What is Omnichannel?

Omnichannel, both for support as well as for marketing and product, offers your customers multiple, integrated touchpoints with which to interact with your product or service. This is instead of just one or two distinct methods of interaction, such as via email or over the phone (like you’d find with single or multichannel support). Instead, your customers can use a variety of contact channels in order to reach out and engage with you: social media, live chat, phone, self-service, screen sharing, email and much more is right within their reach. Even better: it’s entirely integrated. So, instead of bouncing between siloed channels, there is no need for them to be redirected to another platform or send another email—it’s all right there.

Omnichannel Definition: the integration of multiple methods of contact and interaction for a customer’s benefit, both for support and via a company’s marketing site.

The benefit of utilizing omnichannel customer service for your customers doesn’t end there. Along with integrating all of the services through which your company provides support, the perfect omnichannel strategy will make the entire experience seamless across platforms. So, not only will your users be able to reach out to you via a method that makes the most sense for them, but they will also be able to transfer from their computer to their smartphone if they need to continue the conversation on the move.

Omnichannel in marketing

While in this case, we are discussing omnichannel customer service, omnichannel strategy is also used in marketing and sales, such as e-commerce, to create a better end-user experience and make customers more likely to purchase or subscribe to the service or product that you are selling. Omnichannel in marketing takes out the methods of contact like phone or email, and retains the functionality for the customer such as being able to pick up right where they left of when switching between their computer, tablet, and phone. For example, if they had added a few items to their shopping cart from an e-commerce store on their phone, they would be able to log on to their laptop and continue checking out.

Omnichannel vs. multichannel

Your customers want to be able to reach you when they expect to be able to. If they can’t, they might churn. It sounds drastic, but 64% of consumers say that they expect companies to respond to them in real time. The question then becomes, especially at an enterprise level, how to support so many customers with such high expectations.

52% of customers who have bad customer service experiences with a company will stop buying from them. Choosing not to offer support across several channels might as well be considered a customer support sin.

The best way to make support more convenient for your customers is to offer support on several different channels. This allows them to contact you where works best for them, and gives them the best experience possible because they’re able to engage how they want to—this is how you boost customer retention.

For companies that are just beginning to expand their customer contact options, multichannel support might be a great way to get started in bettering your customers’ experience.

Multichannel support is similar to omnichannel customer service in that it allows the customer to reach out across multiple different channels, such as phone, email, and chat, but does not integrate them in the same way as omnichannel. Context and customer history are not shared across channels in a multichannel support system but are readily available in an omnichannel support ecosystem. If you use several different systems to log customer communications (like a social media dashboard, a phone system, live chat software and an email helpdesk) but do not integrate them - that’s multichannel support. Each channel lives in it’s own bubble.

How does omnichannel help your customers?

Almost 70% of Millennials are shopping online and spending their money there. Between Facebook (30%), physical stores (31%) and Instagram (39%) it is important to maintain connections with both your support and marketing team through those social networks. Different generations have different expectations, and millennials specifically, over Gen X or Z, feel compelled to create a tie between social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and with whatever they are purchasing or engaging in. Omnichannel makes this much easier for them than it would be otherwise.

Here’s a list of metrics that can be impacted by implementing omnichannel support for your customers:

Omnichannel creates a seamless experience

Using or switching to an omnichannel strategy from either multi-channel or single-channel experience makes a huge impact on your customer experience. Rather than struggling to determine where the best place to reach out is, or having trouble getting help once they get there, your customers are able to reach out anywhere they want and ultimately receive a consistent response.

Multichannel support is like passing a ball from hand to hand and hoping it doesn’t get dropped. With omnichannel support, there is a tube that the ball is rolling through perpetually—your support team can reach in and pull it out, and then put it back in whenever they are done with it.

For your customer success and customer support team members, dealing with omnichannel is easier than multichannel as well. With an omnichannel customer support software, you have the tools built in to follow the customer wherever they go in your support ecosystem. That means that you can always find where they are running into problems, and offer help or push for permanent solutions. This puts the full context of a customer’s problem right in front of you. Having that kind of customer insight makes for invaluable product feedback and a more viable, longer-lasting product, too.

