Is it a Multi-Channel or an Omnichannel Customer Experience?

There is increased chatter about omnichannel, but many companies may not understand the difference between omnichannel and multi-channel. [24]7 recently spoke with a panel of industry experts to get their perspective on multi-channel and omnichannel.

John Bowden, Senior Vice President of Customer Care, Time Warner Cable
We must offer a multi-channel strategy that allows customers to use the channel of their choice. Multichannel is an operational view – how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel. Omnichannel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated and consistent. Omnichannel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex “hand-offs” between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, Omnichannel is Multichannel done right!

Elizabeth Herrell, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research
Although there is no formal distinction between multichannel and omnichannel there is a perceived difference. Multichannel, a more traditional term, conveys customer support for voice, email and Web channels. Omnichannel includes the addition of social and mobile channels and suggests fully integrated support to deliver a continuous and consistent customer experience. Customer data from Web sites flow to agents, so there is no need for customers to repeat information. Omnichannel optimizes customers’ experience with a rich media cross-channel experience.

Dan Miller, Senior Analyst, Opus Research, Inc.
“Multi” means “many,” and “omni” means “all.” Both terms represent visions of the customer care Promised Land. “Multi-channel” feels more modest and doable. Even when taking “cross-channel” interactions into account, it puts constraints on modes of communications that are supported: phone, face2face, text, Web “clicks” and so on. Omni- channel is more provocative and perhaps aspirational because it hints at “omnipresence” and “omnipotence” – which are attributes each individual customer would welcome gladly.

John Casaretto, Contributing Editor, SiliconANGLE
An omnichannel experience is the expectation nowadays – the closer you can get to it the better. Consumers benefit when they are well connected to the product or service. So the challenge in the industry is to track and tailor across all the channels for the best experience – retail, web, mobile, text, phone – the good ones get this notion and do it well.

Related Resource from B2CWebcast: PR Hacking: How Ideas Spread And What Marketers Need to Know

Daniel Hong, Senior Director of Product Marketing, [24]7
Omnichannel means supporting all channels and having a holistic view of the customer regardless of communication method. This is vital as customers are increasingly dictating how they want to be engaged and serviced. Unlike multichannel, omnichannel interactions are not siloed but integrated providing for richer customer experiences that are connected (digital), continuous (consistent across devices, channels, and time) and contextual (relevant) no matter how many times a customer may transition from one channel to another for one task or during an entire journey.

How do you define omnichannel?

Discuss This Article

Comments: 5

  • Tobias Goebel says:

    If I read all this right, the common definition for Omni-channel really seems to be “cross-channel”, ie define the customer experience such that it is connected, continuous, and contextual, as Dan puts it. For me the emphasis is on contextual: as you cross a channel, make sure that the context remains known. (Connected they are through the devices, like smartphones – nothing the business needs to do for; continuous to me is very similar to contextual).

    For Multi-channel, the consensus seems to be a customer experience that allows transactions on different channels, but a transaction would need to be completed on one – the channels “don’t know of each other”.

    With “cross-channel” being key for omni-channel, I don’t quite see the necessity of the latter term.

    I’ve come across definitions that seemed to imply that omni-channel really refers to the combination of digital and physical – ie all the digital channels (Web, voice, text, chat, mobile, social, email, Fax) and the physical channels of mail and brick-and-mortar, ie face-to-face.

  • Andrewboon says:

    Interesting article. Read an interesting whitepaper “Thinking about tomorrow: Post recession strategies for retailers” about a few points discussed here that readers may find useful @ http://bit.ly/10XoIQa

  • Susan says:

    “Multi-channel” simply implies business is done across multiple channels, whereas “omni-channel” should provide an integrated experience across channels (reference Bowden’s perspective above “anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution…”). Omni-channel initiatives allow for this. In omni-channel, the channels work together synergistically to facilitate an ideal customer experience.

  • patmcgraw says:

    Semantics. When you focus on the customer, you are concerned about consistently delivering a valuable experience across all channels. That was multi-channel and is now in the process of being re-branded as omni-channel. And based on some of the comments in the article, I can now better understand the customer service issues some firms faced if they were looking at things from an operational perspective vs. a customer perspective.

  • I think the term omni-channel very useful when used to mean supporting ALL channels with ONE system. This is compared to multi-channel which is supporting MANY channels with MANY systems. The difference in terms of customer experience is that omni-channel provides (1) a single view of customer, so all previous interactions are available to customer service staff, (2) consistency across channels i.e. you’ll get the same (& hopefully accurate!)answer irrespective of channel and (3) channel agility so a customer can keep a conversation going as they move channels e.g. webchat to email.

Add a New Comment

Thank you for adding to the conversation!

Our comments are moderated. Your comment may not appear immediately.