Customer Experience

What’s the difference between a multi-channel, cross-channel and omni-channel customer experience?

By Rachel Ryan 15 March 2021

As technologies, channels and customer journeys have evolved, so too has the vocabulary. As you decide how best to communicate with customers – and what tools to use – it’s helpful to demystify the terminology.

One common area of confusion is around the terms ‘multi-channel’, ‘cross-channel’ and ‘omni-channel’. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages, but all have a role in the customer experience (CX). Let’s look at how you can use each approach to drive engagement.

Multi-channel: Multiple but separate

Multi-channel describes the way customers use one or more touchpoints, for example physical store, smartphone, tablet, live chat, email, social, voice or messaging apps. However, with a multi-channel approach, each works independently – there’s no integration from a communication or CX perspective.

This is an easy first step in making your brand more accessible to customers, particularly for SMEs seeking digital transformation quick-wins. It means you have a presence on – and can engage through – a range of channels. But, as you grow, it can lead to a disjointed CX. For example, service staff can’t easily see if people have already submitted an email when customers ring up. This can create frustration because customers have to repeat queries as they jump between channels.

Cross-channel: Multiple and connected 

Cross-channel is the next level up. It means you offer that range of touchpoints across different stages of the journey – with each channel integrated to provide a smoother CX.

For example, this could mean deploying a single chatbot that works across all channels. That way, it recognises customers’ past interactions as they move between touchpoints. You eliminate that frustration of having to repeat stories because the voice chatbot can see previous conversations from webchat.

It also means you can coordinate cross-channel campaigns based on what will drive the best engagement. So one campaign can include communication in a waterfall approach across email, SMS, WhatsApp, push notification and social – from one management platform and with integrated analytics.

Omni-channel: Multiple and interactive 

Omni-channel goes one step further. Not only does it account for the fact that customer journeys aren’t linear, but it also recognises that people engage with different channels simultaneously. A common example is using a mobile phone when in a physical store. Click-and-collect is another. An omni-channel customer experience breaks down that barrier between the online and offline worlds.

Can you use geolocation data to push special offers to customers walking past your stores? Can employees access a customer’s online wish list to help find items in the branch? Can you integrate your app with smart speakers, so people can verbally add items to their shopping list? Can you offer a loyalty programme that collates points and tailors offers from purchases on any channel?

These interactive and integrated experiences add the ‘wow’ factor – giving customers extra flexibility and personalisation that makes your brand fit more seamlessly into their everyday lives.

Remember: it’s about customers, not channels

You can achieve ROI with all 3 of these approaches. The key is to put the customer at the heart of your strategy, so you focus on connecting with people, not just channels or devices. 

That way, you can deliver personalised and successful journeys that matter – and have a direct impact on your business goals.

Want help deciding on the best channel approach for your business? Speak to an Engage Hub expert.

See other posts by Rachel Ryan

Product Manager

Rachel has over 11 years’ experience across the telecoms sector, ranging from Corporate Account Management up to her present role today as a Program Manager. She specialises in strategically developing the Engage Hub Channels for client campaigns that ultimately engage the end-user and drive interactive services. Rachel also plays a major role in Product Marketing, ensuring the Engage Hub platform is always at the forefront of the latest technological advancements.

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