Omnichannel generates customer engagement

Creating hyper-personalized, meaningful experiences is the name of the game when it comes to customer retention and engagement in the current SaaS landscape. One of the best ways to do that is to create an integrated space for your customers to read, engage and ask questions without having to leave their method of choice. Omnichannel customer engagement works as a loop offering a variety of formats for the same content, accessible from a variety of channels —which is great for your customers. It means there is always a door open for them should they need to ask a question or reach out, and that when they do, it will be easy. Not just easy, either, but potentially real-time. Omnichannel customer service allows for many people to all get help at a single time while still scaling and maintaining the bandwidth of your support team. Most of this is due to self-service options that become available and accessible across multiple platforms that, otherwise, might not have existed. Not only is customer service through phone, email, chat and other venues important when building an omnichannel support strategy, but integrating self-service into your strategy is also important. Self-service is a burgeoning part of the customer support industry, especially because most people do not actually want to talk to someone in support or customer success - they’d rather help themselves.

What does using omnichannel do for you?

So, what does omnichannel do for your company and the teams running customer experience and support? Other than making your lives easier by maintaining all of your tools under one umbrella, it helps to create a better-adopted product. People are more inclined to use a product that is supported in the same environment that it is used. For people that are using a mobile app, for example, it is painful to have to send an email via the mobile email interface rather than just staying within the context of the app and sending a quick message there. But, on top of making your product stickier and more viable for your customer base, omnichannel does a few other things.

Reduce resolution time

Customers want effective, quick service, regardless of the channel that they choose. If they reach out to you via Twitter, they expect just as quick of a reply as if they reached out via email. Luckily, omnichannel helps to reduce the resolution time for your tickets.

Single Channel >> Multi Channel >> Omni-Channel Customer Engagement

The efficiency of omnichannel is a big benefit over traditional forms of customer support. With single-channel support, your team just had one place in which to handle conversations, but customers want to ask questions in venues that make sense to them. So, multi-channel support, and offering help to customers via email, phone and chat all for one service, became viable. But part of the struggle for customers, and what added on additional time to their resolution, was transferring a customer from one channel to another. It takes time to transfer someone from phone to email, or from social media to chat in a totally separate platform. Context is lost and customers end up repeating themselves, which is frustrating for everyone.

For customer support agents, shifting to omnichannel can reduce resolution time by as much as 50%.

An omnichannel customer support software unifies all of the places where you do support into one platform, thus making it even easier to shift customers from channel to channel as they would like. This saves both your team and the customer time and gives the customer the benefit of feeling like their needs are heard and addressed quickly and in a channel that was easiest for them.

Boost NPS and CSAT

People are much more likely to recommend a tool that they can use and get help on wherever they go than one where they have to work hard to purchase or have a decent experience.

If you give customers what they want with omnichannel customer service, their happiness ratings and regard for your product will be boosted. Customers want their experience to be effortless and easy, so, when you create omnichannel customer engagement across both your support and marketing organizations, it will make an impact.

Unified Context

For a support team, there is nothing more helpful than context around a particular issue. When someone is trying to solve a puzzle, for example, they can’t do so as efficiently if they don’t have all the pieces—in that case, they need to go looking for the pieces before they even get started. The same thing is true in the case of support.

To do their best work, a support person needs to have as much information and context about a customer as possible. Omnichannel gives them that.

Not only does omnichannel make it easy to move a person across various channels in your support and marketing organization with ease, but it also makes it easy to track all context and bring it with them. So, rather than your team telling someone on Twitter to reach out via email, and the email then arriving in the inbox with no explanation around it, the conversation starts on social, is then transitioned to email, and all necessary information about both the customer and their problems is included.

Better journey mapping

Once you implement an omnichannel strategy for support and marketing, you may want to start to pull that context that is so helpful for tickets into other areas. Journey mapping, or creating an understanding of what the typical customer path through your app is, is incredibly important and valuable to all aspects of your company, not just the customer-facing ones. When you understand your average customer journey, you can start to intercept or preemptively support your customers that need it. For example, if you have a live-chat box on your site on a certain page, and you notice that your customer support team are fielding a lot of pre-sales types of questions, you can engage customers preemptively on that page instead. This proactive experience combined with your omnichannel strategy is hugely impactful for your team and your customer. You can also use Touchpoint Dashboard to store all of the different touch-points from each of your customers.

Questions to ask before implementing omnichannel support

At this point, in the support industry, it’s almost standard practice to offer both email and phone support, at a minimum. After that, it’s no surprise that many would be shifting towards an omnichannel strategy for support. If the next step for your team is to implement omnichannel customer service, here are a few questions to consider beforehand.

What can your team currently handle?

