Multichannel vs Omnichannel Contact Centers: Which One Do I Need?

November 8, 2023 6 min read

Mark Greer

Mark Greer

multichannel vs omni channel contact center - which one do I need

Contact centers have evolved from traditional call centers to vibrant hubs of customer engagement.

The transition to omnichannel and multichannel approaches has become increasingly popular among businesses aiming to meet their customer’s needs across the entire customer journey.

It takes much more than a CRM and a call center solution to achieve a successful omnichannel customer service experience.

So, what exactly is the difference between these two strategies, and which one is right for your company?

Differences Between Omnichannel & Multichannel Contact Centers

IntegrationFully integrated systems across all channelsSilos between different channels
ContextComplete customer history and journey data across channelsLimited cross-channel customer data
ExperienceSeamless, consistent experience across channelsCan feel disjointed across channels
Customer FocusCustomer-obsessed, focused on service excellenceMore operational focus on delivering service
PersonalizationHyper-personalized service based on customer data/journeyLess capacity for personalization
ChannelsPhone, email, chat, SMS, social media, etc.Typically focuses on traditional channels
TechnologySophisticated, cloud-based, real-time customer data and AIBasic call routing, legacy on-premise systems
CostHigher investment but drives long-term valueLower upfront costs but less futureproof
Metrics360-degree customer relationship metricsChannel-specific metrics only
Best ForCustomer-centric teams focused on superior CXBudget-conscious teams with volume focus

What Is an Omnichannel Contact Center?

Omnichannel contact center refers to a customer service system that integrates multiple communication channels, such as phone, email, social media, live chat, and more, into a seamless and unified platform.

Omnichannel contact center software allows businesses to provide a consistent and personalized customer experience across all channels, enabling customers to communicate through their preferred channel while maintaining the full context of their interactions.

This way, customer support teams have the capability to manage both incoming and outgoing customer communications through various channels such as email, phone, text, and support tickets.

It ensures a unified and seamless customer experience across all channels.

Omnichannel contact center advantages

  • Unified experience: Single platform aligning customer interactions across all physical and digital channels
  • Complete customer data: Agents have full context of each customer’s history and touchpoint
  • Proactive engagement: Insights to predict needs and proactively engage customers from the first contact in the IVR.
  • Emerging channels: Cloud architecture to quickly integrate new channels like social, SMS, and in-app.
  • Personalization: Leverage customer data to provide hyper-personalized service and journey

An omnichannel cloud contact center ensures that customers can have a consistent experience regardless of how they access your website or visit your physical store.

Customers may use social media to contact your contact center agent and have their messages appear on their screen without losing any important information.

👉 If this sounds great, we recommend the Nextiva Contact Center powered by Five9.

What is a Multichannel Contact Center?

A multichannel contact center refers to a centralized facility or system that allows organizations to communicate and interact with their customers through various channels simultaneously. These channels may include phone calls, emails, live chat, social media platforms, and mobile applications.

Multichannel contact centers provide seamless and efficient support, enabling companies to effectively manage and address customer inquiries, issues, and requests across multiple communication channels.

Multichannel support centers have the capability to automate multiple channels of communication. However, unlike omnichannel centers that are integrated, the communications in multichannel centers are not interconnected. This means that agents may not be aware of someone’s previous interactions through other channels.

Multichannel contact center advantages

  • Siloed channels: Phone, email, chat, and other channels operate in silos rather than as integrated systems
  • Limited customer data: Agents only have access to customer history within that specific channel, narrowing their focus on the channel itself
  • Channel-specific metrics: Key metrics like response time are measured for each channel separately
  • Quick setup: Faster and simpler initial configuration compared to complex omnichannel deployments

Multichannel communication is best if the experience for customers doesn’t span multiple contact methods. As such, it’s a cost-effective option for a company to establish its initial contact center.

👉 If this sounds attractive, we recommend the Unity Contact Center offered by Nextiva.

Omnichannel vs Multichannel communication

Some argue that omnichannel is more effective than Multichannel, but the biggest difference you will notice is in the customer experience.

Both allow customers to contact you via multiple channels (phone, SMS, email, chat, etc.), but an omnichannel contact center integrates all of the communication channels together.

A multichannel contact center, on the other hand, also handles multiple channels, but the various touchpoints (each time a customer contacts you across the various channels) are not connected.

Nextiva offers both — a multichannel contact center and an omnichannel contact center. To take a deep dive into the two CCaaS platforms and the full comparison, check out our comparison of Five9 vs Unity Contact Center.

Nextiva Contact Center vs. Unity Contact Center: Comparison

Nextiva Contact Center vs. Unity Contact Center: Comparison

Why Companies Use Contact Centers

A contact center is used to manage and handle customer interactions efficiently. It allows businesses to centralize their customer communication and provide a single point of contact for various channels such as phone calls, emails, live chats, and social media platforms.

Businesses use contact centers for several reasons:

Overall, using a contact center allows businesses to deliver a unified customer experience, improve first-call resolution, and gain valuable insights for strategic decision-making.

Related: What Is Unified Customer Experience Management (CXM)?

Deciding Between a Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Strategy

There are a few key differences between omnichannel and multichannel approaches to consider.

⚡️ Multichannel

In a multichannel approach, businesses utilize multiple channels, such as brick-and-mortar stores, websites, social media, and mobile apps for customer service interactions.

However, these channels often operate independently, resulting in a fragmented and inconsistent customer experience.

🔀 Omnichannel

On the other hand, an omnichannel approach aims to provide a seamless and integrated customer experience across all channels.

It focuses on creating a cohesive brand presence where customers can smoothly transition between channels while receiving consistent messaging and personalized interactions.

Which is best: omnichannel or multichannel?

The debate between omnichannel and multichannel strategies is ongoing.

A multichannel approach involves utilizing multiple marketing channels, such as social media, email, and direct mail, to reach customers. In contrast, an omnichannel strategy focuses on creating a seamless and integrated customer experience across every communications channel.

Which of these strategies is better depends on the goals and resources of your business.

If you are seeking to provide a unified and personalized customer experience, then an omnichannel strategy may be the way to go.

However, if your main goal is to have focused interactions on a single channel at a time, a multi-channel contact center can still be highly effective.

Of course, the size of your workforce and whether you require an outbound call center may make the most difference.

Implementing a holistic omnichannel strategy requires a commitment of time, budget, and ongoing monitoring of customer preferences. It is important to note that the personalized experience of an omnichannel solution does come with a higher cost, leading some companies to choose a multichannel approach initially.

Get your contact center strategy in motion by talking to a Nextiva expert today!

Related: Omnichannel Customer Experience: The Complete Guide

Kickstart your contact center strategy

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Mark Greer


Mark Greer

Mark Greer is a former Product Marketing Manager for Nextiva. His background in the IT sector includes CCaaS, UCaaS, DBMS, business intelligence/data warehousing, endpoint management, and directory technologies. Mark likes traveling the South Pacific, scuba diving, off-roading, and exploring Western rivers with a fly rod in-hand.

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