Multichannel Contact Center vs Omnichannel Contact Center: Ultimate Guide

Clients favor using three or more digital channels of contact with a firm -  this is the data provided by McKinsey research. As we have severally mentioned, customer experience depends on how customer service meets customer expectations and customer requirements. If it is more suitable for a client to use webchat or chatbot in any messenger, but your customer service is available only by phone, there will be no customer satisfaction. The multichannel cloud contact center is now one of the common customer trends in the contact center industry and active customer service. An ability to notice and satisfy buyer expectations is the main objective on the path to performing brilliant multichannel customer service. It has been already stated - the needs of a client contain a wish to own an opportunity for multi-channel communication. This is the reason why the cloud omni-channel contact center solution must have several digital channels. How about discovering which contact channels are preferred the most in a multichannel contact center? Interesting, isn’t it? But let’s first deal with the definitions of a multichannel contact center, it’s the nearest competitor omnichannel contact center, and other meanings you have to know before switching to either a multichannel contact center or omnichannel contact center. 

What is a multichannel contact center?

As you could guess, a multichannel contact center is a contact center that gathers a few communication methods in it to improve multi-channel customer service, build accessibility for customers, and just offer more digital opportunities to solve customer problems. By the way, a multichannel cloud contact center isn’t the only way of contact center setup that provides multi-channel communications - an omnichannel contact center works similarly, but there are some crucial differences. But the vital question of “multi vs omni channel “ will be answered a bit later, now let’s focus on what is the multichannel support, how the multichannel contact center works and why it is better than a traditional call center. 

So, as you can see, a multichannel contact center offers a seamless experience by offering customer support options via almost any possible contact channels. In most cases, these channels include call channels, email, SMS, social media, webchat, chatbots, mobile apps, IVR (Interactive Voice Response), video calls and video chats, and so on - and these channels are available for both a multichannel contact center and an omnichannel contact center. 

Let’s discuss those channels and their benefits for your business in detail. 

Which contact channels can and should be included in a multichannel contact center?

A short description of the multichannel contact center channels, provided above, can seem to be understandable enough, but we bet that you don’t understand all the advantages you get by implementing those channels.

Call center

The main contact channel in any multichannel cloud contact center. It is preferred otherwise it is personalized and closer to the customer himself. This method of multi-channel communications helps to make deals, solve customer issues, collect customer feedback and customer suggestions, and follow up with existing clients. 

Phone communication is performed via multichannel contact center software that uses VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology to handle phone calls only with a stable Internet connection, without any landlines. This communication platform offers such must-have features as the processing of inbound and outbound calls, call transferring, recording, whispering, routing, live dashboards, third-party systems integration, and so on - so it is the same as blended call centers, with all capabilities of an inbound call center and outbound call center. 

Email

Is it possible to communicate with clients without email? Absolutely not! But what if we say that all your email communication will be integrated into the all-in-one interface of a contact center, no matter whether it is a multichannel contact center or omnichannel contact center? 

Integration of email means that you will be able to send emails, read emails, and process customer requests immediately without switching between dozens of different tabs and apps. Moreover, you can start mass mailing campaigns via a multichannel contact center, and this won’t require any other software tools or something like that. 

SMS

What is the best way to send a reminder message, link to a discount page, or a customer feedback form to fill out? The question is easy - SMS, as they’re the essential channel of communication that is used nowadays for formal communication only. Have you been texting with friends via SMS for the last few years? We bet not. Have you received any commercial or business messages via SMS? Have you ever ignored them for a while? Even if you ignore some of them, it is still more responsive customer support channel than messengers which are always filled with tonnes of entertaining and personal content, and important messages can just be lost. Now, with a multichannel contact center, SMS is integrated with your call center, and this means all the campaigns are at your fingertips. 

