Omnichannel vs Multichannel Customer Service | Head-to-Head

Customers that use more than one channel to shop are shaping up to be the most valuable kind to target. For one, those that use multiple channels have a 30% higher customer lifetime value than those who use just the one.1

But asking yourself what channels you should be using is only the tip of the iceberg. You need to be asking yourself how you should be using them.

This is where the omnichannel versus multichannel customer service debate comes in. While both of these strategies are to do with using multiple channels for communicating with your customers, they have really key differences to keep in mind before you decide which to invest in.

We’re here to help you make your decision! This blog covers the ins and outs of both omnichannel and multichannel customer service, from their use cases to their benefits.

Suggested reading: Customer service is always evolving… is your business up to speed? Find out with our guide to A New Approach to Customer Service

What are omnichannel and multichannel customer service?

Before diving into the comparison, it’s crucial to understand the plain definitions of omnichannel and multichannel customer service.

Multichannel customer service is a model where businesses communicate with their customers through multiple, independent channels such as phone, email, social media, and live chat. 

But here’s the key point: each channel operates independently. If a customer starts a conversation with your customer service team over email and then switches to phone, they might have to explain their problem all over again because your phone team doesn’t have any of the information from the email.

Omnichannel customer service also involves businesses using multiple channels to communicate with customers — but here, the conversations are all interconnected. Meaning that if a customer called your customer service team after sending an email, the phone team will already have context over why they’re getting in touch. 

Omnichannel customer support models take into account the different devices customers are using, maintaining the continuity of their interaction with your business, and eliminating the need for repetition.

With that covered, let’s get into the pros and cons that both have to offer!

Pros and cons of multichannel customer service

1. Broadening customer reach

Pro: With multichannel customer service, businesses can ensure they’re available across various platforms, from the telephone and email to social media or live chat. This diversity allows customers to engage on the platforms they’re most comfortable with.

Con: While having multiple channels can increase customer reach, it can also lead to a scattered presence if not managed well. This can result in inconsistent customer service and a disjointed brand image.

2. Catering to customer preferences

Pro: Offering multichannel service caters to a variety of customer preferences. Some customers might favour a simple phone call, while others might opt for email or social media interactions. By providing diverse options, your business can please a broader audience.

Con: Managing multiple channels effectively requires significant resources and coordination. Without sufficient investment and planning, service levels could falter, creating a negative experience for customers.

Pros and cons of omnichannel customer service

While multichannel service provides an array of contact points, omnichannel customer service takes things a step further by integrating these channels, offering a seamless customer experience.

1. Ensuring consistency 

Pro: Omnichannel service ensures that customers enjoy a consistent level of service, regardless of the channel they choose to engage with. This consistency elevates brand trust and reinforces customer relationships.

Con: Implementing an effective omnichannel strategy demands an in-depth understanding of customer behaviours across all channels. It also requires sophisticated technology to integrate different channels, which could mean a substantial upfront investment.

2. Boosting efficiency

Pro: By sharing customer data across channels, omnichannel eliminates customers’ need to repeat their issues when switching from one channel to another. This streamlined process enhances efficiency and expedites issue resolution.

Con: While the efficient nature of omnichannel service is beneficial, it also presents the challenge of maintaining data privacy and security. Businesses need to have robust data security measures to protect sensitive customer information across channels.

3. Delivering personalised customer service

Pro: Omnichannel service provides a wealth of data about customers’ habits and preferences, enabling businesses to offer personalised service. This tailored approach enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Con: Achieving personalisation at scale can be challenging and resource-intensive. It requires a balanced combination of advanced data analysis tools and well-trained customer service personnel to leverage customer insights effectively.

Here’s a handy table outlining the various factors between omnichannel and multichannel customer service!

