Most companies today provide what’s designated multichannel service without even knowing the term: live assistance to customers across a variety of media. Telephone, email, chat or messaging apps, and social media are the most common channels; some companies are even exploring the use of text messages or SMS. Choosing the right avenues is important in providing service to customers where, when, and how they want to be served.
While multichannel service sounds sufficient to offer, it’s increasingly become clear it’s not enough – not only for the customer, but it even can hamper your service organization. Another offering, omnichannel service, is superior in many ways, and it offers benefits to both customers and customer service agents.
Multichannel and omnichannel service both involve multiple routes for customers to connect with customer service. One key difference with multichannel is that the channels are typically disconnected silos: telephone interactions are recorded in one system, whereas chat transcripts live in another system. This creates a problem when a customer chooses to initiate service over one media and resume it over another.
With omnichannel service, agents aren’t required to “swivel seat” to reference other systems. All interactions occur in a single system. This saves the agent time and frustration because any future dialog that occurs after the initial contact is collected and available in a single location, eliminating the need for the customer service agent to consult multiple locations for details.
While customer service organizations typically have a goal to solve issues on the first contact, that’s not always possible. Perhaps some offline research is necessary by the customer service agent. Perhaps the customer is short on time and initiates a call to customer service prior to going to work, then follows-up with a chat session during a break. With omnichannel service, it’s not necessary for the customer to start the story over in the event the chat agent can’t access the conversation details in another system because the history of that first call is readily available for them to review. The conversation can seamlessly continue without interruption.
Single Source of Truth
Besides reducing complexity and making true continuous customer conversations possible, a byproduct of this consolidation is all customer information now lives in a single location. Demographic information doesn’t need to be maintained via integration, synchronization, or manual means across multiple systems. More importantly, all service information can be found and reported on from a single location. It is no longer necessary to run individual reports from multiple systems (or attempt to aggregate everything from the various systems into yet another database) to understand individual cases, trending service inquiry topics, volume by channel, etc.
Make The Move
When seeking service, customers prefer choices for their contact options. Minimally, they expect that regardless of contact channel or time of day, there is someone there to handle their inquiry. Most companies are quick to offer multiple routes to service, but creating and maintaining multiple, disconnected channels is not the best service to your customer and can create headaches for you. Taking an omnichannel approach eliminates the shortcomings of multichannel service and offers advantages not just to the customer, but your customer service organization as well: a reduction in system and corresponding reporting complexity, agents work more efficiently, and customer and agent alike benefit from a continuous dialog. If your service today only goes so far as multichannel, isn’t it time you took the steps necessary to embrace omnichannel?