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What Is Omnichannel Support? Definition, Challenges and Best Practices

See what omnichannel support is, and how you can create and execute an omnichannel strategy to provide seamless support to your customers.
Written by
Michelle
Last updated
September 19, 2023

Omnichannel support is a customer service strategy that integrates all your channels to provide a seamless user experience. This includes online communities, email, live chat social media platforms, and more. 

Additionally, by integrating customer service touchpoints and channels, companies can store and track all customer interactions in one platform. Then, they can use this data to make informed decisions on how to better serve their customers. 

And yes, this matters these days: with 90% of leaders reporting that customer expectations have increased to an all-time high — and 61% have switched brands due to poor customer service.

But how do companies implement omnichannel support, exactly?

In this blog post, we'll break down what omnichannel support is, the benefits, the different elements, and how you can create and execute an omnichannel strategy to provide seamless support to your customers.

Let’s get started.

What are the benefits of omnichannel support?

Omnichannel support can be a powerhouse for companies in many ways. Here’s a breakdown of the three main benefits.

Better insight into customer behavior across all support channels

Omnichannel support lets you collect and analyze customer data like behaviors, values, and preferences all in one centralized place. This allows you to better understand how customers interact with your company — and how their needs may vary between channels. 

With this knowledge, you can use these insights to identify weak spots in the customer journey and improve them to provide a seamless experience. 

Improve customer retention and increase revenue 

Investing in omnichannel support provides shoppers with a seamless and positive experience throughout all channels — allowing them to contact support representatives or use self-service options like a support forum or knowledge base at any time. 

This matters, since data shows positive experiences increase revenue and retention rates. After all, 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. On top of that, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by between 25% and 95%. 

Resolve tickets faster and improve customer satisfaction

As mentioned, omnichannel customer service integrates all your channels. This lets support agents view all customer interactions and conversations from a single dashboard — allowing them to pick up from where customers last left off on their journey. This means customers won’t have to repeat themselves to support reps, something 33% of customers find frustrating.

At the same time, 51% of customer service reps say their biggest day-to-day challenge is not having enough time. Omnichannel support stops agents from wasting time digging through past conversations and allows them to resolve tickets faster. 

The elements of omnichannel support

To help you decide what omnichannel support elements are best for your business, we’ve created a list for you to choose from:

Live chat 

Live chat for customer support
An example of a live chat portal

Data shows that 59% of consumers across the U.S. only want to live chat with a human representative. Translation: investing in live chat isn't a choice, it’s a must. 

Live chat allows companies to use data to personalize customer support and respond in real-time. Additionally, it lets support reps juggle multiple chats with customers simultaneously. And employees can use co-browsing to view and control a customer’s screen, allowing them to respond to complex issues quickly. 

Social media 

An examples of using social media for customer support
B2C brands often use social media for customer support purposes

Responding to customers’ questions, complaints, and comments on social media cultivates a positive brand image and customer loyalty. 

There’s research to back this up: 54% of people have a more favorable view of brands that respond to customer service questions or complaints on social media. 

And it’s easy to offer support through social channels. For example, you can utilize Instagram to respond to customers using:

  • Direct messages 
  • Story replies
  • Comments section

Email

An example of a customer support email
Email is still one of the main customer support channels

Email customer service lets businesses respond to their customers' queries in a timely manner. It also allows brands to use pre-written email templates for common queries that can be personalized. Unsurprisingly, this saves time and other resources. 

Additionally, email support lets customers: 

  • Communicate at their own pace
  • Attach files
  • Ask detailed questions
  • Fill out customer surveys

Voice and video support 

Video chat as a customer support channel
An example of video chat as a customer support channel

Video and voice support allows customers to talk directly with support agents over video in real-time. This means agents can truly "listen" to the customer and understand their needs before suggesting a detailed solution. This type of customer support is a great option for resolving technical and complex issues. 

Customer self-service

A self-service portal built on Bettermode
A customer self-service built on Bettermode

Self-service tools empower customers to resolve their queries themselves. This helps deflect tickets and free up support agents’ time so they can focus on solving more complex issues. On top of that, self-service tools benefit businesses with customers located around the globe and don't have customer support teams available 24/7. 

Help centers provide self-service support in many ways. Knowledge bases, for example, are an integral and popular component of help centers — with data showing that customers prefer knowledge bases over all other self-service channels. Knowledge bases can contain documentation, how-to guides, troubleshooting instructions, and more. 