Omnichannel customer service
Multichannel customer service
What is it?A strategy that provides seamless and consistent communication across all customer touchpoints, allowing for a unified customer experience.A strategy where businesses communicate through multiple, independent channels, with each channel operating separately.
What are customer interactions like?Interactions are integrated across all channels, providing a seamless transition between touchpoints.Interactions are independent according to the channel, potentially leading to disjointed customer experiences.
Does information get shared between channels?Yes, customer data is shared across channels to provide a cohesive and personalised customer journey.Generally, data is not shared across channels, leading to potential repetition and inconsistencies.
How does it impact CX?Provides a seamless, personalised experience across all channels. The customer journey is continuous and smooth.The customer may receive different experiences on different channels. The customer journey may be fragmented.
How quickly does it solve customer issues?Very quickly, due to the seamless integration of channels, reducing the time taken to resolve customer issues.Can be slow due to separated channels, often increasing resolution time as customers may have to repeat information.
How high is its flexibility?High as it is capable of delivering consistent service across various devices and channels regardless of the entry point of the customer.May be lower as it doesn’t account for cross-channel transitions, resulting in less flexible customer journeys.
Is it scalable to customer demand?Highly scalable to meet dynamic customer needs and is prepared for sudden changes in demand.Scalability efforts may lead to disjointed customer experiences as each channel is often scaled separately.

managing customer service costs

Why omnichannel is the next step to multichannel 

While both multichannel and omnichannel strategies aim to serve customers across multiple channels, the omnichannel model carries significant advantages, making it an updated and more effective alternative to the multichannel model.

1. Enhanced customer experience

The omnichannel strategy acknowledges that customers may start their journey on one device and move to another. As such, it provides a consistent experience across all channels, creating a unified customer journey. This integrated approach prevents customers from having to repeat themselves and ensures they receive a personalised service, enhancing overall customer satisfaction.

2. Increased operational efficiency and lower costs

An omnichannel approach can help your business up your efficiency rates, reducing the time taken to resolve customer issues. It leads to reduced operational costs as the service team can handle queries faster, and customers don’t have to spend as much time reaching out through different channels.

3. Business growth and competitive advantage

Businesses adopting an omnichannel customer service model are better equipped to scale up or down according to demand, for example, during peak seasons like Christmas. This agility not only ensures the consistency of customer service quality but also provides a competitive edge in today’s dynamic business environment.

How a customer service outsourcing partner can help

With all of the above covered, it may seem like the inevitable decision is to go full speed ahead into an omnichannel customer service model. 

And if you can afford to you probably should. 75% of all customers want a consistent service experience from their businesses, no matter what or how many channels they use to get in touch.2

But it’s not necessarily an investment you can make if you don’t have the right agents backing up your customer service function in the first place. A huge 78% of consumers feel that omnichannel support is rare in their customer service interactions.3 Overcoming that in your business is going to require having expert-led, adaptable agents that you can trust to solve your customer queries and problems.

Plus, going omnichannel is an investment at the end of the day. You want to make sure that you’re choosing customer service strategies that are cost-efficient and provide optimal ROI. 

With the help of the right customer service outsourcing partner, you can have a support system that matches you to highly skilled agents at a rate that suits your business. Essentially, leaving you more time and resources to dedicate to going omnichannel.

Suggested reading: Not all customer service outsourcing is made alike! Discover the benefits of onshore customer service outsourcing with our in-depth guide.

Advance your omnichannel strategy with Odondo’s expert support

40% of customers use three or more channels to connect with customer service representatives.4 Using a wide range of channels isn’t just a nice-to-have anymore. It’s necessary for meeting your customers’ expectations and gaining a competitive advantage.

But simply using multiple channels isn’t enough. When you take into account important factors like enhancing the customer experience and choosing the most cost-efficient investment for your business, you need to make sure you’re choosing a model that goes above and beyond — i.e. omnichannel customer service.

And embracing an omnichannel approach doesn’t mean you have to disrupt your existing infrastructure. With the help of a trusted customer service outsourcing partner, you can benefit from having the support you need to navigate new investments while delivering optimal customer service throughout. 

We at Odondo can help. We offer a distributed, pay-as-you-go model of customer service. Meaning that you get a wider range of choice of expert agents, wherever they are, at a rate that scales to your demand. You never have to worry about paying too much or too little for your business’s customer service function.
Find out how we can help your business by getting in touch with one of our experts!

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Aamir Baloch

Aamir is one of the Co-Founders at Odondo, where he obsesses over the details to deliver a strong and compelling proposition for each of his clients.

Prior to Odondo, he was CTO at one of the UK's largest price comparison websites, with contact centres in the UK and India. In his spare time, he loves reading, politics, tennis, and playing the piano (badly).

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