnichannel is a well-known debate in the online business world. The terms are used for both customer support and marketing, but what do they mean? What's the difference? And which method is best to satisfy the needs of both the business and the customer?
While the final decision is entirely yours, let us help you learn about these two ways of interacting with clients, how they are different, what companies choose said ways, and which way is considered the best.
We’ll start with definitions and company examples, and finish with differences and considerations in making the choice.
A Brief Guide on Multichannel Customer Service
Multichannel customer service is an older structure, which is very convenient and less costly for the business. That’s why it’s still the pick of so many large companies.
What Is Multichannel Customer Service and How It Works?
In multi-channel customer service, there are several channels through which people can contact the company:
- Live chat
- Feedback form, etc.
When talking to an operator, for example, one may find it difficult to explain the problem using text messaging. So, they use the phone call option, starting the conversation all over again with a new operator.
Why? Because the channels are divided and work separately.
Multichannel customer support is a standard model that’s very beneficial for both customers and businesses. However, it has a focus on channels and their simplicity, rather than on the needs of potential and existing clients.
When talking about multichannel marketing, it simply implies that there are several channels through which customers interact with. They are strictly segregated to maintain an easy structure and management.
Earlier, the list of channels included websites and physical stores or offices. Nowadays, there are many more, including but not limited to:
- Social media
- Email, etc.
Examples of Brands with Multi-Channel Customer Service
Here are some examples of companies successfully utilizing the multichannel model:
- The Home Depot
The Home Depot understood the assignment. They go where their customers are: physical stores, online stores, email marketing. The team does very well in offering customer support, useful blog posts, plenty of DIY projects, and email marketing based on clients’ carts and purchases. All the channels are working in harmony, even though they are separated. You’ll get the same info in email marketing and online stores, for example.
Vrbo is an amazing example of how businesses evolve during hard times. Everyone went online? The company has harnessed this channel. Did they go on social media? Vrbo gets that channel as well. As people are renting not only resorts and hotel rooms but also homes and apartments online, they needed a reliable brand.
The business has adjusted and now uses social media to distribute its message and UGC (user-generated content). People can book using a mobile phone or a website, and get targeted advertising based on their queries. Again, all channels work in a modern way, but they aren’t united.
CVS is doing a good job at offering its customers experience across various channels. You can check and fill prescriptions, register for COVID-19 testing and vaccination, and more, both on the website and mobile application.
Clients can also use different channels for notifications.
So, is the model working? Sure. But is it the latest solution? No.
A Brief Guide on Omnichannel Customer Service
On the other side of the medal, there is omnichannel customer service. It’s difficult to understand the difference between the two because both have different channels to relay information through. But we’ll get there.
What Is Omnichannel Customer Service and How Does It Work?
Both in omnichannel customer support and marketing, there is uniformity of all channels that revolve around a customer. Every channel has access to the remaining ones to provide a seamless experience to every potential or existing client.
This makes it easier to personalize service.
So, what is omnichannel customer service? It’s a system that revolves around a customer and adapts to their actions, changing with every touchpoint.
When talking about support, the omnichannel model allows you to access the same operator through live chat, phone, email, and more. to explain the problem in the best way and get a well-informed solution.
Examples of Brands with Omnichannel Customer Service
Some of the best companies implementing this model are:
The omnichannel experience of the company is as great as Disney itself. The website is well-accessed from any device, and the mobile version works as well as the desktop one, which is a rare occurrence.
You can plan an entire trip there in one continuous action. The My Disney Experience tool will help you find out where you’ll arrive, eat, and be entertained. You can even secure the Fast Pass and use the app to locate attractions and see the waiting time for each of them.
On top of that, the company brings the experience to the next level. Disney released a Magic Band. The device is connected to your Fast Past, has all the pics made of you in the park, and acts as a hotel key. One device lets you access 80% of the services you need on-site. The online and offline experiences intertwine very well.
- SE Ranking
Going a different way, into the world of SEO. Another example of omnichannel approach shows SE Ranking - an all-in-one SEO platform that offers a full range of search engine optimization tools for websites.
Leaning more towards customer support, SE Ranking has a unique chat system that covers both live chat and email conversations. You can have one chain with the company using different communication channels. All these requests will be tied to a single customer card that includes necessary information about the user. The data about clients is stored in one CRM, which enables the company to create one flow of communication for every customer.
