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Multichannel Contact Center: A Beginner's Guide to Scale Up

Are you under pressure to help customers across different channels? Then it's more than likely that a multichannel contact center is what you need.

Research from McKinsey shows most customers engage with three to five different channels on their way to resolving a request. So, if you're not responsive on those channels, are you sure you're providing the experience your customers crave?

While voice (phone calls) remains the primary inbound support channel, ignoring other methods is no longer acceptable.

Let's dive into what you can expect from a multichannel contact center — and how it will strengthen your customer relationships.

What is a multichannel contact center?

A multichannel contact center is call center software with additional ways for agents to interact with customers. In a nutshell, this is what a multichannel contact center is. In addition, it offers advanced functionality from its predecessors.

Multichannel means several channels. A contact center is an upgrade from a call center. It aims to associate interactions from people, known as "contacts."

Typically deployed as a cloud contact center, multichannel enables support and sales agents to engage over digital channels outside of a standard call center and custom call routing.

Unlike a multichannel call center, where you might label different "call channels" like sales or repairs, this multichannel refers to communication channels.

Customer interactions take place over:

  • Voice
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)
  • Email
  • Web chat
  • Social media
  • Text messaging (SMS)

To provide the best customer experience, consider multichannel customer support when customers have a preferred channel outside of your current voice setup.

How do you find this out? Ask your customers!

Conduct customer interviews or send out a survey to find out the preferred channels of communication to reach you. You might want to compare their responses against reality as a gut check. If you're experiencing constant high call volume, then adding alternative channels is a no-brainer. Release the pressure on call queues by offering something different.

For example, when a customer needs help troubleshooting their cell phone, they don't always need to speak verbally with an advisor. Instead, you can route web chat inquiries through to members of your call center or specialists in that area. And they can serve three, four, or even five customers at once!

This both satisfies the customer requirements and reduces call volumes.

Multichannel contact center pricing

The beauty of multichannel contact center pricing is that you only need to pay for what you're going to use. This pricing model is standard since most multichannel deployments are delivered via the cloud.

For example, if you need voice, email, and web chat, these are the only channels you need to pay for. You're buying into a subscription model. In this case, Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS).

You can opt for all channels available with multichannel if you wish. You can turn on all incoming channels for contact centers wanting to support customers through every possible means.

Often, companies phase in their omnichannel approach, so they're not paying for digital channels they don't need.

What is an omnichannel contact center?

An omnichannel contact center is a multichannel contact center that allows you to support customers across different channels at the same time. So, if your customer begins a request from an online chat then calls to get an update, agents have access to that same information and can continue the conversation.

Also deployed as a hosted contact center, omnichannel empowers contact center agents to retain customer information between your customers' contact channels.

Picture the scene you've been in yourself:

Example of a support conversation switching from chat to phone — not using a multichannel contact center.
Example of a support interaction moving from chat to phone, and the agent lacks the context.

Is this the ideal customer journey you'd planned?

What happened here is that your customer journey stumbled at the starting block because you assumed your customers would only use one channel at a time.

This is why speaking to your customers is a critical part of contact center planning. It's also another great reason to record customer calls to gauge customer satisfaction beyond the stats.

Putting your customer needs at the forefront of your contact center results in happier customers and better customer retention.

When analyzing the customer experience, examine the channels your customers use and the devices they tried along the way.

For example, a phone call may still be the most used channel because you've always operated as a call center. But does that mean your customers only use voice when contacting you?

Maybe they will try your website looking for a web chat window or a support email address. Or did the customer post a message on Facebook or Twitter seeking help?

Furthermore, customer expectations are that you support them where they hang out. Stopping to submit a support ticket is cumbersome versus sending a DM on your favorite social media platform.

Omnichannel contact center pricing

Sounds a lot like multichannel, right? There aren't too many differences between multichannel and omnichannel. However, one big difference is the seamless transition from one medium to another (e.g., email to phone).

The other distinction is pricing.

Generally, user seats are about the same price depending on the number of channels. However, omnichannel functionality tends to cost more for onboarding and access to advanced cross-channel integrations.

Omnichannel licenses come in at around $100/month per user depending on bespoke customization.

The best way to get an accurate price is to talk to an expert to get a custom quote for your needs.

What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel?

There are subtle differences between a multichannel and omnichannel contact center. But, collectively, they leave call centers in the past.

The table below highlights the features and functionality between a call center, multichannel, and omnichannel contact center.

Functionality Call Center Multichannel Omnichannel
Inbound calls
Outbound calls
Call queuing
Automatic callbacks
Customer engagement reporting
APIs for custom integration
Customer satisfaction tools
CRM integration
Self-service menus
Real-time analytics
Healthcare-ready (HIPAA Compliant) Varies
Email
Web chat
SMS
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Seamlessly switch communication channels
One team can handle requests on all channels

Related: The Beginner's Guide to Multi-Line Phone Systems & Top Phone Picks

The main difference is that omnichannel introduces automation between channels. This capability makes channel support autonomous and easy for both the customer and your agents.

When evaluating omnichannel vs. multichannel, it's essential to focus on how your customers operate. If there are multiple touchpoints in the customer's journey, you should be thinking about omnichannel.

Here's another example. Let's say a new customer called in and asked a series of basic support questions. Rather than fielding a line of questions like an interrogation, agents can go above and beyond. The contact center software indicates that the customer hasn't attended a customer success webinar. The agent noticed the email didn't match the company's name. They updated it and added it to the new customer sequence.

This is an excellent opportunity to point out that customer care can be proactive. People change email addresses and jobs. Consider reaching out via the phone to active customers with non-functional email statuses.

Agents likely need to update an email address to keep the customer engaged with the business. Multichannel contact centers strengthen the relationship across contact methods.

This scenario shows why you need to focus on an omnichannel customer experience.

How does a cloud-based contact center compare to on-premises? Watch this video to discover the advantages.

How Nextiva approaches multichannel contact centers

When planning the next phase of your contact center solution, cover all the channels a customer uses to reach you (or might use). Phone, email, social media, text, and even video — you can replace over a dozen apps with one enterprise-grade customer communication platform.

It's best to keep it simple when you explore a new multichannel or omnichannel solution. Then, when the team is ready, it'll be easy to connect channels to your customer service team.

Exceed customer needs with a feature-rich cloud contact center. And track your progress with unified reporting across every channel.

Plus, when agents and supervisors are happy and confident in their tools, their upbeat attitude is seen, heard, and felt with customers on the other end.

With Nextiva Contact Center, you can:

  • Manage all the inbound and outbound channels easily
  • Integrate your phone system and contact center
  • Leverage workforce automation to scale
  • Roll out 24/7 customer support options
  • Access the latest features without any interruptions

Help your agents reach their full potential with the Nextiva Contact Center.

About the author

Dominic Kent is a content marketer specializing in unified communications and contact centers. After 10 years of managing installations, he founded UC Marketing to bridge the gap between service providers and customers. He spends 50% of his time building content marketing programs and 50% writing on the beach with his dogs.