Social media

For younger buyers, social networks are an attractive and preferred channel of contact. The younger part of your target audience prefers to stay in connection with a firm by being subscribed to their accounts. In this context, they send requests and common questions via chat interactions on social networks. This element of multichannel customer service should also be supported by multichannel contact center software. Social networks are one of the meaningful client service contact channels because it offers an easy-in-use interface and covers different potential shoppers - more aged and younger, including various social statuses and purchasing power. The contact can be provided both via chat or special AI-powered chatbots, but these tools must complement each other, avoiding existing separately. 

The contact center agent can provide a seamless customer experience by fixing clients’ cases exactly on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. An omnichannel contact center is a single platform where all multichannel touches are compiled, and social networks have to take their deserved place there. 

Webchat

Multichannel support is impossible without offering a webchat option. What is webchat and how it relates to multi-channel messaging? Webchat is a messaging tool integrated into your website to let active customers contact live multichannel customer service agents directly on the page they’re staying on. This contact channel is great for customers who are almost convinced to close a deal but need some additional information or answers to their basic support questions about the product.  

Webchat is also called live chat, and it can be integrated with the chatbot interface to not link agents immediately to the conversation, but let customers use self-service options first. Moreover, webchat can not only be a multichannel support tool, but a sales tool thanks to multi-channel messaging capabilities. 

Chatbot

Continuing the story about webchat integrations, multichannel customer service will be way better with AI-supported chatbots which have some advantages that can’t be offered by any other channels of communication. Customer engagement will be much higher when customer interactions take place in chatbots, as chatbots have the fastest response time in comparison with any other contact channels and can easily answer all the common questions. 

You can also integrate the chatbot with the customer base to let it provide personalized service, like remembering customers’ names and so on. Moreover, chatbots are great in decreasing the workload of live agents who work in live chats - customer care can be easily provided in self-servicing mode. 

That sounds interesting, but what about the multi-channel contact center costs? 

The enjoyable part of our story starts here. The pricing policy of both a multi-channel contact center and an omni-channel contact center is extremely simple: pay only for options and features you need, and nothing besides that. As a sample, just imagine: you don’t need some features and you need only five accounts - one for the team leader and four for cloud contact centers’ agents. Thus, you pay only for those five accounts and for the features you require. Isn’t it wonderful? This pricing policy is possible thanks to cloud call center technology.

If you have determined the need for all available multichannel call centers’ customer contact channels, then choose a full subscription. As the market and business goals are dynamically changing some contact centers are forced to shuffle their contact tools, and a multichannel solution proposes such an opportunity without any losses. 

Key difference between omnichannel and multichannel approaches

The multi-channel contact center suggests contact channels based on customer communication preferences to resolve customer queries. No matter will it be an email address or online chat, a multi-channel contact center covers all communication tools. But on the other hand, omni-channel contact center technology offers the same seamless communication. So where the difference lies? How to answer the main question - omni vs multi channel and what’s better? 

The fact is that an omnichannel contact center has numerous advantages and allows for providing a stable omnichannel customer experience across channels, but a multichannel contact center solution provides the same - with one single difference. 

When it reaches an omnichannel contact center, we have to understand the main tip - it synchronizes contact center channels and info from learning bases in one interface so representatives may shift between different contact channels immediately. In practice it looks like this: if a client suddenly decides to continue the dialogue by phone (and before it customer conversations were going on webchat), the communication continues from the same place where it has ended. This is an advantage of an omnichannel approach because it allows for reducing customer churn, decreases customer effort, eliminates customer frustration, improves company reputation, and gets happier customers. 

Both a multi-channel icon and an omnichannel contact center have pros and cons, but the main difference is that in a multichannel call center you can’t switch between channels without losing the progress of the conversation, while in an omnichannel contact center it is possible. 

Greatest benefits of a multi-channel contact center

The multi-channel contact center solution, as well as omni-channel contact center, offers many options to improve overall multi-channel contact center performance in addition to improvement of single metrics and scores. Excellent customer experiences, higher customer retention, more customer sentiment on all stages of the customer journey, boosted sales and customer satisfaction rates and much more may be achieved with this multi-channel contact center. All features gathered in a single platform? Easily! More communication channels managed from one interface? No problem! Tracking customer interaction history? It’s simple! 

