Today’s technology helps customers stay connected with businesses more than ever before. But with so many different ways for customers to communicate with companies, how do you ensure they get seamless, quality service throughout their journey? Omnichannel customer service is the key.
To start exploring how you can apply this strategy and meet rising customer expectations, we’ve put together this omnichannel customer service guide.
What is omnichannel customer service?
Omnichannel customer service is an approach to customer service that works to deliver a seamless experience across every channel, touchpoint, and device your customers use to communicate with you.
Throughout the customer journey, customers use a range of avenues to interact with your brand — from mobile phones to computers, digital or in-person channels, social media, SMS, email, messaging apps, and everything in between. And they’ll want to switch freely between those channels during their journey.
Providing an omnichannel experience involves integrating all your communication channels into a single, unified platform that provides agents with a comprehensive picture of customers, including their purchase and interaction history. This way, each and every customer interaction flows together like a continuous conversation, regardless of when, where, or how they reach out.
What is the difference between multichannel and omnichannel customer service?
Multichannel support and service is when businesses offer multiple channels for customers to contact them. Wherever your customers seek help, you can be there to meet them.
However, with a multichannel approach, each channel acts as a separate, disconnected unit, potentially with its own teams, systems, processes, or even goals.
This disconnect can cause issues for your support teams and customers alike. Silos hamper communication between agents and departments, and customers have to repeat themselves when reaching out. Because of this, it’s all-too-easy to end up with multiple support agents working on the same issue, or, worse yet, giving customers disparate information and resolutions.
Omnichannel customer service builds on a multichannel approach by integrating every touchpoint so that, no matter what platform the customer uses to communicate, they get a single brand experience.
Customers can reach you when, where, and how it’s most convenient for them in their customer journey. For instance, they can start with a phone call to customer service, continue the interaction via email, and follow up with live chat on your website — and their entire interaction history will follow them to form a cohesive, personalized experience.
Why is omnichannel customer service important?
The ability to create seamless support experiences makes omnichannel customer service a vital part of the broader omnichannel customer experience. As part of the overall customer experience, customer service is closely tied to customer loyalty and satisfaction — a whopping 96 percent of consumers say customer service is important in their loyalty to a brand.
An omnichannel approach for customer service can help you give customers the type of experiences that foster a long-term customer relationship, including:
- More options for communication. Just as every journey is unique, customers have individual preferences for their interactions. Some needs are easily met through a simple text message. Others require more back and forth through email or real-time interaction through live chat or video chat. And they vary depending on where customers are on their journey, too. In fact, 74 percent of customers have used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction, according to Salesforce.
- Engagement in real time. Today’s consumers want immediate gratification, whether they’re communicating in person or through a digital channel. Technology enables us to contact friends and family — and often get responses — in an instant. And it’s the same story with businesses. Customers expect their in-store and digital customer service experiences to mirror one another with instant replies based on personal context.
- Seamless experiences. With an omnichannel system, agents, armed with context, know who a customer is and what they’ve reached out about previously. This way, each conversation builds upon the previous ones so customers don’t have to start from scratch with every interaction. As 76 percent of customers expect agents to know their contact information, as well as their product and service history, consistency is a standard benchmark for positive service experiences.
The benefits of omnichannel customer service
By elevating your customer service experience with an omnichannel strategy, your customers, team, and business enjoy a host of benefits. Let’s review some of the most significant ones.
Efficient customer service operations
With a unified system to implement omnichannel service, your teams can collaborate more freely and share notes and information to help resolve customer issues faster. In addition, they can better coordinate so agents aren’t duplicating efforts on the same request.
This all leads to increased productivity, reduced handle time, and cost savings for your business. On top of that, the time saved allows your support agents to give more care and attention to their customer interactions for more personalized experiences and improved service quality.
Higher customer satisfaction
Seamless, personalized customer service and faster, more consistent support build brand trust and loyalty. So much so, that 80 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from brands that offer personalized experiences. With each positive experience, your customers’ satisfaction is reinforced, and they’ll be more likely, not only to return, but to refer their contacts to you, too.
Better customer insights
Having all your interactions across channels in one place can give you a holistic view of your customer behavior. On an individual level this helps better meet each customer’s needs. On a macro level it helps you find opportunities to improve the customer journey. You can see which routes customers prefer to use for different services and fine-tune your channels to cater to that.
Set your business apart
Seamless cross-channel experiences are a top priority for 42 percent of consumers. Yet, many businesses still fail to provide them. So if you do, you’re giving your business a much better chance of standing out from the crowd.
With convenient, integrated touchpoints, customers can trust that they’ll get the kind of consistent service they want.
According to Jonah Sachs, author and entrepreneur, “Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.”
