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Omnichannel or omni-channel is a term used to describe a seamless customer experience across multiple channels such as telephone, in-store, email and SMS.
Where things can get a little tricky with an omnichannel definition is that an omnichannel strategy and delivery can be described quite differently depending on the context and who you are talking to.
For example, discussing an omnichannel marketing strategy can be a different conversation from talking to someone about omnichannel contact centre technology.
But inherently the goal is always the same – make the experience seamless for customers no matter how or where they engage with your business.
Some consistent attributes of an omnichannel strategy are:
- Consistent, identifiable brand tone and vision.
- Personalised messaging based on specific interests.
- Content and actions that are informed by current and past interactions.
Life before Omnichannel
Imagine a world where customers engage with your business by visiting a store, making a purchase on a website, visiting your Facebook page and talking to the customer service team via the contact centre over the phone.
I know crazy right?
It’s a scenario that happens today for a lot of businesses, and behind the scenes, it typically works something like this;
We’ve got the call centre that handles the phone calls, our Social Media team handles Facebook, the website is managed by our Digital or marketing team, and we’ve got our retail division that handles everything in the store.
Four very discrete teams (aka silos) that for most businesses, tend to run independently of each other.
For the customer though, they are only dealing with one entity – your business.
What is omnichannel and how it works?
Customers expect that you will be across all their interactions with your business regardless of which channel they use.
And that’s exactly what the omnichannel experiences aim to deliver.
It makes no difference what channel or how the customer engages with your business.
All the marketing, customer information, previous conversations with your business etc. are all seamlessly connected.
How this is achieved is through an omnichannel technology platform or by omnichannel marketing platforms, where again, this can differ depending on the application and who’s driving the omnichannel strategy.
Benefits of omnichannel strategies
There are two key stakeholders when it comes to the benefits of omnichannel:
As a customer, whilst they may not know the term ‘omnichannel’ they will certainly recognise some of the benefits when dealing with companies who are using an omnichannel strategy:
- Reduced effort and frustration by not having to repeat information.
- Any issues are resolved quickly.
- They feel valued because you ‘understand’ them and are able to offer personalised experiences.
For businesses using an omnichannel strategy, there are numerous benefits including:
- Increased efficiencies (leading to increased profit)
- Higher customer satisfaction (leading to increased profit)
- High employee engagement (leading to increased profit)
- Improved customer lifetime value (leading to increased profit)
- Increased sales (leading to increased profit)
Notice the theme there…
What is omnichannel marketing?
Omnichannel isn’t just for contact centres, it impacts the entire customer experience.
Whilst this isn’t an article or definition of customer experience or CX for short, it’s easy to just imagine that anytime a customer sees, hears or feels your brand is part of the customer experience so this easily extends to channels.
Not surprisingly, Omnichannel Marketing focuses more on the marketing components and can be defined as a seamless integration of branding, messaging, and online and offline touchpoints.
What is an omnichannel example?
When it comes to providing some examples of omnichannel, it is useful to provide some in different contexts.
Examples of omnichannel marketing
- A customer hears a radio promotion offering 50% off all products for two days only. They visit the website, and there is consistent branding about the sale and the checkout experience is smooth applying the 50% discount automatically.
- A customer can be shopping in-store when they receive an SMS about a sale or promotion.
- A customer receiving retargeting emails for products they browsed in your online store.
Examples of omnichannel for customer service
- A customer fires off an angry tweet that a customer service team member is alerted to. They tweet the customer back and ask for a phone number to reach out directly. Once the customer is identified, they have a full history of all the past interactions including purchases, refunds, prior complaints etc so they can best assist the customer. After the phone call, they then email the customer with a summary of the actions taken to resolve the issue.
- A customer emails an enquiry that is automatically routed to the same agent who handled their previous transaction and it triggers an outbound call to the customer.
- After a contact centre interaction, an SMS confirmation is sent to the customer confirming the next steps.
- A customer can use self-service on your website and be offered a chatbot. After interacting with the chatbot they can request to speak to a live agent and they are seamlessly transferred through and the customer service agent has a record of the pages visited on the website and the chatbot conversation.
Is omnichannel the same as multi-channel?
In a multichannel environment, the channels are not integrated.
Both can have the same channels e.g. retail, contact centre, social media, live chat etc but using the earlier example, the email and phone teams are separate and run off different systems altogether.
So if a customer had to ring the call centre after receiving an email, it’s likely the call centre agent won’t have access to the prior emails and would have to ask the customer to repeat the issue.
Not a great customer experience.
So the key difference between omnichannel and multichannel to remember is that with multichannel each of the channels is siloed, whereas in omnichannel all the channels are integrated.
The future of Omnichannel
There is no question the use of omnichannel is going to increase and customer expectations are going to continue to expect an easy, seamless experience when dealing with businesses. To ensure you stay ahead of the curve we recommend:
- Attending our live monthly symposiums where we will have regular experts sharing best-practice and thought leadership on all things omnichannel
- Attending our training courses on customer experience management
- Talking to leading vendors who offer omnichannel solutions