But all options have to be described broadly.

Collect and monitor data for decision-making 

Both the omnichannel contact center and its multichannel brother were designed to compile all relevant options to collect data, analyze it and compile it into up-to-time reports and dashboards which cover all metrics, rates, and scores. All features provided in the omnichannel contact center are created to understand the overall performance of all contact center channels and detect mistakes and imperfections in up-to-minute mode. You can measure such KPIs as First Call Resolution, Average Handle Time, Average Wait Time(queue times), sentiments, or demographic info directly while the call is in process. All contact center communication channels are permanently monitored by the software platform and all collected data is put into customized reports and dashboards. 

Other functions such as call recording support to control customer service teams’ reps’ effectiveness, as well as business efficiency, and determine the general problems or monitor agents’ professional development during a chosen term. Such features can greatly simplify the construction of a customer’s portrait or segmentation of the audience. 

Provide a consistent customer experience

Improvement of the CX is the essential goal for any business. Clients become increasingly demanding every year. They want to achieve immediate responses, use dissimilar contact channels, get 24/7 service and have more opportunities to solve their problems on their own. If the service doesn’t meet customer expectations, they will be more likely to change the vendor than to tolerate outdated and poorly-provided service. 

What ways out are proposed by an omnichannel contact center? Firstly, different contact center channels can handle various customer segments, dividing clients by the criteria of whether they prefer self-service or agent service, or if they want to be assisted immediately or asynchronously(via email). Finally, the solution helps to track the customer journey and determine where clients face troubles or achieve worse service than they want to achieve, and what must you do to make a customer happy. 

Boost agent productivity and agent experience

We have mentioned several times that almost every contact center suffers from a high agent turnover rate, burnout, and attrition. To get rid of these problems and avoid call centers' costs rising, you have to invest in agent efficiency improvement. Nonetheless, even when some call center managers start investing in training sessions or coaching sessions to get needed customer service skills, like customer success webinars or something like that, agents still leave their jobs. Is there a way out? 

The first reason why agents are leaving is called routine. Too many similar and unimportant tasks have to be done by agents, and this causes the mentioned things like professional burnout or high attrition rates. But multichannel communication for customers can easily tackle these troubles as it automizes most of the routine tasks. Little issues which clients are going to ask the representatives can be solved by IVR, while chatbots can help clients directly on the website or on social media, or through messengers. In such a manner, agents spend their workday helping people who need it. 

Such tools as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems or call scripts may help agents during customer phone calls and provide customer context, offer data about customer sequence, data about past purchases, complaints, and so on. These tools of multichannel communication increase agent satisfaction, so they will be more willing to stay while their performance will be improved.

Tips and tricks for setting up a multichannel contact center 

Now, when we’re done with benefits and definitions, it's time to go further. The main question remains - how to set up a successful, qualitative-in-service, all-in-one, and loved contact center? We can offer the standard practice: create a strategy, set goals, hire employees, buy software, and go on! But it would be unfair to hide some efficient tactics and techniques which were proven by years and dozens of successful customer support teams. So, here we go.

Select the contact channels based on customer preferences 

As 2021 research performed by NTT says, the total number of contact center channels isn’t important if they are not efficient in serving customers. For example, if a company has 5 or 6 contact channels, but they are not needed by clients - no matter why - this multichannel contact center will not work. The number of channels you need depends on the target audience and their preferences. If you are focusing on engaging younger audiences, then put more additional effort to develop social networks and chatbots. If the clients are mostly aged, then make sure that your phone client support works perfectly as a voice channel of customer support function. The purpose is to construct a service that will delight customers, not annoy them. 

