What is Omnichannel Customer Service?

Shoppers today have access to more customer service channels than ever before. They’re demanding exceptional service on their preferred channel of choice.

About 71% of shoppers want a consistent experience across all channels—but only 29% are getting one.

Moreover, over 50% of companies say “providing a seamless experience across multiple channels” is their top customer experience issue.

Shoppers want omnichannel support, but brands are struggling to meet customer expectations.

Omnichannel customer service is essential for brands wanting to create a favorable customer journey. 

This blog will define omnichannel customer service and explain how it can benefit your brand.

What is omnichannel customer service?

Omnichannel customer service is support given to customers that is seamlessly and consistently delivered across different devices, touchpoints, and communication channels.

Phone calls are the most popular contact channel among customers, but other common options include chat, messaging, SMS, social media, and email.

With omnichannel service, all parts of a company’s customer support system are connected. If a customer starts interacting with a brand on one channel, they can continue the conversation on different channels at a later time. There’s no need to repeat or clarify their issue.

For example, a customer emails a company on Monday about an item they ordered online. 

On Tuesday, they call the company for some additional pricing information, and the conversation picks up exactly where the email exchange left off. 

The customer sends some final chat inquiries on Wednesday, and the agent knows exactly who the customer is, what they ordered, and what information they’ve already received. 

An omnichannel customer service experience lets customers move conversations forward—on various channels and with different agents. Teams don’t operate in silos. Instead, support agents from all contact centers have access to customer data from earlier interactions.

Why is it important to embrace omnichannel functionality?

Digital channels have exploded in popularity. Individual shoppers aren’t likely to have a single preferred channel to use exclusively, and customers are growing more diverse.

Groups of shoppers want to communicate with brands in drastically different ways. For example, 65% of people younger than 35 believe social media is an effective customer service channel. For customers aged 55 and older, that figure drops to 25%.     

Similarly, only 16% of customers worldwide use mobile devices to contact customer service. Among Millennials, though, that share jumps to 43%.

Another reason to focus on omnichannel customer support—it’s becoming the norm.

From 2010 to 2020, the share of companies investing in an omnichannel customer experience jumped from 20% to 80%

For a look at today’s other dominant CS trends, check out Zowie’s Top 9 Customer Service Trends for 2022.

Omnichannel vs. multichannel customer service

Omnichannel customer service is often mistaken for multichannel service. The two terms are similar, but there are some key differences.

Multichannel customer support means having several service channels through which customers can contact you. 

If a customer visits your company’s website and sees they can contact you via phone, email, or live chat, that’s multichannel service.

These channels don’t have to be linked to one another, though. With multichannel support, if a customer emails a company about a specific issue and then calls them later over the phone, they’ll have to repeat their personal data and case details a second time. 

Today, multichannel support is seen as the bare minimum. Two-thirds of customers worldwide are already actively using 3 or more customer service channels

If brands aren’t offering this number of channels, they’re falling behind and leaving customers unhappy.

That being said, customers are still at risk of getting transferred from one agent to another, having to repeat their case over and over again, and getting slower service. Even with multichannel support, 12% of customers identify a lack of speed as their top frustration with customer service.

Omnichannel support takes things a step further. A company’s various customer service channels are linked together. Agents have access to conversation history and context, ensuring that any future communication is personalized and up to date.

Omnichannel service also guarantees consistent answers across channels. Giving agents access to the same information minimizes the chances of providing conflicting responses.

The following table summarizes the key differences and similarities between omnichannel and multichannel services.

What are omnichannel support’s benefits?

Businesses can enjoy numerous advantages when they offer omnichannel support throughout the customer journey.

Faster response and resolution times

Today, nearly 67% of customers expect a response from a customer service agent in less than 10 minutes. Consistently achieving these results is only possible with omnichannel support.

Agents won’t ever need to ask a customer the same question twice. With saved data and improved workflows, agents can ensure productive customer interactions. 

They’re able to efficiently give real-time answers and improve metrics like response times, wait times, and resolution times.

Easier activation of new channels

Once a brand fully integrates its customer service channels, adding a new channel in the future becomes significantly easier. 

For instance, a company with unified email and live chat channels won’t have much difficulty adding a social media channel. Its existing channels can serve as a framework for newer ones to prevent isolation. 

Since 86% of customers expect brands to recognize them across all channels, going omnichannel futureproofs your customer service if new channels ever emerge.  

Customer loyalty

From a customer’s perspective, omnichannel support translates to convenience and transparency. 

One-third of shoppers say repeating themselves to different agents is the most frustrating part of customer service. 

Omnichannel service eliminates this problem.

Customers appreciate the pleasant service experiences that come with omnichannel service. Customer relationships are stronger, and shoppers exhibit higher levels of loyalty.

An omnichannel approach can increase customer retention and customer satisfaction by 89%. 

Personalized experiences

Since agents have shared access to information like a customer’s location or purchase history, they can customize many features of the user experience. 

For example, if a customer asks for product advice, an agent can check their order history to recommend relevant products that are more likely to be bought. 

This personal touch is more effective at satisfying customers than only delivering standardized responses.

Nearly 80% of customers are willing to share personal information if it enables brands to recognize them in service interactions instantly.  

Personalized experiences can boost conversion rates by 8%, and 80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from brands that deliver CX personalization.

Greater revenue 

By consistently providing helpful, personalized interactions, your brand is more likely to see high levels of customer engagement.

Shoppers see an improved customer experience, and they purchase more. Harvard Business Review found omnichannel customers spend 10% more when shopping online.

See how ecommerce brand UMZU added omnichannel service to shorten resolution times, satisfy customers, and generate revenue in Zowie’s UMZU case study.

What are the biggest challenges to providing omnichannel customer service?

One of the biggest roadblocks stopping companies from offering omnichannel support is not being available on the proper channels. Phone and email alone won’t cut it today. 

The table below highlights the current gap between what service channels customers are using vs. what channels support teams are offering.

Sources: SalesforceTechjuryFinancesOnline

The first step a customer service team needs to take is offer help on the right channels—this gets you multichannel support.

The next challenge is handling omnichannel support’s complexity.

Well-trained agents with expert knowledge lie at the core of omnichannel service. 

Keeping contact centers operating at the highest quality levels becomes more difficult when brands offer broad product portfolios and have a growing customer base. It gets harder to share accurate information, give consistent answers, and meet customers’ needs.

Digital literacy is another challenge. Managers and agents need to be familiar with your brand, products, and customers, but they’ll also have to understand how to keep track of this information in a digital space. 

Automation tools optimize omnichannel service

Choosing the right customer service software is vital to implementing an omnichannel customer service strategy in any contact center.

Automation technology powered by artificial intelligence solves most of the issues linked to omnichannel service’s sophistication.

AI chatbots, for example, automatically store info that customers input into a chat. If the same customer returns with more questions, any agent instantly sees who they’re talking to and what was previously discussed. 

AI software makes this data easy for agents to find and contextualize.

Customer service tools make omnichannel support hassle-free for both customers and agents.