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In the digital-first era, customers are looking for exceptional support even if they never interact with a human agent. The answer to the increasing demand for empowering support lies in the implementation of an effective self-service strategy. But, if you are in the market for a customer support or self-service portal, chances are you have likely run into the terms “omni-channel” and “multi-channel” quite a few times. Both are often touted as the best solution, and in some instances are used interchangeably – but what is the difference between omni-channel vs. multi-channel support?
Providing the best support possible is key, and so is understanding the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel support.
Put simply, support channels are any medium through which you communicate with customers. This can be through a self-service portal, emails, social media live chat, videos, a chatbot on a website, or even more traditional methods like mail or telephone. Think of these channels like the channels on a television – each one provides a different type of information, and although you may not watch every channel it is helpful to have many different options available.
There is not much difference when it comes to providing a support channel to an internal customer of the service desk (for example, an employee looking for IT support) or an external customer. Outside of a customer support self-service portal or IT self-service app, internal customers (employees) will likely communicate through email, messenger apps like MS Teams or Slack, and even telephone, whereas an external customer may rely more heavily on email, an on-site chatbot, or social media messenger apps like Facebook Messenger or LinkedIn messenger. Either way, these customers are all looking to solve their issues in one interaction and are hoping to be wowed.
Multi-channel customer support is a way to meet customers where they are. A multi-channel support experience involves providing support across multiple channels – two or more to be exact. For example, providing support via an IT service management software, MS Teams, email, and a web portal for internal customers. Or, providing support via Facebook Messenger, email, and a chatbot on a website.
This method of support has several benefits because it provides multiple ways for customers to resolve potential issues in their preferred channel.
The term “omni-channel” has a sort of all-encompassing feeling to it. And certainly, omni-channel is all-encompassing to a degree. The term “omni-channel” means a support channel which seamlessly meets customers on the channel, or channels, that they prefer at every level of interaction within your organization. This approach takes a more holistic view to create a seamless customer experience regardless of which channel the customer is using.
When weighing omni-channel vs. multi-channel support, it is important to remember that both omni- and multi-channel approaches can elevate your customer service experience by simply giving the end-user (the customer) different ways to resolve their issues and interact with the company. For example, if your company only accepts phone calls for support, customers who are hearing impaired may feel isolated or those with hearing impairments who prefer not to use a relay telephone system may feel frustrated. But, by providing them another method, like email, chat, or another means of contact, you automatically improve their experience and reach a wider audience, thereby increasing engagement.
Of course, these benefits apply to both omni and multi-channel self-service portals. Each still has respective pros and cons as well.
Multi-channel can help the end-users engage with the company more easily, but there is a greater chance of creating siloed interactions. Meaning, if the customer talks to someone via a chatbot, but then calls back and speaks to another person on the phone, if these two methods are not sharing information and using the same processes, the experience may be disjointed or disconnected. Further, these individual channels must be managed individually, which may be more time consuming as each may require maintenance at different times.
As mentioned before, omni-channel takes a more holistic approach and can be less jarring for the end-user. Processes are more uniform and communication or notes between departments or teams who interact with a customer are more cohesive. Omni-channel may be easier to manage, as all of the platforms are easily accessed and managed in one place, and it can be just plain simpler to use. An example of omni-channel in action is when a person calls their insurance company but is disconnected, so they move to chat – the chat representative will already have the information from the call and the transition will seem completely effortless. However, a possible con of omni-channel is that if there is an issue during configuration it may ripple out into all of the means of communication.
Certainly, in the question of omni-channel vs. multi-channel support, omni-channel provides a more seamless experience for the customer no matter which medium they prefer, or if they want to mix and match between interactions.
In order to decide whether it is preferable to use omni- or multi-channel customer support or self-service for your business, it is important to think of the end-user and work backward. Understand your business goals, the goals of the customer, and consider each touchpoint during a customer’s journey.
Consider possible areas where information may be siloed and think of the implications of those silos. Will a customer only use one contact method, or do your customers prefer multiple touchpoints? Will the customer support agent need to know what the customer may have learned from other departments, or is the information irrelevant to them? The answers to these questions will help you understand which type of support will work best for your individual customers while also clarifying what will be a more simplified experience for those working on the back end of these requests.
In many cases, businesses find that an omni-channel solution is better suited for their needs since it provides a seamless user experience across multiple channels. Further, an omni-channel experience will also lend itself to greater visibility between teams, helping the company stay organized and the messaging and solutions remain clear to all, regardless of which platform an agent is assigned to man that particular day.
Once you understand the difference between omni-channel vs. multichannel support, have considered your customer’s journey, and weighed the pros and cons of each, finding a self-service portal is the next step.
The right self-service portal will integrate with helpful software such as Salesforce Service Cloud, and will help employees and customers help themselves, empowering and equipping them with the right knowledge to help them meet their goals. Further, an effective self-service portal will give employees the tools they need to solve a wider range of customer queries with increased visibility and transparency between departments and policies. Setting up a self-service portal does not have to be overly complicated, and in many cases can be implemented in as few as six weeks.
With an approach to self-service that empowers users across a variety of channels, the customer experience will be elevated to the next level. To learn how EasyVista’s omni-channel support can help your organization, schedule a demo today!
Bob Rizzo is the Product Marketing Director at EasyVista. An accomplished sales and marketing professional focused on helping customers, he serves as the product evangelist, both internally and externally, for the Easy Vista Self Help product. Rizzo has vast experience working with customers and partners in the IT service management software industry and understanding the challenges they face. Outside of work, he is an avid sports fan and enjoys playing golf, billiards and soccer.