multichannel vs omni channel contact center - which one do I need

According to Salesforce research, 76% of customers want different channels for interactions and messages, up from 71% before the COVID-19 pandemic. Customer dependencies on digital interaction increased when they couldn’t rely on the ability to just “pop in the store.” 

As a result, they found how convenient it is to engage with businesses across more channels. And they now have evidence that we are able and willing to bend, no matter the challenge thrown our way. 

Customers expect to have a variety of ways to engage with companies on the platform of their preference. 

The solution? Companies began implementing omnichannel and multichannel contact centers. Although both technologies aim to guide customers to the appropriate destination, a few subtle characteristics distinguish each one of them as a unique tool.

This article discusses the difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing strategies and how each approach compares in today’s fast-paced, digitally-driven world.

What is an Omnichannel Contact Center?

An omnichannel contact center is able to handle inbound and outbound customer communications across multiple channels (email, phone, text, support ticket, etc), and provides an integrated, consistent customer experience across channels. 

An omnichannel contact center allows customers to have a seamless experience whether they access your website through a desktop, mobile device, or go to your physical store after work. 

Alternatively, they might use social media to get in touch with your customer support team and see their message transferred to a phone conversation without sacrificing any contextual information across channels. 

One great example of an omnichannel contact center is the Nextiva Contact Center powered by Five9.

What is a Multichannel Contact Center?

Multichannel contact centers are also able to handle many channels. However, unlike the omnichannel which is integrated, the communications in a multichannel contact center are not connected. An agent would be unaware of the customer’s preceding communications through other channels.

Multichannel communication can feel disjointed, both for the contact center agent and the customer, since the agent has to work a bit harder to find all the communication records from a customer. 

But, this is often a less expensive way for a business to start running their first contact center. 

A good example of a Multichannel contact center is the Unity Contact Center offered by Nextiva.

What’s the Difference Between an Omnichannel and a Multichannel Contact Center?

omnichannel vs multichannel contact center
omni is customer-focused, all channels are present & integrated, and communication is unified. A multichannel platform is brand focused, all channels are present but not integrated, and communication is more fragmented.

Some argue that Omnichannel is more effective than Multichannel, but the biggest difference you will notice is in the customer experience. 

Both allow customers to contact you via multiple channels (phone, SMS, email, chat, etc.) but an omnichannel contact center integrates all of the communication channels together. 

A multichannel contact center, on the other hand, also handles multiple channels, but the various touchpoints (each time a customer contacts you across the various channels) are not connected. 

Nextiva offers both a multichannels contact center and an omnichannel contact center. To take a deep dive on the two products and the full comparison, check out this article comparing Five9 vs Unity Contact Center. 

Nextiva Contact Center vs. Unity Contact Center: Feature Comparison

Five9 vs Unity feature comparison

Which One Do I Need for My Business?

When it comes to deciding if your team needs an omnichannel or multichannel contact center, you should take into account the following: 

  • Your existing and projected volumes of customer service
  • The efficiencies that could help you cut costs
  • Requirements for future expansion
  • Budget 

Of course, the size of your workforce and whether you require an outbound call center may make the most difference.

Omnichannel is suited for teams who place high value customer experience, whereas multichannel might be better suited for companies that are focused on high volume of product. This type of business might place more of an emphasis on increasing online presence instead of broadening customer experience. 

It seems like a no-brainer to choose omnichannel, but many businesses choose multichannels. 

Here’s why – an omnichannel strategy does require an investment of time, budget, and ongoing maintenance. Of course, the personalized experience of an omnichannel solution does come at a higher pricetag so some companies opt to start with multichannel instead. 

Still not sure which one is right for your team? That’s ok. 

Setting up and creating an Omnichannel approach requires a significant investment and ongoing, continuous maintenance. Businesses that lack sufficient in-house resources may find the implementation and support of an Omnichannel strategy not sustainable. The personalized customer experience offered by Omnichannel comes with a steeper  price tag and investment than Multichannel, but the end result is improved customer retention and increased brand loyalty from the increased customer engagement. 

Talk to a Nextiva expert today to find out which solution is best for you.