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Are multi-channel and omni-channel contact centers the same?

Question:

I used to hear about multi-channel contact centers, now it’s omni-channel. Are they the same thing?

Answer:

While there are some surface similarities – both terms refer to contact centers that support customer interactions in more than one voice and/or digital channel – the differences are significant. Multi-channel contact centers manage each channel (e.g., voice, email, short message service (SMS)/text, chat, social media, messaging, etc.) in silos. In a multi-channel contact center each channel is staffed separately, the channel’s interactions are delivered to agents independently, and a discrete servicing application is used to document the interaction. Multi-channel contact centers place a major burden on customers, who have to repeat themselves each time they move to a new channel, resulting in increased costs, and often causing inconvenience and dissatisfaction.

Omni-channel contact centers are designed to enable prospects and customers to receive a consistently outstanding experience from well-informed and knowledgeable agents regardless of the channel(s) in which they prefer to interact. The first step in supporting omni-channel interactions is building a servicing environment that breaks down the channel silos and standardizes the handling of all interactions. This can happen only if the contact center has a centralized system, such as an automatic call distributor (ACD), with universal queuing technology that can intelligently consolidate the arrival and routing of all interactions, regardless of their channel of origin. These solutions use guidelines established by the company to route interactions to the best resource to handle each customer contact. Omni-channel contact centers are the future of servicing organizations because everyone wins in these environments – they enhance the customer experience, increase agent engagement, and reduce enterprise costs.