If you’re paying attention to new developments within marketing and customer service, you may have noticed a new buzzword making the rounds – omnichannel. This rather mysterious and arcane term hides behind it the most likely vision of what both worlds – those of marketing and customer service – will look like in the 2020s.
Many of you, however, remain puzzled by the term – hence this article. We’re going to take a quick tour of omnichannel customer service and marketing and answer some of the most commonly asked questions.
What is omnichannel customer service?
In a nutshell, the term omnichannel customer service refers to the practice of providing a consistent client experience across every communication channel. By cooperating instead of working in parallel, customers are presented with a much more engaging experience.
The key point here is consistency. In a properly managed omnichannel strategy, it doesn’t matter whether or not your clients interact with your brand through your physical store, your mobile app, website, or your Instagram profile – a consistent message is delivered through all of these channels.
What’s more, channels can be combined in order to augment each other – more on that later.
This approach answers the problem of continued fragmentation of consumer bases in the current social media climate. Many different demographics are spread across different platforms and services – and you want to be able to capture all of them.
What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel?
Omnichannel strategies differ from multichannel marketing or customer service in a certain principle – omnichannel gathers every point of contact the customer has with a brand and integrates it into a seamless experience through consistent messaging. This differs from multichannel strategies, which
Consistency is a key point here, although it doesn’t necessarily imply that every channel should deliver exactly the same message. Certain platforms and points of contacts find more favour within certain demographics – and the messaging they convey should be adjusted accordingly.
Unlike traditional multichannel strategies, omnichannel customer service and marketing is focused on providing consistent services as well as content. Basically, no matter which channel the customer chooses to use, they should have access to all of your services.
Why is omnichannel customer service important?
Omnichannel customer service and marketing are important due to the continuing shifts in customer demographics and preferences. The older generation is slowly becoming overtaken by tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z.
Right now, we’re in a precarious position, where all of these different groups and demographics are relatively the same size; as such, no business can afford to ignore a certain group. To add to the problem, no two millennials are the same. Most are on Facebook, true, but there’s a significant – and growing – number of those who prefer Twitter, instead. All of these platforms and demographics must be catered to, which usually means running different ad campaigns or having different teams providing support on each platform.
The omnichannel approach attempts to solve this problem by establishing a key principle of consistency. Ad campaigns are designed with key messaging in mind first, before receiving slight adjustments for each channel and demographic. In the case of omnichannel customer service, communication channels are integrated into a single tool in order to ensure a consistent quality of support.
It needs to be noted, however – even though omni means all in Latin, omnichannel doesn’t mean targeting every channel in existence. Focus on the platforms your customers are using, and meet them head-on.
How do brands use omnichannel customer service?
Enough theory – let’s talk about specifics. How far can you take omnichannel customer service and marketing? Pretty far, as it turns out!
Remember how we mentioned combining channels to augment each other? Sephora elevated that concept to an art form. Let’s say you’re looking at a new foundation shade in one of their stores, but you’re not sure if it’s the right fit. Simply pull out your phone and open the Sephora app. Scan the product, and “try on” your new makeup via augmented reality. Simple, effective, and barely the tip of the iceberg.
Starbucks is also committed to the omnichannel experience. While it’s an exclusively brick-and-mortar operation (for obvious reasons), the company’s digital offerings also play a major role in its business strategy. The Starbucks app is packed with functionality – it allows customers to place orders ahead of time, letting them skip the queue; it also shows users the nearest cafes and even provides a way to identify which song is currently playing at any given store, with the option of saving it to the user’s Spotify account.
These two examples are just some of the creative applications of the omnichannel philosophy by major brands.
Is omnichannel important for me?
This is a tough question to answer, but one that deserves a fair attempt anyway. On one hand, it’s the perfect method to reach multiple demographics across dozens of different platforms. It also allows you to leverage multiple points of contact and communication channels in order to drive customer engagement to new levels.
On the other hand, embracing omnichannel customer service or marketing is a major commitment. It will require a significant investment of time and resources. Before making a decision, it is worth examining your customer base, your market niche, and your own ability to commit. Ultimately, the decision is in your hands. Fortunately, we can assist – as it happens, implementing omnichannel customer service is one of the byproducts of automating your customer service – and as it happens, we know a thing or two about that. If you’re interested in learning more, read our guide to customer service automation!