Providing omnichannel service also opens the door for omnichannel marketing, using the same kind of approach to build brand awareness and show potential customers that your business puts customers first.
6 ways to provide omnichannel customer service
Now that we’ve seen the ways omnichannel can benefit your customers and business, you may be wondering: what are some practical ways to implement this in your customer support experience? Here are some best practices to get you started.
1. Know what your customers want
Knowing your customers’ needs and preferred channels helps make sure your customer journey is orchestrated to align with them.
To do this, create a customer journey map using customer data to pinpoint which channels your customers use for their different needs, whether that’s looking for information, shopping, or finding help. It’s important to ensure that you're not only available on those channels, but providing consistent experiences across all of them.
Once you understand your customers’ needs, you can also leverage the different strengths of each channel. For example, using email automation can help bring efficiency and personalization into the channel by keeping customers informed of only what’s relevant to them.
2. Enable fast responses
Customers want fast service. Offering service through live chat can connect customers to your support team — without the wait. Agents offer prompt and personalized solutions and can proactively address customers’ issues before they escalate into a bigger problem.
When considering response time, don’t forget social media. Customers who send questions through direct messages and comments expect responses. And fast — people who post a complaint on Twitter expect a response within 30 minutes. Engaging in a public forum like social media can also increase brand awareness and show current and potential customers the quality of service you provide.
3. Implement self-service capabilities
Self-service has become an increasingly common channel for customer service automation. By offering self-service through knowledge bases, FAQs, documentation, and other means, you save time for both customers and support agents.
Any self-service options should be well-organized, easy to find, and intuitive to use. This way, customers can find answers on their own quickly, further developing brand trust and enhancing the customer experience.
4. Offer mobile-friendly service
Statista predicts the number of mobile devices will reach 18.22 billion by 2025. Beyond staying in touch through text, voice, and messaging, smartphones give consumers access to a wealth of information right at their fingertips.
So, it’s best to ensure that all your customer service resources — whether it’s your live chat widget, a self-service portal, or support email link — offer a user experience that’s optimized for mobile.
5. Leverage tools and technologies
Using the right tools can make it easier for your business to provide omnichannel service.
Chatbots provide immediate answers to routine questions around the clock. They can be housed in several places, including your website or mobile app or through SMS and popular messaging channels like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
You can also use platforms that consolidate your communication channels, bringing all incoming customer service requests together in one spot.
These systems include CRM integrations to incorporate customer profiles, context, and interactions into a single view. This way, your agents can provide personalized solutions and recommendations based on customer preferences, history, and behavior.
By bringing everything into one platform, you can get data and insights into your team’s performance across channels and find ways to improve the customer experience.
6. Develop a customer-centric team
In the end, people power your customer service operations. Your support team is the public face of your business. This makes it all the more crucial to set customer-centric goals from the very top and spread them throughout your organization.
One way to start building an omnichannel contact center is by hiring the right personality and skills for understanding customer needs and responding with empathy.
Your onboarding and training resources should include the intricacies and processes of handling support requests across all your channels, whether on or off-line.
You can further encourage positive support experiences with incentives and rewards for your agents.
Real-world omnichannel customer service examples
Let’s explore how some businesses have incorporated omnichannel experiences into their customer service.
Target department stores offer omnichannel customer service across their website, mobile app, and physical stores.
Customers can look up products through Target’s site or mobile app, see inventory availability at nearby locations, and reference the exact aisle number and store map for easier locating.
They can order products for delivery or take advantage of services to buy online and pick up in-store. Customers get a text notification and email once their order is ready. To take it a step further, Target has dedicated parking spaces where customers can park and select ‘Drive Up’ services to have their purchases brought out to them.
When shopping in the store, you can use the Target app to scan items for product info, check for discounts, and pay at checkout.
Starbucks Coffee provides options for making purchases through their website and their mobile app.
Customers can order online for delivery or pick up in-store in an area reserved for mobile orders so they can avoid the line.
Even if they don’t order ahead, customers can also use the mobile app to pay in-store and manage their rewards accounts.
Bank of America
Bank of America helps customers locate branches, book appointments, make deposits, pay bills, and manage their accounts through their mobile app, smartphone, or computer.
Customers can use the app to review account alerts and lock or unlock their debit cards.
Omnichannel customer service puts customers at the center
The digitally savvy customer uses multiple channels to interact with your business. And it’s no longer enough just to simply provide them.
It’s becoming increasingly important to integrate all your channels and touchpoints so customers can reach out to you when, where, and how they want while trusting that your business will remember them.
Creating a personalized journey in this way means you can deliver more memorable experiences that build lasting relationships. In the end, that’s how you’ll ensure you have happy, satisfied customers who keep coming back.