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What is omnichannel? A CX guide for 2024

Omnichannel is a strategy that makes it easier to support customers across channels. Learn how an omnichannel approach can improve your customer experience.

Da Lisa Painter, Sr. Director, Customer Experiences

Ultimo aggiornamento December 29, 2023

Omnichannel definition

Omnichannel is a customer experience strategy that creates connected and consistent customer interactions across channels and touchpoints. Companies that take an omnichannel approach connect customer context and data across systems and tools for a more personalized CX.

Picture this: You buy two walkie-talkies for a camping trip. After turning them on, you can’t get them to work. You contact support via email on your work computer but are slow to get a response. Before they can solve your issue, you leave your office to catch a ride to your campsite, leaving you with two nonfunctioning radio transceivers and no way to fix them.

Now, imagine you purchased these walkie-talkies from an omnichannel business. You start the online customer support process on your work computer and immediately pick up the conversation using WhatsApp during your ride. Before your ride stops for gas, the support team has already helped you fix your devices, and you’re ready for a weekend of fun.

This unbroken chain of communication is one part of what makes omnichannel unique. Follow this customer experience (CX) guide to learn more about omnichannel, how it works, its benefits, and how you can implement an omnichannel experience for your business.

A graphic showcases the definition of omnichannel.

How does omnichannel work?

An omnichannel approach connects channels across departments. This ensures your marketing, service, and sales data are linked, enabling your business to deliver cohesive experiences across channels, including:

Your support channels are also connected so conversations can continue flawlessly from one channel—or department—to the next. This opens the door for customers to communicate with your business however and whenever works best for them at the moment. It also makes life easier for employees because it allows them to handle multiple conversations across channels without jumping between dashboards.

For example, your marketing team sends an email promoting a new product. A customer then responds to the email with a question. A support agent quickly picks up the conversation and sends an email back. Because all communication channels are connected, the customer later replies to the support agent on WhatsApp, all without missing a beat.

What is the omnichannel experience?

The omnichannel experience is the ability to offer fast, personalized, and uninterrupted omnichannel customer service across web, mobile, and social apps. It’s not just about adding certain channels—it’s also about building deeper, more insightful relationships with customers over time.

Customers can continue a conversation wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them, and support agents can jump right in to help. An omnichannel experience equips agents with valuable customer context, including their past interactions with your business. This allows agents to personalize customer service interactions and provide quick customer-oriented support.

What is the difference between omnichannel vs. multichannel vs. single channel?

A graphic showcases the differences between a single channel, multichannel, and omnichannel approach.

The difference between a single, multichannel, and omnichannel approach comes down to the number of channels offered and whether or not they are connected.

  • Single channel: Customers can only use a single communication channel, such as email or voice, to communicate with a brand.
  • Multichannel: Customers can connect with a business through multiple communication channels, but conversations do not carry over from one channel to the next.
  • Omnichannel: Customers have access to multiple, interconnected communication channels, allowing for fluid, continuous conversations.

Now that you have a better understanding of what an omnichannel approach is and how it differs from a single or multichannel strategy, let’s look at the benefits.

5 benefits of omnichannel

A graphic showcases five benefits of an omnichannel approach.

From providing omnichannel customer support to creating an omnichannel marketing strategy, omnichannel interactions are an investment in customer centricity.

Omnichannel strategies help keep customers happy by delivering better, more personalized customer service interactions in-store and across channels and devices. Follow along as we break down five ways omnichannel can benefit your business and help turn bad customer service into a great customer experience.

1. Improved customer satisfaction

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023, 60 percent of consumers report that when agents have little to no context of the situation, customers have to repeat themselves, which negatively impacts the CX.

Offering an omnichannel support experience enables support teams to access information about customers across channels, providing agents with valuable context. It also ensures customers won’t have to repeat themselves, resulting in a better experience.

Additionally, 72 percent of customers want immediate customer service, while 66 percent want support interactions that don’t interrupt their current action. An omnichannel strategy lets your business meet customer needs by empowering consumers to use whatever channel is most convenient for them, as well as providing immediate customer support.

2. Higher employee efficiency

Omnichannel doesn’t just benefit customers—it also improves agent productivity. Digging for information across different apps and channels is a massive headache that wastes valuable time and energy. An omnichannel approach lets your team meet customers where they are.

With key customer context in one place, your employees can:

  • Engage with customers and prospects more easily.
  • See what teams are working on.

  • Gain a complete picture of each customer’s journey with your company.

  • Maximize productivity.

