Omnichannel vs. multichannel contact center — are you at a crossroads, trying to decipher which channel approach suits your customer service strategy best?
Omnichannel and multichannel are two terms often used interchangeably but carrying distinct nuances. The difference between these two modes of contact centers depends on various factors, such as what purposes they serve, their advantages and disadvantages — and how each one will benefit your business in the long run.
Is one better than the other? Is there a clear winner in this debate?
The answer isn’t that simple. Let’s dive into the world of contact centers and explore the key differences you need to know between these two contact center types.
- What are omnichannel and multichannel contact centers?
- Benefits and limitations of omnichannel and multichannel contact centers
- Benefits of omnichannel contact centers
- Limitations of omnichannel contact centers
- Benefits of multichannel contact centers
- Limitations of multichannel contact centers
- Omnichannel vs. multichannel contact center: Key differences
- Omnichannel vs. multichannel contact center: Which one is right for you?
- Attain unmatched time to value with Sprinklr’s omnichannel contact center solution
- Multichannel vs. omnichannel contact center: The verdict
What are omnichannel and multichannel contact centers?
An omnichannel contact center is a business function that delivers customer support across multiple interconnected channels — including call, email, mobile, app-based chat, website-based chat and social media. The prefix “omni-” suggests that customer data and conversations received across these platforms are unified into a singular platform. The customer service team has a full context of the customer’s preferences and history with an omnichannel contact center solution, which enables them to provide highly personalized support.
Conversely, a multichannel contact center delivers customer support across multiple channels but with a siloed, disconnected approach. Interactions on each support channel are stored and processed independently, with dedicated agents or teams supporting customers on each individual channel.
Let’s take the help of an example to understand these concepts better.
Consider that a customer tries to connect with your support team over the phone because they had some issues with an order. Unfortunately, all your agents are already on other calls and the customer is kept on hold, waiting for assistance. The already frustrated customer waits for some time, and at one point, decides to disconnect.
In an omnichannel cloud contact center, your agents can seamlessly deflect these waiting calls to a different channel, such as WhatsApp or Live Chat and continue assisting customers instead of making them wait in a call queue. If necessary, a callback can be arranged when the customer and agent are available.
In the case of multichannel contact centers, the caller can only wait for an agent to connect with them, or register for a callback and hang up. They can maybe even contact you on a different channel, but not over the phone until your agents are available.
Also, with omnichannel contact centers, there would be full context about the customer’s issues when the conversation switches from phone to chat or vice versa. The agent would be able to see the complete issue history, previous conversations and purchases all in one place and provide the best possible resolutions that improve the customer’s satisfaction. On the other hand, in a multichannel setting, the context would be lost and the customer would have to explain their issue all over again on chat.
Benefits and limitations of omnichannel and multichannel contact centers
Both omnichannel and multichannel contact centers have unique use cases based on the type of customer service provided, the industry that the business belongs to, the size of the customer service teams and a few other factors. Let’s take a look at each individual contact center type, its advantages and drawbacks.
Benefits of omnichannel contact centers
Some of the benefits of using omnichannel contact centers are mentioned below.
Unified view of customer data: Customer data includes information such as purchase history, customer satisfaction scores, preferred channels and insights about their previous issues. An omnichannel approach allows support teams to switch between channels while maintaining customer context and history effortlessly. Since omnichannel contact centers are mostly hosted in the cloud, they enable agents to address queries from anywhere.
Interesting read: Cloud contact center: Key features, benefits and tips
Quicker responses and resolutions: Since all customer data is readily available with the agents, customers are not required to spend much time repeating information. Complete access to issue history and customer preferences means that agents are familiar with a customer’s journey stage and unique needs, which helps them improve the customer service response time and first-call resolution rate.
Enhanced customer experience: Omnichannel contact centers help deliver much better customer experiences as customers can transition effortlessly between channels. It even enables them to have their issues resolved in a single interaction, positively impacting your first contact resolution rates. A seamless digital customer experience also means that your users will feel more satisfied and easily trust your brand, which improves customer retention.
Learn more: Measuring the success of an omnichannel contact center
Limitations of omnichannel contact centers
Although omnichannel contact centers are highly beneficial in maintaining your customer service standards, they are not free of drawbacks. Let’s take a look at them.
Complex setup: Without proper technical support, omnichannel contact centers can be complex to set up and maintain. As these centers require tight integration between multiple channels and systems, you will need to invest both time and resources.
Resource-intensive operation: If your company has a traditional customer service department, then implementing and running an omnichannel system is going to feel very exhausting. Agents that handle multiple channels would also need additional training and expertise, which might also imply increased financial costs.
💡Pro Tip: The efficiency of your omnichannel contact center operations depends on the competency of the software that you use. Choosing the wrong one can be counterproductive to your business, so be prudent while evaluating one. Here are a few critical capabilities to look for:
Intuitive and easy-to-use UI
Intelligent routing capabilities
Support for API-based integration
Data security (Compliance with regulations such as GDPR or HIPAA)
Case in point: Norse Atlantic, a Norwegian airline, made the choice of buying Sprinklr’s omnichannel customer service solution — and in turn, revolutionized the way their brand interacts with and serves their customers. Read the full story here >
Benefits of multichannel contact centers
Some of the advantages of multichannel contact centers are provided below:
Simplicity of operation: Although brands are now shifting towards an omnichannel approach, multichannel contact centers have been the industry standard for a long time because of the simplicity and practicality they provide. By assigning each channel to individual teams, your business can provide uncomplicated customer service and ensure each team is performing at its best levels.
