Technology has significantly changed the way customers communicate. Customers have accepted and embraced the increased role technology plays where mobile phones, emails and the internet top the list of preferred communication methods. It has make it easier to connect and engage with customers through multiple channels.
As the technology improve and becoming easily accessible, customers are now demanding a seamless, effortless and high quality experience that occur within and between the varieties of channels. This would require contextual data from the initial contact be retained over subsequent channels - reducing customers’ effort and improving their interactions.
Businesses with multi-channel contact centers which have morphed from the traditional voice-centric call center is now finding the needs to move to omni-channel capabilities in their customer communication strategy.
The terms omni-channel and multi-channel are often used interchangeably but there are distinct differences. Businesses are bombarded with these two terms and getting confused whilst trying to adopt best practices for their customer communications across different and multiple communication channels. They would need a clear understanding of these terms to get the best results of their omni-channel and multi-channel practices. In a nutshell, multi-channel is channel focus whereas omni-channel is customer focus - and channel agnostic.
Multi-channel: Multi-channel customer communications refers to using multiple channels such as voice, email, chat, and social media to communicate with their customers. Whilst there may be omni-channel attributes across channels, multi-channel incorporates the functional aspects of interacting within a specific channel. It explores the customers’ unified experiences showing how one channel influences others and the path of the customer journey.
Omni-channel: Whilst this approach uses multiple channels to engage with customers, it distinguishes through the consistency and seamless experience that transcends individual channel activity. Customers receive the consistent experience and message through different channels with their interactions. A business that engages through email, social media portal and website should ensure the look and feel and the messages the customers receive across each channel are consistent and seamless
Jumping on the Bandwagon
Omni-channel is the big buzzword in Customer Engagement. Traditional contact center management and customer communication management vendors have jumped on to the omni-channel bandwagon. Many have acquired and integrated with social media management software as part of their arsenal in promoting and positioning themselves as an omni-channel customer communication, customer interaction or customer engagement platform. In most cases, they are merely adding Social Media as another channel in their multi-channel offering instead of being a true omni-channel – where they can provide seamless experience with the various communication channels.
The 3 Key Features that provide Seamless Experience
Businesses should treat all channels as a single, unified way of communicating with their customers with the same high level of service and knowledge. In strategizing their omni channel capabilities, they should be looking for a singular platform with one common interface where contextual data are made available.
Almost every business employs multi-channel communications with their customers, but the customer experience can be inconsistent when channels are managed by disparate platforms. A single platform ensures that all communications and interactions coming in from various channels are tracked, measured and managed accordingly.
Businesses should be able to communicate with customers using multiple media communications types through a single interface. With an omni-channel platform, the customers can reach out to the businesses via voice, email, web chat, social media, mobile app and others. A single platform provides the single interface where businesses can communicate via a familiar interface without having to go to the various platforms which the customers are using. A reply to email, social media posting or chat can be done via the single interface. This would ensure that the communication messages are consistent across multiple channels.
Businesses can benefit from a complete view of a customer's history and critical communication data. These data should be readily available to enable the personalization of engagements with each customer. Businesses can then respond precisely to their respective inquiries and resolve issues during a single interaction -- all from a single interface where additional information needed is just a click away.
When businesses are considering omni-channel in the customer engagement strategy, it is pertinent not to let the quest of an omni-channel experience dilutes the functional uniqueness within individual channels. Whether it is omni-channel or multi-channel, the objectives are to create a superior communication experience for customers. Businesses and customers are aligned in their needs for an omni-channel world – where customers can move from channel to channel, seamlessly and effortlessly, with a consistent and unfettered experience.