This period of change and challenge has taught us all how important it is to connect with customers on multiple platgforms, and if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed a new term gaining buzz in business and marketing circles: Omnichannels.
Like everyone else, you were probably left scratching your head and wondering what these channels are. More importantly, you’re wondering why your business needs them.
A Foreign Language
The idea of OMNI channels has evolved out of “multi-channel” business methods. One of the most famous examples is multi-channel marketing, in which a business markets across multiple channels simultaneously. There may be print ads in magazines and newspapers, TV ads, radio spots, digital ads, and social media marketing involved, as well as in-store advertising.
When it comes to customer service, “multi-channel” often encompasses the same channels (in-store, online, social media, and so on).
With a multi-channel approach, you could pick and choose which channels you were present on. Omnichannels are different.
The key difference is in the prefix. “Multi” is short for multiple, which stems from the Latin for “many” or “much.” In essence, it refers to being present on several different channels. The prefix “omni” comes from Latin too. “Omnis” means “every” or “all.” If you have a multi-channel approach, you’re on several channels. If you adopt an Omnichannel approach, you’re on all channels.
Do You Need to Be Omnipresent?
If you’re using Omnichannels, you might consider yourself “omnipresent”—everywhere at once. You might be active on several social media platforms, using web chat on your website in addition to FAQs, and operating phone lines and in-store customer service. You may also offer email, text message, and old-fashioned snail mail.
The question most people have is whether or not they really need to be on all different channels. Isn’t a multi-channel approach good enough? If you’re on Instagram, do you really need to offer customer support through Snapchat too?
The answer is increasingly becoming “yes.” As your customer base diversifies, you need to be where they are. More often than not, your customers are scattered across a number of different contact channels. Some people will prefer to pop into the store to ask a question, while others will email you. Still others will contact you on social media.
In fact, most people will likely use a multi-channel approach to contact you throughout their time as your customers!
Where Multi-Channel Fails
You may not be convinced you need Omnichannels. You’re not sure you need to be on every single platform your customers might use to contact you. A multi-channel approach seems good enough for many business owners and corporate executives.
Yet the multi-channel approach has its shortcomings, which is partly where Omnichannels are gaining steam.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two approaches is the idea of a unified strategy. Multi-channel admits you need to be present on different channels, but it doesn’t promote the idea of a unified strategy across all channels. Instead, it emphasizes the uniqueness of each channel and encourages you to take a different approach to different channels. Multi-channel becomes multi-strategy.
Omnichannels, by contrast, stress the importance of one consistent, unified strategy for providing superior customer service across all channels.
Creating Expectations (and Delivering)
Omnichannels are all about creating expectations for your customer base. Whether they interact with you via Twitter or in person, they know they’re going to get the same high-quality service.
Omnichannels, then, allow you to deliver that experience across all different channels to uphold those expectations. You may even exceed some customers’ expectations, particularly for channels where customer service standards aren’t usually great.
In a world where delivering great customer service is one of the only things a company can do to differentiate itself, Omnichannels are indispensable.