When all team members can quickly see customer information—name, location, conversation history, previous purchases, and more—transitions between agents or departments become seamless, creating a better customer and employee experience.

3. Increased cross-sell and upsell opportunities

Omnichannel experiences can also increase profitability. Our Trends Report reveals that 70 percent of consumers will spend more with companies that offer seamless conversational experiences.

With omnichannel customer service, agents can view customer interactions across channels to provide intelligent product recommendations. This equips agents with valuable information for upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Say a jewelry company launches a new line of bracelets, and a customer asks a sizing question via live chat. The agent pulls up the customer’s purchase history and notices the customer routinely buys jewelry from email blasts and recently bought a necklace. The interaction goes well and, at the end, the agent emails the customer a link to a bracelet that would pair well with the necklace they purchased.

4. More customer insights

When you offer an omnichannel experience, you’re allowing customers to connect with your brand across a wide range of platforms. With so many opportunities to connect with customers, omnichannel companies receive a lot of real-time data about their target audience. When businesses have a wealth of customer information at their fingertips, they can learn more about their audience and understand how to improve their experience with customer analytics.

They also gain insights that enable them to personalize customer interactions. According to our CX Trends Report, 59 percent of consumers believe businesses should use the data they collect about customers to personalize experiences. When companies successfully meet buyers’ needs with personalized support, brands are more likely to retain customers in the long run.

5. Long-term customer relationships

Building lasting customer relationships takes time, and an omnichannel experience helps you nurture and strengthen connections. When customers have an issue or need support, they want the experience to be fast and easy. An omnichannel approach makes this possible to achieve by:

  • Allowing you to meet customers where they already are, whether that’s on Instagram, SMS, WhatsApp, or live chat.

  • Giving you a unified view of every interaction so customers don’t have to repeat information.

  • Enabling you to provide personalized experiences that make individual customers feel valued.

View each interaction as an opportunity to enhance the relationship and continue the conversation instead of just a transactional moment. With this mindset, you can establish long-term relationships that ultimately lead to more revenue and a positive omnichannel customer experience.

Level up with omnichannel support

Meet your customers where they are and continue the conversation with ease by providing omnichannel customer service. Read our guide to learn how to deliver seamless, fast, and personalized support on any channel.

How to create an omnichannel strategy in 5 steps

A graphic showcases five steps for creating an omnichannel strategy.

A successful omnichannel strategy isn’t just a plan to use the same channels as your competition. It requires a thorough understanding of your customer base, a willingness to A/B test, and a way to organize and make sense of customer data.

1. Centralize your customer data

A customer relationship management (CRM) system is the hub of omnichannel experiences. It serves as the main warehouse for customer data. A CRM can integrate with your existing platforms to track customer interactions across channels, including email, social media, and chat.

When all the information is in one place, and every department can access this data, you get a 360 customer view. This 360-degree view gives support agents the context they need to deliver speedy resolutions and personalized experiences.

A screenshot showcases an omnichannel customer service interaction.

In the live chat above, a CRM integrated with contact center as a service (CCaaS) software allows the agent to see that the customer is a VIP. As a result, the agent prioritizes the customer and provides the expected VIP amenity (upgraded shipping). And if the support agent sees a sales opportunity, they can send the exchange to the appropriate department.

Omnichannel enables sales reps to view support conversations for context, research the customer’s preferences, and hone their sales pitches accordingly.

2. Incorporate artificial intelligence and chatbots

Many people today are comfortable interacting with artificial intelligence (AI). According to our CX Trends Report, 73 percent of consumers believe AI will improve customer service quality and expect more interactions with it in their everyday lives.

As conversations increase, leverage AI chatbots or automation to manage the additional influx, answer questions outside of normal business hours, and track requests. Even if a chatbot can’t provide an answer or resolution, it’s a nice way to offer a greeting and let the customer know help is on the way.

You can integrate your AI-powered chatbots with your existing apps and programs to provide customers with a consistent experience. That way, they get quick, accurate answers on the channels they like to use.

3. Monitor your omnichannel experiences

Once you’re communicating with customers across channels, track key performance indicators (KPIs) to make sure you’re satisfying your audience’s needs and working toward your customer service objectives.

