One of the buzziest business words of the past year has been “omnichannel.” If you think it sounds kind of familiar, you’re right: it’s a lot like multichannel. Despite the supposed similarity, however, they don’t mean the exact same thing. While both words’ prefixes are based in Latin, multi means “more than one” or “many” while omni means “all” or “every.”
Applying this knowledge to the contact center industry, multichannel means offering customers different ways of communicating, like SMS or voice. These channels are usually siloed, meaning they aren’t connected to one another and don’t pass data between them. With omnichannel, everything is connected—customers can receive seamless, continuous support on any channel if and when they switch back and forth.
However, while 80% of companies provide multichannel service, less than 40% include the mobile channel. It’s important to note that SMS is usually lumped into the mobile channel along with other mobile capabilities like apps or web browsing. Some studies have considered SMS as its own channel and have found that only 29% of contact centers offer SMS.
If businesses today do use texting, it’s usually for one-way marketing purposes: 70% send SMS notifications and reminders. While it’s commendable that they use texting at all, they’re only letting it live up to 50% of its potential.
What’s the other 50%?
Allowing customers to text back.
Customers recognize the power of texting, so why don’t businesses? According to a recent Harris Interactive study commissioned by OneReach (full report here), 64% of consumers would rather text a company than wait on hold. We did a more in-depth post on the benefits to businesses and customers here, but suffice it to say that texting trumps phone in terms of cost, time and energy.
Imagine what businesses could do if they combined text with the forms of communication they currently have. That’s one more channel they’d have in their omnichannel tool belt, one that brings with it nearly global coverage and staggering use rates (over 80% in the US). Other smartphone applications allow users access information wherever they are, but texting goes one step further—it doesn’t need an internet connection like so many mobile apps do.
For example, if a business owner calls a contact center every month to reorder print cartridges, an omnichannel solution would provide him with the option to reorder before he even has to sift through the phone menu. Even better, an omnichannel solution that includes SMS would allow him to reorder at his convenience without being stuck on a phone call to make the order. In another example, an omnichannel solution could remind someone that they are about to incur an overdraft fee and allow them to transfer money via SMS or a phone app.
Getting all the channels to cooperate with one another requires one more step, though: integration. That, in turn, requires cooperation from different departments (IT, marketing, customer service, etc.) to keep things consistent across all channels. Over 80% of contact centers have non-integrated communication channels, but they’ll get there in time.
Thinking back to our Latin lesson, connecting all the different forms of communication is really what separates omnichannel from multichannel. Multi- means “a lot.” Omni- means “all,” but in this case, it’s not so much about having all the channels as it is having them work all together.
Ultimately, omnichannel is about seamlessly sharing data across all channels (and devices) to deliver the best and most consistent customer experience.
It just so happens they want SMS to be part of that.