Another benefit of this system is that every client will find out about the new products of the company and special offers naturally, without doubling messages. The business has created a wholesome service for every user.
The UK fashion retailer has combined physical stores, a mobile app, and a website into one experience. Usually, when we think about omnichannel, we think about customer support. But what about the shopping experience?
For example, in-store, you’ll meet consultants that will tell you everything about the clothes that are in stock. If you need more detailed info, they’ll use their iPads and provide all the data about the needed product in seconds.
They can even order your product online if it’s not in stock.
Plus, their iPads act as cash registers, which makes everything related to payment easier and faster. And with a special application for your phone which is like a shop in the hand, the experience is complete. That’s a good example of omnichannel customer service.
As you can see, omnichannel service and marketing strategies sound like something we’ll see a lot of in the future. It’s more complex for the business, but more personalized for the clients.
Multichannel Vs. Omnichannel: What’s the Difference?
“Lots of channels but different approaches? This still sounds so similar!”
You may think so, until we tell you about the difference between omnichannel and multichannel service models that lie deeper.
This point should help you decide which model is the most suitable for you.
If you as a business are looking for an easy way to talk to customers and make sure they understand the purpose of your business, the multichannel service is a great pick. It requires some effort, but it’s more focused on the company and what it can give.
If you want to level up and offer a premium customer experience, adopting the omnichannel method is a good decision. But it requires a lot of effort to make sure it works perfectly. The system should work like a clock and give every potential buyer seamless communication and experience.
The multichannel model implies gathering as many communication channels as possible and relaying the same brand message through them. However, sometimes the list is restricted, and the channels don't interact.
On the other hand, the omnichannel model goes beyond that and unites all the directions of the same message. As a result, you can A) incorporate as many of those directions as possible, including push notifications, phone, email, social media, etc., and B) seamlessly interact with customers, no matter what channel they choose.
This one is easy. The multichannel model focuses on, well, channels. The main purpose is to send one branded message to everyone considering your business.
The omnichannel model focuses entirely on the customer. All the systems are combined to provide a wholesome experience for every potential or current buyer.
The omnichannel customer service works to collect data about people and use it to provide personalized experiences. The algorithm learns the following about every person:
- Pain points;
- Preferences, etc.
Machine learning personalization is another great model to aggregate and process data for further customer scoring. Every event & interaction (behavioral and contextual) is mixed together to ensure better results than traditional look-alike modeling, collaborative filtering, content-based filtering, and demographic segmentation.
This data helps you understand everything, from why certain customers leave your pages to why some regulars suddenly abandon their carts.
So, this model leads people to a certain action.
The multichannel one, on the other hand, operates the so-called CTAs (calls-to-action) on buttons and links that lead to the checkout.
Engagement is a crucial metric to consider when analyzing your customer service strategies.
Logically, the omnichannel type sees more engagement and conversion. Personalization and a whole journey created for visitors helps build trust between them and the brand. Thus, they want to interact more.
The multichannel approach is also efficient, but only in certain circumstances. If you choose the right timing for each piece of content, you’ll see a high engagement rate. However, things like receiving the same message over 3-5 channels in a day may frustrate a potential buyer.
Omnichannel vs. Multichannel: Which Approach to Choose for Your Business?
So, omnichannel vs. multichannel.
Let’s set priorities first. What’s more important for you as a business at the moment? Cost-efficiency and simplicity, or the best customer experience? There is no wrong answer, it’s fine that different companies are looking for different things, especially early on.
If you have the resources to build a great omnichannel system, go for it. The number of businesses entering the digital world is growing exponentially as the trust and needs of buyers increases.
If your financial and talent pools are limited, try to find the golden mean between the two approaches. You can use a straightforward multichannel model with elements of personalization and improved experience.
This will satisfy both the audience and the business, at least for now!
The digital world is evolving every year. And while the older strategies are still effective, the new ones add a note of excitement for people to use your service. Customers’ demands and standards are increasing with every future-oriented company offering a better experience.
Be there for your audience. Analyze their needs and choose the best interaction option for your business. If you go multichannel, add personalization and satisfy the wishes and solve the pain points of your customers. If you go omnichannel, be ready for the resource needs, complexity, and other obstacles that may come your way.
As you can see, all of them can be overcome.
This article was written by Kelly Breland, a Digital Marketing Manager at SE Ranking with experience in SEO, digital and content marketing. She is a persistent advocate of using content marketing to build a solid brand. In her spare time, she is engaged in gardening.