As a starting point, pay attention to these omnichannel analytics metrics:

  • Average resolution time (ART): This is the total time it takes to resolve tickets within a specific time frame divided by the number of tickets solved within that same period. While this metric will vary somewhat across channels (phone queries will probably be more complex than chat queries), ART should be relatively similar between different platforms.
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey responses: If your omnichannel approach is working, customers should be happy with your support, no matter what channel they’re using. After support interactions, send CSAT surveys that ask, “How would you rate your satisfaction with our customer service?” Customers respond on a scale of one to 10 or one to five, with higher scores signaling higher satisfaction.

Although a good start, these KPIs only tell part of the story. Use other customer service metrics to gauge how consistent and helpful your support is across channels.

4. Adopt a unified platform

A unified agent workspace enhances customer and support agent experiences. It makes sense when you think about it: Constantly bouncing between apps to get the information needed to properly help a customer adds unnecessary stress for agents. It also extends resolution and wait times, which can frustrate customers, especially if they have an urgent issue.

An omnichannel platform can:

  • Save customers from repeating themselves.

  • Reduce wait times.

  • Boost agent productivity.

  • Net higher CSAT scores.

When you provide a tool that allows agents to work across multiple channels and easily view every customer interaction, you can eliminate customer service blind spots, reducing churn and increasing customer loyalty.

5. Evaluate your existing channels and evolve

When customers have an issue, it’s much easier for them to hop on apps like Messenger or WhatsApp and fire off a message to your customer service team. Quickly responding on their favorite channel makes for a convenient experience that the customer will remember.

Evaluate your current channels to see if you’re meeting customers’ expectations and determine whether you should add or remove certain channels. Be sure to track customer satisfaction on all your channels, too, to keep improving. You want to ensure customer interactions are always fast, simple, and consistent.

Omnichannel examples

Many companies are leveraging omnichannel solutions in various ways to foster long-term customer relationships. Here are 10 examples of how omnichannel experiences can help businesses thrive, including with the help of Zendesk.

Tile

You know Tile, the company that helps people find their lost keys, misplaced wallets, or anything they can attach the device to. Throughout Tile’s journey from startup to enterprise, it consistently delivered top-tier customer service.

Since 2013, Tile has used Zendesk to connect with customers on their preferred platforms. Using chatbots and our unified Agent Workspace that allows agents to communicate seamlessly across channels, Tile saw a 40 percent decrease in average ticket handle time and a 14 percent increase in customer satisfaction.

“Agent Workspace was a big win for us with ticket handle times. Before we implemented it, our average handle time was about 25 minutes. Using Agent Workspace, we were able to get that down to right around 15 minutes.”

Justin Michaud

Senior Customer Support Manager at Tile

Squarespace

Squarespace is a website building and hosting company. Before adopting Zendesk in 2015, Squarespace relied on multiple platforms to keep track of customer inquiries.

The company switched to Zendesk as an end-to-end customer service solution to provide more fluid omnichannel customer experiences and to help keep up with the company’s growth across all channels. This resulted in a 95 percent CSAT score and a 27 percent increase in self-service help center use.

“An omnichannel approach is best for the customer because they can choose how they want to reach out. We can flex to their needs. We try and create the frame, and then the customer can select the channel they prefer.”

Raphael Fontes

Vice President of Customer Operations at Squarespace

BoxyCharm

BoxyCharm’s monthly subscribers get beauty boxes packed with makeup, cosmetics, beauty tools, skincare products, and more delivered to their doorstep. Obsessed with delivering exceptional customer service, BoxyCharm called upon Zendesk to help level up its customer experience.

Zendesk helped BoxyCharm move from using email as its primary channel to integrating multiple channels—including social media direct messaging—allowing the company to meet customers where they are. This enabled BoxyCharm to improve its customer experience, seeing a 17 percent boost in CSAT score.

“We’ve migrated our social media channels into Zendesk to create an omnichannel view of our customers. We improved our [first response time] and ensured that we resolved 100% of our private social media tickets.”

Anna Skidmore

Vice President of BFA Care at BoxyCharm

Kaizen Gaming

Kaizen Gaming is a gaming company that offers sports betting and live casino games. Since partnering with Zendesk in 2017, Kaizen Gaming has relied on the platform to serve more than 1.4 million customers worldwide.

One of the main reasons Kaizen Gaming invested in a customer service platform was to unify multiple communication channels and provide omnichannel service using channels like Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram. Using Zendesk, Kaizen saw a 95 percent resolution rate at first contact and an 85 percent transactional CSAT score.

“While a customer is in chat, our agent also has a view into whether the customer has other activity with us, such as a pending email. This helps the agents better understand what the customer would like to talk about and allows them to solve both tickets with one communication.”