Just because you are excited to offer something that will improve your customers’ happiness, and help shift many of your metrics positively does not mean that you can move forward unhindered. Gain a deeper understanding of what your team’s capacity is, and if you will need to hire up to support an omnichannel strategy for your company. If you currently using multi-channel, then you will likely have some good metrics and numbers by which to base your decision. If this is new, and you are only offering email, keep in mind all of the different options that people are going to be reaching out to you. Similarly, different support people are interested and find their value in different types of support—if you have only people that are good at email and phone prior to starting to implement omnichannel, you are going to need to hire additional people to make up the difference.

What are your customers asking for?

There are many different ways to provide support. In an omnichannel strategy, those are:

Offering all of these from the start can be difficult and overwhelming for your customers and for you. Before you make any decisions, analyze your omnichannel customer service use cases. Do your customers traditional us the in-app and social media options, or do they prefer phone and email? Having a handle on these questions will help you know what to prioritize and who you need to hire to make your omnichannel strategy a success. Keep in mind that different demographics of customers may be interested in different types of support. For example, people from younger generations are keen on mobile, chat and instantaneous support, whereas other older generations would maybe prefer email and phone support.

What does your existing helpdesk provide?

You are likely already using a helpdesk to provide support for your customers. Transitioning a helpdesk can be very difficult, so your company might not want to switch if it’s not necessary. Take a look at what your existing helpdesk provides, and if omnichannel functionality is one of their features—you might be in luck!

Make sure that whatever platform you are using or looking at supports each of the channels you currently use, as well as any you’re planning to incorporate in the future.

If omnichannel customer service is not something that your current helpdesk tool is offering, it may be time to look into third-party tools or other helpdesks, if you’ve decided omnichannel is the way your team wants to go. Having a built-in omnichannel option is always going to be better an easier than trying to build on one your own out of disparate software.

What do other teams need and who might be affected?

Even though your support team is the primary users of your omnichannel customer service and support platform, there are still other teams that are affected. It’s important to ask these other teams for their opinions on the omnichannel customer support software that you’ve decided to move forward with, as they will likely be using it or implementing it in their day-to-day as well. Here are the important teams to ask before moving forward with your planned omnichannel strategy:

Product: product needs to be ready to integrate for an omnichannel offering before your team makes any shift in strategy. While support and success can have done all of the research and know exactly where they want to go with their omnichannel strategy, without product’s buy-in and support it isn’t likely to gain much traction. Talk to product before your team starts implementing anything.

Marketing: omnichannel customer engagement has fallen under marketing for several years. With huge companies like Disney and Starbucks leading the way with great examples of how this can be done, your company’s marketing team will likely have an investment in how this is done as well as advice on how it could be done better.

Sales: Your sales team may be actually working within your company’s omnichannel, so it’s important to double check with them and ensure that anything that you are deciding on also works for their flows. They may also find value in certain integrations that you wouldn’t think to use. Ensure that your omnichannel customer support software also offers the integrations that are important to them.

Customer Success: The customer success team from your company will almost certainly be working within your omnichannel customer support software with your support team. Much like sales, it’s important to get a handle on what tools they use and will find value in having directly integrated with the tools that you are using. Then, once you know what they are, make sure that the platform you are considering has them, or they are easy to build.

Will your company support you?

Strategy and philosophy are incredibly important to companies as they grow. Will your company support you in implementing an omnichannel strategy, or does it align with your company’s goals as a whole? Omnichannel customer service and marketing are huge opportunities and benefits for both large companies which your team may be supporting at an enterprise level and small companies. When making your proposal to your company for making the shift, including metrics such as NPS and retention that will help make clearly visible how impactful it will be. Align them with the values that your company already has in place.

Understand what a seamless omnichannel experience looks like for you

Omnichannel strategy looks different for everyone company. For your company, that may include all of the mobile platforms as well as phone and chat. For others, it may just mean supporting Android or iOS platforms. Look at what your customers are asking for and build on that instead of trying to manage and plan for every future possibility.

Your omnichannel strategy should be sleek and make sense for your customers. Avoid bloating it with too many extra features or integrations that you don’t need and no one asked for.

How to make a seamless omnichannel support experience

Omnichannel strategy implementation

Omnichannel is the golden goose when it comes to providing excellent support. Every company wants to do it well and find their balance, but many struggle between going too deeply into building an infrastructure before it is needed, or not implementing the integration as seamlessly as they could. Omnichannel strategy provides an ease of communication for customers which is unparalleled, and the trickle-down effect helps all of your teams work towards a faster resolution time and greater NPS for your customers. Consider your other team members when starting to plan your omnichannel support strategy, and check out Freshdesk to see how we might be able to make it easier to shift.