On the contrary, the mentioned study indicates that various audiences operate different contact channels Yes, there is a preferred channel for every group, but numerous people of any age or social status can use diverse contact channels. Calls are popular among all groups, as well as customer webchat and email touch. That is the reason why you can’t let yourself don’t pay any attention to some types of contact channels, even if you want to do so. The main objective is to invest more in popular channels while supporting those which are not that favored but are also necessary for some clients. 

But don’t try to make decisions instead of your customers - let them choose where they want to contact you. Offer customer surveys or another form of polls to collect their wishes and implement them. 

Segment agents into groups based on contact channels

The idea of an omnichannel call center is that every contact line is maintained and supported by a unique squad of well-skilled and qualified reps who specialize in working with a single contact channel. Contact center channels are divided between different teams who maintain various groups of clients and rarely cooperate with customer service agents who work on other lines. This concept makes a brilliant client experience real because every customer interaction during the customer journey is accompanied by a high-class specialist’s assistance.

But to make this idea work, agents should become highly qualified before they start to provide customer service. That is the reason why the training is important. 

Organize training to teach representatives how to work with the software, which features they have to use, what are the main differences between various contact lines, etc. Acquaint them with call scripts and knowledge bases. Give attention to soft skills training. 

Your goal is to be confident that every representative is ready to provide amazing customer service in any situation, no matter what troubles can happen - the customer experience should be perfect. 

Use third-party software to integrate it with a multichannel solution

Another benefit of using omnichannel call center software is that it has the option to integrate other tools. This is an essential feature for both agents and managers. Representatives get an excellent opportunity to export data from third-party CRMs to provide more personalized service or to show up-to-date data about the client during the conversation. Bilateral integration allows exporting back data from call scripts to CRM, while managers get more information for further customer analytics. Despite CRM integration, some billing systems or workforce management tools can also be used in pairs with multichannel solutions or omni-channel contact center. By the way, it helps to provide better client service and equip agents with more data before they are going to contact the client. 

Multichannel call center, omnichannel center: a future of customer service?

Today it is clear enough that the future of customer service belongs to both multichannel and omnichannel center solutions. No other types of customer service platforms can offer such a variety of options, easy-in-use both for client and agent, almost endless opportunities for analysis and collection of the data, live advanced reporting, and wide opportunities of integrating with third-party software. All these benefits are enhanced by the fact that pricing policies are also customer-oriented - you as a buyer don’t have to pay for unnecessary functions. 

Multichannel call center, omnichannel call center - it doesn’t matter. They can solve almost all general problems in the call center industry. Boosting client retention, decreasing turnover rate, endless opportunities to access the knowledge bases and reports, numerous options for training and monitoring agents’ performance, and so on - looks like these solutions have no disadvantages. 

Even though there is nothing ideal in our world, the wisest decision now is to use an opportunity for a seamless transition to an omnichannel contact center or multichannel contact center to stay up-to-date and be able to offer all customer assistance features which are now available.

A short FAQ for all occasions

What is a multichannel contact center? 

A multichannel contact center is a contact center that offers various contact channels. 

Multichannel contact is a method of communication where distinct contact channels are offered to customers to let them reach the company via a preferred channel. 

What is multichannel communication?

Multichannel communication is a way of communication offered by a multichannel call center. Multichannel communication is performed both as interpersonal or AI-based communication. These two types of communication can be combined, for instance, in a live chat with a chat bot integration. 

Multichannel communication has many benefits: it is preferable both for clients and representatives, it helps in decreasing costs, gives the liberty of choice to a customer, decreases time spent on queries, and provides a better customer experience.

What is the difference between multichannel and omnichannel contact centers? 

The main difference between multichannel and omnichannel contact centers is that multichannel doesn’t allow to shift through contact lines without losing progress. As a result, customers can’t change a communication channel just as the conversation goes on because after this change they will need to do the customer journey from the beginning. 

What is an omnichannel contact center? 

The omnichannel contact center has a great benefit: a client can change the communication channel anytime, and he will be assisted by the same agent without any repeats or queries. 

Both multichannel and omnichannel have the option to integrate with third-party software such as CRMs.

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