Lefteris Klimentidis

Head of Customer Service at Kaizen Gaming

Sendle

Sendle is an Australian startup specializing in carbon-neutral shipping. The startup partnered with Zendesk to ditch its clunky email system and offer effective omnichannel customer service.

Sendle used the Zendesk Agent Workspace to seamlessly help customers across email, social media, live chat, and other channels. With Zendesk, Sendle automated the ticketing process to intelligently route tickets to the right agent at the right time, leading to a 450 percent improvement in first reply time.

“We’re unique in the market to be a shipping and logistics service that has such tremendous customer support. Through working with Zendesk and having omnichannel tools available, we’ve really added value to small businesses.”

Eva Ross

Chief Customer and Marketing Officer at Sendle

Northmill Bank

Northmill Bank is an online direct bank with no physical branches. Before switching to Zendesk to provide an omnichannel experience, Northmill Bank offered support using phone, live chat, and four separate email inboxes, which was draining on their support team.

With Zendesk, the bank gained a 360-degree view of its customer experience and started prioritizing a seamless omnichannel support experience. Since its partnership with Zendesk, Northmill Bank experienced a 50 percent decrease in call and chat volume and doubled its CSAT survey completion rate.

“Zendesk helps us really understand the customer journey and gives agents everything they need—like understanding what interactions a customer has had with us before and in what channels. It also gives us useful information like whether a customer was satisfied with their experience during our last interaction.”

Erik Holting

Customer Support Manager at Northmill Bank

Wavy

Wavy offers software that helps hair salon professionals manage their business. During a period of growth, Wavy partnered with Zendesk to help prioritize impeccable customer experiences throughout the support and sales processes.

One of Wavy’s top priorities was connecting support channels to help improve its processing methods and responsiveness. With Zendesk, Wavy achieved a 400 percent improvement in first reply time and an 89 percent CSAT score.

“Zendesk [products] have allowed us to better structure ourselves with support. In fact, this omnichannel tool has made us, in my opinion, much more mature in our management and handling of support.”

Romain Rodriguez

Head of Customer Support at Wavy

Bukalapak

Bukalapak is one of the largest e-commerce platforms in Indonesia, with nearly 70 million active users each month. Despite its large customer base, Bukalapak relied on isolated customer support channels to help its growing audience of customers.

After struggling to keep up with a high volume of support requests, Bukalapak adopted Zendesk to provide an omnichannel strategy and add communication channels, such as Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp, leading to a 15 percent improvement in its CSAT score.

“Bukalapak wants to become the best customer service provider in the Indonesian e-commerce space, and we see Zendesk as the way forward to achieve that.”

Tine Ervina Effendi

Associate Vice President of Customer Satisfaction Management at Bukalapak

Wine.com

Wine.com offers one of the world’s largest collections of wines. The wine retailer uses Zendesk to process over 52,000 support tickets per month using an omnichannel approach, including chat, email, Facebook, Instagram, and more.

Additionally, Wine.com leverages Zendesk to gain visibility into all customer touchpoints, equipping its agents with the data they need to provide helpful resolutions across support channels. This led to a 91 percent CSAT score and a 55 percent decrease in first reply time.

“One of the most important Zendesk capabilities is omnichannel integration. We can track customer tickets across platforms and consolidate chats and emails to prevent duplicate tickets and responses.”

Addie Wallace

Director of Brand Marketing at Wine.com

PRISM+

PRISM+ offers the average consumers the opportunity to purchase high-quality monitors and televisions at affordable prices. After experiencing significant growth in its first four years, PRISM+ knew it needed to improve its user experience and offer more than just email support.

In 2019, PRISM+ partnered with Zendesk to implement an integrated omnichannel support experience, allowing the retailer to tackle more than 20,000 support tickets every month across channels like email, voice, and live chat. Since using Zendesk, PRISM+ has kept chat wait times under a minute, on average.

“In this day and age, you need to be very visible across multiple platforms. Zendesk enables us to interact with our customers seamlessly, wherever they choose to contact us.”

Kian Balondo

Customer Service Manager at PRISM+

Putting the “om” in your omnichannel approach

No matter your business, it’s critical to prioritize consistent omnichannel experiences. With Zendesk, you can meet your customers where they are and provide personalized support, no matter the channel.

Using our unified Agent Workspace, agents have access to valuable customer data. They can communicate with customers across channels without switching between tools and dashboards, allowing for greater productivity, speedy resolutions, and satisfied customers. Try Zendesk for free and start improving your customer experience today.

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