What is omnichannel customer service and why it matters for your business

The term “omnichannel” is often used in technology and customer service today, but you may be wondering: what does omnichannel actually mean?  

Omnichannel is used to describe all of the physical and digital channels that are integrated within a single platform, interface or experience. 

What is omnichannel customer service?

Omnichannel support is defined as customer service where all answers and information are created, updated and shared from a unified platform, ensuring that contact center agents, support professionals and customers themselves can locate and share accurate and consistent answers through any available channel. These channels may include phone, email, SMS, a mobile application, live chat, a chatbot or virtual assistant, automated IVR responses and more. 

The goal of omnichannel support is to serve customers’ needs seamlessly while tailoring their experience to their preferred channels. Omnichannel customer service works to place the needs of your customers and your team’s goals at the forefront. 

More than 60% of US customers say their go-to channel for simple inquiries is a digital self-serve tool such as a website, mobile app, or online chat.

American Express customer service barometer

The difference between omnichannel and multichannel

Oftentimes, “omnichannel” and “multichannel” are used interchangeably; however, there’s a distinct difference between the two terms. 

Multichannel describes an experience where information is accessed and shared through more than one channel. 

Omnichannel, on the other hand, involves more than one channel and more than one touch point, integrated all within a single, unified approach.

While multichannel support is an improvement over a single channel strategy, omnichannel customer service is considered the more ideal type of support of the two. This is because an omnichannel support platform is often more organized, accurate and efficient for all parties involved. 

One of the ways omnichannel customer service is so successful is its ability to retain context of answers from one channel to another. If your customer calls into the contact center about an issue setting up their connected home device, the agent can easily send resources, such as an interactive tutorial, directly to that customer via SMS, email or direct them on the mobile app all within a single interaction. With multichannel customer service, agents are left without the context of the end-user’s issue. This results in customers having to rely on answers from different channels that are siloed, and inconsistent. 

Why is omnichannel support so critical in customer service?

An omnichannel support platform allows contact center agents to access the necessary tools needed to guide customers through their interactions all within a single platform. With one platform to work from, the scope of answers and information your agents are equipped with is accurate and consistent. This helps to increase problem resolution rates during customer interactions as well as decrease the amount of repeat callers entering the contact center. 

As for customers, having self-serve resources can dramatically improve the customer experience. Self-serve support is a critical feature within omnichannel customer service, as it has the power to drastically increase call deflection rates for your contact center, saving your business valuable resources.

Looking to provide the best-in-class support? Download the free support guide below.

What are some features of an omnichannel support platform?

Contact center assistance

Before your support teams can empower your customers, contact center agents need to know about the devices, services and apps they are working with to effectively educate your customers. An omnichannel support platform provides your agents with the most comprehensive knowledge to solve even the most complex questions.

Some of the tools used within these platforms may include digital versions of the available technology, otherwise known as virtual devices and apps that include freeform troubleshooting, which allows agents to resolve the most complex issues easily. Tools such as interactive guides provide answers proactively and powerful search options help your agents find the answers they need quickly and efficiently. Lifecycle support is one of the key features a successful omnichannel solution can offer, as it provides agents with access to the most tailored, personalized answers for a customer's unique operating system or app version.

With an omnichannel support solution, your agents have access to answers that align with the same information that your end customers have. No matter where they turn within the platform, your agents know the information they’re relying on is accurate, up-to-date and trustworthy.

Effective self-serve tools

An omnichannel support platform can be used to easily share answers and resources to your customers directly through the channels that serve them best. Whether it's through a chatbot, mobile app, email or any other digital channel, an omnichannel platform has the capability to provide your customers with the power to answer their technology problems independently and confidently. Self-serve tools such as interactive tutorials and guided troubleshooting workflows also allow for increased digital adoption and satisfaction among customers. 

Another important feature of an advanced customer service is the ability to onboard customers to their new services effortlessly. As a new customer, it can be complicated or frustrating at times to learn how to set up an account or device with a new provider. With an omnichannel support platform, your customers can access easy-to-follow, interactive tutorials on how to set up an account or activate their new device. This can save your customers from the hassle of looking up “how to get started” in search engines and allow your agents to focus on solving more complex customer interactions. 

80% of customers attempt to take on matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative

Harvard Business Review

Your current support vs omnichannel customer service

When it comes to deciding which omnichannel support solution is right for your business, it’s important to identify where your current customer service stands and how to improve it. One option is to create your own support content. This can take the form of spinning up and training content teams to create, publish and maintain answers across all of your supported devices, apps and services while working with web developers to present those answers in all of your support channels.

However, building and maintaining your own omnichannel support answers in-house can be extremely time consuming and costly for your business. Not to mention, most organizations are not in the business of support and do not have the capacity to keep all of their support content up-to-date with the frequency of device, app and software version updates. A majority of these companies quickly find that their content teams struggle to keep answers consistently updated and that their customer experience becomes inconsistent and fragmented.

If you’ve decided it’s time to advance to omnichannel support, there’s a few criteria you should consider before partnering.

What to look for in an omnichannel support solution

Does this platform align with my goals?

It’s critical that the omnichannel support solution you’re looking to partner with aligns with your strategic goals. Is your team looking to improve your NPS and customer satisfaction ratings? Does the platform support the industries and market segments that you’re targeting? Maybe you’re looking to advance your self-serve answers and provide more robust support tools to your support teams. Whatever your goals may be, it’s imperative that you ensure the omnichannel partner you’re working with is on the same page as your business and consistently works with you to elevate your customer support. 

Does this platform offer personalized support?

The second area you should be looking into before partnering with an omnichannel support solution is verifying that the platform has the ability to personalize answers and resources to the devices and apps that your customers and agents have questions about. An optimal omnichannel solution has the capability to support even the most complex questions for every device, app and version of your company’s supported hardware and software. Your customers and agents aren’t looking for answers that are ‘close enough’ -- they’re looking for specific answers and resources to guide them to success. 

Is the information provided up-to-date and accurate? 

One of the most important aspects of an omnichannel support platform is a robust library of up-to-date answers that your customers and agents rely on. When contact center agents leverage outdated online forums and search engine results to answer technology-specific questions, they are more likely to be sharing product or app misinformation within their support interactions. The right support partner for your business will work to consistently provide updates to the omnichannel platform to ensure your customer support resources are always up-to-date. Some omnichannel platforms even provide pre-release access to new software or hardware updates to your business’s supported devices and apps. This way your support team has enough time to understand the updates and can properly educate your customers even before the update has been publicly released. 

The omnichannel customer service experience

Omnichannel support is the future of customer service. As companies continue to advance their support with omnichannel solutions, it's imperative that your team has the right resources to understand omnichannel support, why it matters in the world of tech support and how to select the right omnichannel support platform for your business.