What’s the Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel Service?


Do you remember the days when the only way you could contact customer support was through the phone? You’d spend minute after minute, maybe even hour after hour, on hold listening to terrible music, and waiting for a human person to come on the line. Quite frankly, it could often be miserable wait.

But over the last couple decades, then came email, live chat help, text messagers, crowdsourced support, message boards,and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Each of these provides a different channel for customers to be able to reach out for customer service.

Multi-Channel Customer Service

Multi-Channel service has now become the norm for many businesses. Customers are given service options ranging from email to live chat to crowd support and can decide which channel is best for them. Whether it’s self-service through guided FAQs or posting a message on Twitter, customers don’t only have to depend on calling a representative on the phone or going into a store to receive customer service assistance.

However, there are two big problems with the multi-channel customer service method.

One, since customers expect service reps to attend to their problems quickly, more customer service agents are needed to tend to these various channels around the clock. For smaller or mid-size businesses, this potentially creates new problems with scheduling and hiring enough service representatives to provide support across multiple channels. And most of these contact options only have reps that maintain certain office hours; even though customers can call-in anytime, if it’s after office hours no one will be there to help them. This is where crowdsourced service can be of great help since members of the crowd are often available in the evenings and weekends, which may be hours that traditional service agents have off. 

The other problem is that if a customer was being helped on one channel, such as Twitter, and they were being helped by a particular service rep. Then for whatever reason they get disconnected or the customer decides to call-in, with multi-channel service the customer will have to repeat all the same information they’d already given the first rep, and start at square one. Having multiple channels and agents operating them at different times can be frustrating for the customer.

Omni-Channel Customer Service

Omni-Channel customer service is what bridges the gaps between multiple channels. It allows customers to open a service request on one channel, and continue getting help from a rep uninterrupted on another channel, without having to repeat all of the information previously stated. Omnichannel makes it easy for customers to transfer from one channel to another since all of the necessary information is kept intact.

A big part of the reason omnichannel is so important for businesses is that most consumers now use smartphones to communicate with customer service. And these smartphones are capable of doing all the things it used to take multiple machines to do. Omnichannel integrates each communication channel so they’re not operating as if they are separate entities.

Omnichannel revolutionizes the customer experience because it goes from being a difficult one to a smooth interaction, where and when the customer wants. For example, if a tweet comes into the social media service team, the call center can phone the customer and have all of the information from the tweet on-hand.

Ultimately, it’s up to the business to decide which channels they’d like to offer. Having a crowdsourced online marketplace is a channel to consider that seamlessly takes customer interactions from a phone call or digital request to real-life service.

Learn how to crowdsource customer service

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