Today’s buzzwords for better customer experiences include the movement from multichannel to omnichannel customer support. What are the real differences between multi- and omnichannel, and how do they impact your brand and loyalty? Let’s explore the substance to the buzzwords.

A support channel is the medium you offer to communicate with customers. Traditionally, support channels include telephone, email, forums or self-service knowledge bases, and live chat.

What’s multichannel customer support? Multichannel is customer support across two or more channels. Customers have multiple ways to interact with your company when buying or seeking help. The benefit is that a customer may choose between telephone and email, for example, depending upon which one they prefer at any given time.

However, if you choose to outsource support, some may represent they offer “omnichannel,” when in fact it is multichannel. Multichannel is “either/or.” The method of contact does not necessarily mean that the customer service representative (CSR) working one channel also works another. Going deeper, CSRs on one channel may not see the same data or have the same skills, levels, or authority to help a customer as a CSR on another channel.

What’s omnichannel customer support?

Omnichannel customer support offers customers numerous ways to interact. The innovation is that omnichannel provides the customer a seamless experience no matter which channel of support they pursue. What’s more, true omnichannel can let the customer, jumping into her car for work, to switch from email strings, for instance, to telephone. Omnichannel technology and processes allow the CSR to follow her without losing the string of interactions.

Multichannel support remains more common within in-house customer support centers. The costs of technology, training and so on may be prohibitive for some in-house operators. But multichannel still may be mislabeled as omnichannel.

The problem with multichannel is that phone support teams may not be in communication with the email support teams, for instance. Customers get very different experiences depending upon the team. This experience confuses them and leads to erosion of confidence in your brand.

Omnichannel customer support is holistic and cohesive to ensure positive customer experiences. A customer seeks you out how they best can, whatever they’re doing or wherever they may be. They receive superior customer support regardless of when or how they contact you.

With the rise of Artificial Intelligence and other technology, omnichannel continues to evolve and advance. As customers grow more acclimated to the options, the brands offering leading edge solutions clearly will take the lead in loyalty.