Channel-specific expertise: A multichannel contact center ensures the best level of customer support on a specific channel, as they have specialized agents trained to handle each channel effectively. Allocating channels to specific teams also increases ownership and accountability, and motivates your agents to deliver great customer experiences.
Accessibility: Multichannel contact centers also help customers who aren’t tech-savvy get the same level of support as their fellow users. It enables them to stick to conventional support channels like voice or email, without forcing them to adopt modern technology.
Limitations of multichannel contact centers
Listed below are some of the disadvantages of using multichannel contact centers.
Loss of context: Multichannel contact centers do not focus on integrating all the solutions and using them as one platform. For example, if you provide support over the phone to a customer, data from this conversation would not be available for the agent who handles a future query from the same customer on a different channel. So, every time a customer chooses to use a different channel, they’ll need to explain their issue to each agent they interact with — which increases friction and the average handle time of the ticket.
Inconsistent support experiences: With each channel functioning independently from the others, there might be lots of disparities observed in the quality of interactions and resolution on each platform. Moreover, siloed operations make it incredibly difficult to maintain brand and SLA compliance across all your channels, resulting in different customer experiences on each support channel.
Omnichannel vs. multichannel contact center: Key differences
Omnichannel and multichannel contact centers are similar as they use multiple channels to communicate with customers. However, they do differ in the way that they operate, the key difference being the flow of data between the channels that they cater to.
Let’s take a quick look at the key differences between omnichannel and multichannel contact centers.
Omnichannel contact center
Multichannel contact center
⚙️ Channel integration
Fully integrated into a single platform
Channels operate independently of each other
🧑🏻💻 Customer experience
Unified experience across all support channels
Varying experiences on each channel due to a siloed approach
🧩 Customer context
Maintains context across channels
Limited or no context transfer
🖥 User interface
All channels function within a single UI/platform
Each channel requires its own solution to manage
📊 Real-time insights
Available across channels and customer profiles
Historical reporting only. No real-time insights available
📞 Ticket handling
One team can handle requests across all channels
Need separate teams for each channel
Omnichannel vs. multichannel contact center: Which one is right for you?
Deciding which of these contact center types works for you won’t possibly be a direct answer, but there are a few factors you can evaluate to narrow down your options. When it comes to deciding the best approach for your business, consider the following criteria:
Existing and projected volumes of customer service: The omnichannel mode can work well with high ticket volumes, since the workload is balanced automatically through deflection to other channels. Multichannel contact centers might experience a high average volume on traditional channels such as phone and email, especially if your business caters to elderly customers or people who are not tech-savvy.
Plans and requirements for future business expansion: Scalability is an important concern for any brand’s customer service operations, so if you think your business has the potential to grow rapidly in a short period, it’s wise to invest in an omnichannel contact center strategy. A multichannel approach is not as agile and flexible, and
might inhibit the growth and scalability of your business.
Budget constraints: For businesses with restricted budgets for customer service, multichannel contact centers would make the most sense since they are more affordable and easy to set up. Omnichannel solutions are costly in terms of both deployment and maintenance, and frankly, it might be overkill for a micro or small-sized business.
Size of your workforce: A small business with a decently sized support team can function well in multichannel customer service mode since it provides the most value for money. For large enterprises with divisions within their customer service teams for different products and services, an omnichannel solution can make their day much easier by enabling collaboration and unifying conversations across channels.
Apart from these factors, customer experience also serves as an important criterion for deciding on the mode of contact center you would need to adopt. Multichannel would suit you better if your company focused on a high volume of products and tickets across various channels, as this type of business typically emphasizes increasing online presence more than delivering great customer experiences. If your business prioritizes delivering high-value customer experiences, an omnichannel contact center is best suited for you.
Attain unmatched time to value with Sprinklr’s omnichannel contact center solution
Omnichannel customer service provides a consistent experience for customers regardless of how they interact with your brand. That is why most businesses are looking to shift to an omnichannel strategy.
Sprinklr Service is an omnichannel contact center solution that ensures you and your agents can offer frictionless support across a wide range of traditional and digital channels. The capabilities of Sprinklr’s proactive customer service solution include:
Performance management and reporting: Experience the ultimate customer service analytics and reporting solution — with AI-powered, real-time insights on agent quality scores, processes and performance.
A unified customer care experience: Map multiple touchpoints in the customer journey and build a unified customer profile across all your brand interactions with our cloud contact center.
Extensive integration capabilities: Create a cohesive customer service ecosystem by extensively integrating with your existing software infrastructure, such as knowledge base and CRM.
Multichannel vs. omnichannel contact center: The verdict
As discussed above, both multichannel and omnichannel contact centers have their own set of audiences. It depends on a multitude of factors, and by choosing the right type, you can unlock the path to better support and improved customer satisfaction, helping your brand gain your customer’s trust.
Even if a multichannel contact center allows customers to reach out from multiple channels and proves cost-efficient, it cannot match the satisfaction an omnichannel contact center delivers. With a unified platform, closely integrated channels and extensive automation capabilities, an omnichannel contact center would be a smarter choice that can help you provide exceptional customer service experiences in the long run.
A unified, cloud-hosted, AI-powered omnichannel customer support platform like Sprinklr Service can improve your resolution time by 80% and CSAT by 500%.
Sign up for a fully functional free trial of Sprinklr Service, and witness how it can elevate your omnichannel contact center game and help you deliver positive customer service experiences. Try it now!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most important channels to include in both multichannel and omnichannel contact centers: