Everything your business needs to know about the omnichannel customer experience

Multichannel / omnichannel
May 17, 2024
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As I often tell my team, customer experience is not something that a company can draw in closed rooms. It’s entirely dependent on what your customers want — and that’s why the customer experience (CX) of 2000 will be very much different from the CX of 2024. Today, customers interact with businesses through various channels, such as social media, email, phone, WhatsApp and physical stores. Per Adobe, 90% of customers expect a consistent brand experience across all channels.

So what is your service team to do? 

The answer is an omnichannel customer experience. Referring to the integration of multiple channels into a single dashboard, an omnichannel inbox provides a consistent, personalised and seamless experience for customers. It’s about ensuring every interaction, regardless of the channel, feels like a continuation of the previous one. 

From hospitality, leisure and travel industries to e-commerce and automotive, it’s the need of every type of business, small or large. That way, you can build trust and loyalty through consistency and personalisation and enhance customer satisfaction by reducing friction and effort. 

Let’s start with the basics first!

Basics of an omnichannel customer experience

What is an omnichannel customer experience?

Omnichannel experiences can be seen as an approach in marketing, sales or customer support that provides a consistent and personalised experience across all touchpoints and channels. It integrates multiple channels, such as social media, email, phone, SMS, live chat and in-person interactions, to create a unified and cohesive experience for customers. 

In customer support, customers can initiate conversations across any channel they prefer without repeating information. Thanks to a unified dashboard, the support team has the context, purchase history and details of past interactions, irrespective of the channel through which the latest communication is made. 

Omnichannel vs. multichannel: what is the difference? 

Omnichannel and multichannel are often used interchangeably, but they do differ. Multi means ‘many’—it offers support across ‘many’ channels for customers to interact with a company, but each channel could operate independently, often with separate teams and processes. Omni means ‘all’—omnichannel customer experience usually integrates all channels to provide a cohesive and seamless experience. 

And that of course is the difference between them, but let's go into a little bit more detail.

The multichannel customer experience definition is:

A setup that allows a company uses multiple communication channels independently to interact with customers. These channels can include physical stores, websites, social media, email, phone support, and more.

An multichannel experience includes:

  • Independent, siloed channels.
  • Inconsistent customer data.
  • Separate strategies for each channel.
  • Fragmented customer journey.

The omnichannel customer experience definition is:

A cohesive and integrated approach where all communication channels are interconnected, providing a seamless and consistent experience for customers regardless of the channel they use.

An omnichannel experience includes:

  • Integrated, interconnected channels.
  • Unified customer data.
  • Consistent, aligned strategies.
  • Seamless, continuous customer journey.

The difference between multichannel and omnichannel customer experience

In essence, while multichannel focuses on the availability of multiple channels, omnichannel emphasises the integration and consistency of the customer experience across those channels. This integration is crucial for meeting modern customer expectations of seamless and personalised interactions with brands.

The main differences here are based on continuity and consistency. In multichannel, not all channels are necessarily connected to each other (although they can be!) but when we speak of omnichannel, all channels must be connected to offer consistency and continuity across all touchpoints. A customer should be able to switch seamlessly across channels without losing the context of the earlier conversation. 

💡What's good to know is that multichannel and omnichannel are often used interchangeably. So whenever a multichannel inbox is mentioned it can still mean that the channels used are all centralised in one spot and a seamless experience is delivered.

You can think of omnichannel as the upgrade of multichannel in this sense.

An omnichannel customer experience example

Customers can contact Trengo via Facebook, WhatsApp, live chat, website forms and more. All  channels are connected, so when someone starts a conversation, no matter the channel, this lands in  an inbox accessible to all relevant members of the team.

When someone sends a WhatsApp, but say the Trengo team hasn't responded (it's unlikely but... for this example let's go with it) and that same person then sends a Live Chat message, those two messages will be one and the same conversation thread within the Trengo inbox.

Even though, a customer reaches out via various channels a Trengo employee will have the full overview of:

  • Which channels have been used
  • What the customer has tried to communicate
  • How many touchpoints there have been
  • What the conversation history is
  • And much more

Now the Trengo employee can respond, knowing the full context of the question. And that will offer prospects and customers a seamless experience. They won't have to keep explaining themselves over and over or be worried that their ask gets lost because there are so many channels for the team to look at. Because all questions come into one inbox, and are picked up according to their priority.

In contrast, a company may have all these channels, but they may not be connected — each conversation started by a prospect or customer will land in the inbox. Team members may be picking up the same query at the same time, they have no visibility into each others conversations, and waste time on giving the same answer. Or worse, because there are so many channels the inbox is just flooded full with conversations and the team looses track of all of them. Not being able to offer an omnichannel experience, and have an omnichannel inbox will lead to inefficiency.

A brief history of customer experience

Customer service has evolved significantly over the years, shaped mainly by technological advancements and changing consumer needs. 

Here’s a brief overview:

  • Face-to-face service (1760-1820) the first industrial revolution introduced the concept of customer service teams, with face-to-face and mail communication being the primary means of interaction.
  • The invention of the telephone (1876) — Alexander Graham Bell’s invention revolutionised communication, making phone calls the primary means of customer support. Call centres became a thing in the 1960s, and IVR technology was introduced in the 1970s. 
  • The Internet era (1990s) — the rise of the Internet and e-commerce led to new channels like email and live chat. Customer support software and CRM systems have emerged; now, businesses can track and manage customer data more efficiently.
  • Social media support (2000s) — social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook became essential for customer engagement and reputation management. 
  • Customer operations platforms — more tools meant more conversations. Without efficient management, the support would be chaotic, inefficient and slow. Many customer operations platforms popped up, which helped businesses control the conversations. Team collaboration, omnichannel support, automation for repetitive tasks and integrations with other platforms made customer support easy for both agents and customers.  
  • The future: AI customer service — artificial intelligence is transforming customer service, enabling businesses to automate tasks, provide personalised support and gain deeper insights into their audience. Chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming increasingly prevalent, and machine learning and natural language processing continue to advance. 

The significance of an integrated customer experience

An integrated customer experience is crucial in today’s digital age. First of all, it’s what customers prefer. Per BusinessWire, when asked about the most important features when contacting a company’s customer service department: 

  • 55% said “easy to get through to a live agent” 
  • 52% said “available 24 hours/day”
  • 41% said “a website chat with a live agent” 
  • 40% picked “multiple options for communicating” (i.e., by text, email, etc.).

If you look the other way, you may risk losing a significant portion of your customers — and prospects. According to a study by Qualtrics, 80% of customers would switch to a competitor because of a poor customer experience. 

Additionally, an omnichannel experience makes your team efficient at building meaningful connections. Increased visibility into customer interactions across all channels ensures no issue gets lost in the shuffle. Collaboration tools streamline communication between team members. Plus, plenty of automation features, such as auto-responders and bots, handle routine inquiries — your agents can focus more on complex issues and personalised interactions. Integrations with necessary tools like CRM software and marketing platforms provide a complete customer profile, past order history and so on. We will talk more about the significance — and benefits — of omnichannel customer experience in the section below. 

What are the main benefits of an omnichannel customer experience?

When you implement an omnichannel customer experience strategy, you open the door to a wide range of benefits that can transform your business. 

Here are some of the most significant advantages:

1. Seamless customer interactions across platforms

As discussed, omnichannel is all about consistency and continuity. According to HubSpot’s Customer Expectations Report, 86% of consumers expect conversations with agents to seamlessly move between channels.

With an omnichannel approach, you can provide a cohesive experience that follows the customer wherever they go. Whether the conversation is happening on social media, via email, live chat or even when walking into a physical store, the experience is smooth and uninterrupted. That brings us to another advantage of omnichannel customer experience: increased customer satisfaction

2. Higher customer satisfaction

Did you know that for 73% of customers, one of their biggest frustrations with customer support is having to repeat themselves multiple times? It’s true — think about yourself explaining your issue to a bot, then to another agent via social media, and then to another via email. But with omnichannel? That’s not happening. 

On the contrary, when you provide consistent and personalised service across all channels, you’ll see a significant boost in customer satisfaction. Companies that adopt omnichannel strategies enjoy a 91% increase in customer satisfaction. Increased customer satisfaction ultimately translates to customer loyalty, a direct outcome of enabling an omnichannel customer experience.

3. Enhanced customer loyalty

Understanding and meeting customer expectations more effectively builds loyalty. With an omnichannel approach, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to customers by providing a seamless experience across all touchpoints. This leads to increased customer retention—in a study by Aberdeen Group Inc., the group finds that companies with strong omnichannel strategies retain 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak strategies. 

4. Increased revenue

Omnichannel experiences lead to increased revenue, with companies experiencing around 10% year-over-year increase in annual revenue. Using Trengo’s omnichannel inbox, EVVO HOME, a high-end appliance online store, increased revenue by 7%, in addition to decreasing response time by 50%. 

The underlying philosophy is simple: when customers are satisfied, they tend to stay longer with a brand — that means repeat business and positive word-of-mouth. Additionally, omnichannel experiences reduce the likelihood of lost sales due to friction or inconvenience, further contributing to increased revenue. And let’s not forget the bonus of team efficiency and cost savings that come with an omnichannel inbox! 

5. Better customer insights

You can get customer insights from each channel separately. However, data analysis becomes interesting with an omnichannel inbox — you get consolidated customer data from all channels combined. Which channel is more popular among customers? Revenue per channel? What type of queries a channel is mostly used for? Customer satisfaction across channels? Team and agent performance and so on. 

Businesses gain a deeper understanding of their customer’s preferences and behaviours. You can use these insights to personalise experiences, identify patterns and trends, improve marketing efforts and optimise customer service even more. 

Challenges in implementing omnichannel strategies

Implementing an effective omnichannel strategy is an excellent move, but it comes with its own set of challenges. If you are switching, it would be better to be aware of these potential hurdles to overcome them and ensure a better customer experience. 

The key challenges include:

Integration of technology and channels

A complicated aspect of omnichannel support is integrations—bringing together multiple channels and technologies can be a complex and time-consuming process. Ideally, omnichannel is not just about combining all your channels into one but also other software and tools your team uses. Companies must ensure that their CRM (e.g., Salesforce), marketing automation (e.g., HubSpot) and customer service platforms (e.g., Trengo) are all connected and sharing data in real time. 

It really depends on your omnichannel tool whether integrations can be done easily. Customer engagement platforms like Trengo, will onboard your team fast, while setting up the omnichannel inbox.

The onboarding experience, where I was guided by multiple fantastic people at Trengo, most notably Charlotte Beenen, was smooth. We had total control and a good overview,Mosha L., a Trengo customer, says. 

The onboarding was superb. Very flexible, gave you a relaxed feeling, but most importantly, they have a lot of product knowledge and are fully committed to assisting you,” another user shared

Training and organisational changes required

Organisational changes would also include consistency in messaging and branding. Omnichannel is all about creating unified experiences — and these experiences should be facilitated across every channel and platform. There must be no discrepancy between the website and social media and between YouTube and WhatsApp. 

Personalised customer care

A McKinsey study shows that 71 percent of customers expect companies to deliver personalised support. And 76 percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. When it comes to an omnichannel experience, you will need to automate certain tasks for more efficiency. This presents a challenge: offering personalised customer support.

To do it right, companies need to understand their customers’ needs, behaviours and interests and use that knowledge to create a personalised experience across all channels. This is where the right tools come into play. A right customer operations platform that offers the team a peek into customers’ purchase orders, past interactions and the use of AI to analyse their preferences. Similarly, integrating the platform with the marketing platform helps the team map out someone’s buyer journey (or their stage in the sales funnel). Based on these insights, the support team can finally create messages tailored to a specific customer or a group of similar customers.

Improve your omnichannel customer experience in 3 steps

So how do you improve your omnichannel customer experience? Customer service is not a one-off achievement — and creating omnichannel experiences is no different. It’s an ongoing process where you learn, unlearn and learn to find what’s best — and what’s not. 

Here’s how you can deliver an effective omnichannel customer experience:

1. Choose the right channels

First off, choose which channels are important to your customers. Selecting the right channels is crucial to providing a streamlined omnichannel experience. You need to understand how your customers interact with your brand and prioritise channels that provide the most value.

For instance, if your customers are active on social media (or a specific channel, such as Instagram), ensure your social media channels are integrated with your customer service platform. Customer journeys for some businesses, such as e-commerce, are more complex. That would require a more comprehensive approach, needing not only more channels but other aspects of the journey to be integrated as well.

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Let’s take Neiman Marcus as an example. Other than their presence across different channels, they have made the shopping experience easier for shoppers. You can shop directly on Instagram, Facebook and the website, as well as in physical stores. 

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Similarly, Hubo, a Netherlands-based DIY store with 180 stores across the country, wanted to focus more on WhatsApp. Utilising Trengo’s WhatsApp native integration, they have achieved:

  • 50% decrease in response time
  • 40% increase in engagement
  • 70% increase in repeat business

In addition, Trengo’s location finder makes it easy for customers to find a store nearest to them. 

2. Leverage technology

Technology plays a vital role in managing customer interactions efficiently. Along with focusing on the right channels, implementing the right tools can help you streamline processes, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction. For instance, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can centralise customer data and provide a single customer view. Chatbots and AI-powered solutions can automate routine inquiries and provide 24/7 support. Omnichannel customer service platforms like Trengo can integrate all channels, in addition to your favorite CRM software and marketing platforms, to provide a consistent experience.

Huakai, a Spain-based tour operator, is able to handle three times more requests per day…in half the time they would do earlier. “The automated replies and quick responses have helped us a lot, especially with answering the FAQs we get from our travelers,” shared Laura Alvarez, in charge of the commercial department at Huakai.

3. Utilise insights

Data is the lifeline of an excellent omnichannel customer experience—it helps you gain a deeper understanding of your customer’s behavior, preferences and pain points. Key metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Customer Effort Score (CES) can offer you valuable insights into customer loyalty, happiness and ease of interaction. 

NPS measures customer loyalty by asking: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our brand to a friend or colleague?” CSAT measures customer satisfaction with specific interactions or transactions, while CES measures how easy or difficult it is for a customer to interact with your brand.

For instance, if your NPS score is low, you may need to focus on improving the overall customer experience, while a low CSAT score may indicate issues with specific touchpoints or interactions. Similarly, a high CES score indicates that customers find it easy to interact with your brand, while a low score suggests that you need to simplify and streamline the customer journey.

Additionally, you can also use data to spot trends and identify different customer segments, and using that, tailor your marketing efforts to those specific groups. Companies like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon have successfully utilised data insights to create personalised experiences for their customers. Netflix uses machine learning algorithms to recommend TV shows and movies based on a user’s viewing history, while Amazon uses data to suggest products and offer personalised promotions.

Omnichannel makes for the best customer journey

From social media to apps and from WhatsApp to live chat, customers are everywhere. To win them —and to stay competitive — your brand should enable them to reach you on every channel. And to achieve this, it’s essential to select the most valuable channels for your customers, use technology to streamline processes and utilise insights to optimise interactions. 

Take the first step towards delivering a consistent customer experience with Trengo — our omnichannel inbox, automation capabilities, data intelligence and integrations are designed to help your customers become your advocates. 

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