In this article:
- What is omnichannel customer service?
- Omnichannel vs. multichannel customer service
- What are the benefits of omnichannel customer service?
- How to create an omnichannel customer service strategy
- Omnichannel customer service use cases and examples
- Frequently asked questions
- Start delivering a first-class omnichannel customer experience
What if we told you that customer service could be your company’s greatest asset? That’s right - could be.
Most customers don't want to call a 1-800 number, navigate an automated menu, wait on hold for ages to speak with a human, only then to get bounced around from agent to agent. Even if the customer gets the help they need, they're likely to feel unnecessarily drained after.
In the era of digital customer engagement, it just so happens that there's an unbeatable strategy for wowing customers, improving relationships, and increasing brand loyalty: omnichannel customer service.
But what is omnichannel customer service? How you can you transform your customer service operations with an integrated network of communication channels and use them to make your customer experience stand out above the rest? Let's find out!
What is omnichannel customer service?
Omnichannel customer service means giving customers access to care and support representatives through a connected network of channels that enable two-way communications such as messaging, email, voice calls, and video chat.
Businesses that provide omnichannel customer service can deliver a seamless customer experience across multiple channels regardless of where the engagement begins or ends.
Consider this example: A customer using a rental car is having an issue with their vehicle.
- The customer starts their interaction with the rental car company on Facebook.
- The rental car company responds in real-time and connects with the customer via a phone call to get more details so they can send help.
- From social media messaging to a phone call to text notifications sent after the call, agents are aware of the chat history across channels, and the customer never has to repeat themselves.
- The issue is resolved promptly, leaving the customer with a strong and satisfied impression of the company.
- Next time the customer needs a rental car, they know who they can trust.
It’s easy to see the value in this experience through the customer’s eyes. So, how do you create similar experiences for your customers?
You’ve got a plan for responding to customers on social media, in addition to your contact center operations, and you’re set up to text and email your customers – you’re ready for omnichannel, right?
Well, not quite. Let’s dive into the difference between omnichannel and multichannel customer service.
Omnichannel vs. multichannel customer service
You may be asking, isn’t “omnichannel” just a fancy word for multiple communication mediums? The answer is, not exactly.
Let’s look at the distinction between multichannel customer service and omnichannel customer service.
Multichannel customer service provides customers with multiple communication channels. However, the conversations on these channels aren’t connected.
In practice, customers can contact support via SMS, chatbots, or phone, but they can’t start a conversation in one channel and continue it where they left off in another.
Omnichannel customer service unites every communication channel that customers use to connect with your business.
Let’s say a customer is having a technical issue with a new widget that they’ve purchased from Widget Corp. They need to contact customer service for support.
Scenario A: Widget Corp. offers multichannel customer service.
- They go to the company website and message a chatbot for support.
- The AI chatbot determines that a human agent is needed for this particular problem.
- The customer is instructed to call the customer support number and has to start all over explaining their situation once they reach a live representative.
While this process may resolve their problem, it’s not necessarily the best customer service experience.
Scenario B: Widget Corp. has robust omnichannel customer service.
- They start a conversation with a chatbot. The chatbot determines the problem requires the help of a live agent and asks if the next available representative can contact them via SMS, email, video, or phone call.
- They prefer speaking person-to-person and choose a phone call.
- Within minutes, a representative calls them, already aware of their purchase history and the details about the issue they’re experiencing from the chatbot conversation, picking up exactly where they left.
See the difference? That’s what makes omnichannel customer service special – you’re giving customers more options to steer their experiences in ways that work best for them. At the same time, you remove friction and redundancy, generating maximum value for each customer by design.
What are the benefits of omnichannel customer service?
In business, true win-win scenarios can be rare. How often do two parties benefit equally from a transaction? In the case of omnichannel customer service, the answer is: all the time.
Improved customer satisfaction
Omnichannel customer service allows customers to seek support on any channel and get quick, helpful answers.
Giving your support team access to customers’ conversation history across channels means agents can resolve issues faster, with minimal friction. No need for customers to explain their issues over and over again as they jump from one channel to another!
The result is happy customers, reduced churn, and increased loyalty.
Reduced costs and higher ROI
An omnichannel approach helps you get the most out of your support team and boost ROI while reducing costs.
The right omnichannel platform will help you streamline customer support interactions and increase the productivity of your team, by putting all the channels and data your agents need at their fingertips. No more toggling between screens and apps!
With AI and automation, you can further optimize efficiency and costs by automating answers to basic queries, so your team can focus on more complex tasks.
Personalized customer experience
With omnichannel customer service, customers can get the exact support and information they need, when and where they need it, no matter their engagement preferences.
Increasingly, businesses are using data from omnichannel interactions to better understand customer pain points and deliver even more personalized customer experiences. Businesses can also use this data to develop new products and services to meet the changing needs of their clientele — which means customers win again!
Streamlined brand voice
Building a strong brand is all about consistency. When interacting with your customers, you should give them the same experience, whether they're visiting your website, chatting with your team on social media, or emailing customer support.
Having a unified view of customer service interactions across channels makes it easier to streamline your brand’s voice and deliver a consistent experience at every touchpoint.
Quicker channel activation
In today’s fast-changing digital world, being able to address shifting customer engagement preferences quickly is crucial.
With the right omnichannel customer service tool, you can satisfy your customers’ communication needs at scale by quickly adding new channels to your customer support options.
If all that sounds appealing, let’s dive into how you can create a winning omnichannel customer service strategy.
How to create an omnichannel customer service strategy
Trust is everything in business. Unsurprisingly, 87% of customers avoid buying from brands they don’t trust. Simply showing up and responding can go a long way to earning the trust of customers and this is where brands fall short.
New research from Sinch showed that 53% – more than half – of consumers had been frustrated when they couldn’t reply to a mobile message from a business, and nearly one in four said it takes a day or longer to get a reply from brands in social channels.
The takeaway here is that businesses need to keep up and meet customers where they are at – it’s time to invest in providing great customer care and support across every channel.
Here’s how to create an omnichannel customer service strategy that builds trust through responsive, efficient, and personalized communications.
1. Prioritize the customer journey from start to finish
The customer journey doesn’t end at the point of sale. To foster brand loyalty, your customer service strategy should go beyond purchases and customer support to cover the entire customer lifecycle.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Upgrade your organization’s communication capabilities so your support team always has full context of the customer’s engagement history
- Transform operations to resolve customer issues more efficiently and connect customers with live agents faster
- Pass on cost savings to the customer to strengthen your relationships
2. Enable experiences that move seamlessly across channels
With so many great ways to connect with your customers, limiting possible touchpoints is like tying one hand behind your back and trying to juggle.
It can also lead customers to frustrating detours and dead ends. For example, 95% of consumers say they want chatbots to transfer them to a live representative when extra support is needed, but most businesses don't support this experience.
- Using chat apps, SMS, email, rich messaging, mobile apps, and web chat to respond more immediately to customers’ needs
- Developing cross-channel workflows for engagements that increase flexibility and deliver better outcomes for both your business and its customers
Integrating all of these elements together creates an omnichannel customer experience with value greater than the sum of its individual parts.
3. Use new technologies to optimize communications
Finding a communications platform as a service (CPaaS) provider is the next step to making great omnichannel communication experiences happen. If you’re unfamiliar, CPaaS offers the best of both communications and cloud computing technologies.
Integrating CPaaS with your existing CRM, call center, and other data platforms, helps you:
- Build real-time customer communications into your existing mobile apps and websites
- Manage workflows across new and existing channels
- Support intelligent case routing and personalized interactions
With CPaaS, all your data from customer conversations goes through a single “central nervous system” that offers a wealth of insights. And you can use that data within your CPaaS analytics and automation tools to further enhance customer experiences through:
- Quality management
- Lead management
- Campaign optimization
With a powerful CPaaS platform quarterbacking your conversational data and workflows, you’ll find new ways to deliver memorable customer experiences.
Omnichannel customer service use cases and examples
In recent years, B2B and B2C businesses alike have started implementing omnichannel customer service.
You’ve probably witnessed how big-box retailers like Target and Amazon are developing their own mobile apps, email, and personalized messaging campaigns to enhance shopping experiences.
When you receive a “Recommended for you” notification or an update that a product you browsed is on sale — that’s omnichannel customer service in action!
Let’s take a look at how specific industries are enhancing customer service with omnichannel communications.
Banks and financial services
Customers need to know they can trust businesses with their money and personal data. Digital banking solutions and verification APIs provide customers with anytime-anywhere access while protecting their accounts and information.
Institutions like FirstBank that use omnichannel customer support are seeing their investment pay dividends. With the adoption of SMS solutions, they:
- Send customers notifications about their accounts, transactions, and security alerts
- Engage with customers by offering different freebies, including free lunches, treats, and services
The rise of apps that offer on-demand services has raised the bar for customer convenience worldwide. These days, anything a customer needs is just a few clicks away on their mobile phone. It makes sense that customers expect brands to offer similar access to their own on-demand services.
American Automobile Association (AAA), for example, had offered reliable roadside assistance for over a century. When customers’ communication habits changed, AAA was missing messages from people in need of help: Members were texting AAA’s 800-HELP line, but it was only set up for phone calls.
AAA transformed its roadside assistance to adapt to its customers' preferred ways of communicating. They text-enabled their toll-free number to respond with a web link so customers could more easily request roadside assistance.
With this simple integration, AAA’s new customer service capabilities resulted in:
- Nearly 10,000 monthly inbound text messages to the 800-HELP toll-free number
- An 8% conversion rate from inbound text to a service request
- A soft cost savings of over $30,000 a month
It's easy to see how unified communication networks can benefit businesses while making customers happy.
Retail and e-commerce businesses
In retail and e-commerce, personalized experiences help brands stand out. In fact, over 80% of consumers say they're more likely to buy from a brand that tailors experiences to their needs and interests.
Using tools like conversational AI, brands can engage customers in real-time conversations and provide personalized support at scale 24/7. The results?
30–50% increase in conversions
20–80% reduction in the cost of customer care
3X increase in NPS scores
Clearly, customers respond well when brands go the extra mile to meet their needs!
Frequently asked questions
How do I know if my business needs an omnichannel customer service strategy?
If you want to delight customers with a five-star, personalized experience across all the channels they use while making your support agents’ lives easier and optimizing costs, you need an omnichannel customer service strategy.
What are the challenges associated with omnichannel customer service?
Channel integration, internal collaboration, cross-channel data collection — going omnichannel can feel a bit overwhelming. But the right omnichannel customer service tool will solve all of these challenges for you.
What should I look for in an omnichannel communications platform?
Ask potential providers about their channel range; they should support all commonly used communication channels like phone calls, email, chat, video, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and more.
Make sure to also ask about integration with your existing customer management tools, user experience, scalability, data and analytics features, compliance, and security, too.
Start delivering a first-class omnichannel customer experience
Now that we’ve covered the many benefits and applications of omnichannel customer service (can you tell we’re big fans?), you can put it to work for your business.
If you’re interested in taking your customer service to the next level and fast-tracking an omnichannel transformation, start with Sinch’s Conversation API — it supports messaging across 13 channels, and we add new channels as they become available!
Looking into CPaaS providers? Wondering which vendors are best positioned to support your present and future communications use cases and what you should consider when choosing a CPaaS solution?
Get a copy of the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) to find out.