Support forums or customer communities

A support forum built on Bettermode
A support forum powered by Bettermode

Support forums and customer communities provide a place for customers to ask questions and connect with other users about topics centered around your product. This can include the latest features, updates, and, more. Likewise, taking an active role and allowing users to answer one another's queries increases the likelihood of them becoming advocates for your brand. 

Customers can also search support forums to find the answers to questions that have already been addressed. This requires minimal effort and allows customers to solve their issues quickly.

Chatbots

An example of using a chatbot for customer support
Chatbots are one of the best support channels to answer repetitive and simple customer queries

Chatbots provide a seamless omnichannel customer experience across various channels like websites and mobile apps. Powered by artificial intelligence, they answer repetitive and simple customer queries almost instantaneously. And since 90% of customers rate an immediate response time as important when they have a customer service question, chatbots are an effective support channel for brands. 

Additionally, if a query cannot be solved by the bot, it can be escalated to human agents for further assistance.

How do you implement omnichannel support?

Implementing omnichannel support requires an intentional approach along the way using best practices. At the same time, you’ll likely face a whole set of challenges that can be solved by putting specific solutions in place. Let’s take a look at these. 

Top 5 biggest omnichannel support challenges

Integration challenges

Implementing omnichannel customer support means your team will have to grapple with different channel interfaces and functionalities. This poses a unique challenge: customer data silos that limit access to relevant data and prevent your customer support team from functioning smoothly.

To tackle this issue, businesses must implement integrations across all channels and tools to automatically sync customer support data into a single source of truth. This removes manual labor from transferring data, reduces human error, and streamlines customer support processes. What’s more, this results in a better experience for your customers. 

Keep in mind that integrating customer service software tools can be tricky and may require leaving behind outdated systems and tools to invest in new technologies instead. 

Data management challenges

Managing customer support data across multiple channels, from email inquiries to live chat conversations, is a powerful way for businesses to better serve their customers. At the same time, collecting, organizing, and managing this vast amount of customer data is challenging. 

A survey of 1,500 marketing executives agree. They say data is a top challenge for brands in 2022. Their top concerns are:

  • Being able to apply large amounts of data to business decisions (31%)
  • Collecting, integrating, and managing data (32%)

Businesses must find ways to ensure that data is gathered and shared in an organized manner — so their customer service team can access it easily. This requires implementing the right tools that provide all the features you need, like keeping records up-to-date.

Ultimately businesses that effectively manage their omnichannel data will have a leg up when it comes to making data-informed decisions and providing top-notch customer service.

Training challenges 

Implementing omnichannel customer support heavily relies on your reps knowing how to use your company’s tools and channels. It’s arguably the most important part of the process. If sufficient training isn’t provided, you may end up wasting money on tools that don’t get used. 

Not only that, studies show that 40% of employees leave an organization within the first year when they receive poor training. To train your reps adequately, you’ll need to take the time to create training manuals and continually update them as you rework your customer support tech stack.

Coordination challenges

A lack of team coordination in omnichannel support can result in ineffective internal communication. This causes confusion for both reps and customers. If a customer shifts from email to a phone call within the same day, for example, a rep may not have the relevant customer data they need to transfer the call to the right person. This delivers a slow and inadequate response — ultimately leading to customer dissatisfaction. 

Instead, promote team coordination by setting guidelines around internal communication, utilizing communication tools, and encouraging cross-channel collaboration. 

Security challenges

Providing a seamless customer support experience across all platforms and channels heightens your risk of third-party breaches. In fact, a study showed that 44% of all firms had experienced a significant data breach caused by a third-party vendor. This is because cybercriminals know companies collect customer data like location, financial information, name, browsing history, credit card number, and more. 

At the same time, customers are more aware than ever of their own online privacy, placing pressure on companies to guarantee the protection of their data. This means any mismanagement of data can severely damage your company’s reputation. To prevent breaches, you’ll need security practices in place like employee security training, evaluating the security of third-party vendors, and firewalls.

6 best practices for implementing omnichannel support 

Define a clear omnichannel strategy

Creating a clear omnichannel strategy ensures a seamless experience throughout the customer lifecycle. 

To get started, you’ll need to understand who your audience is and how they interact with your company. To discover these types of insights, ask questions like:

  • Who is my target audience? 
  • What channels do my customers use to contact support?
  • What is important to my customers?
  • How tech-savvy are my customers?
  • Which channels are a good fit for your product and allow you to deliver excellent customer support?

Once you know where your customers are, you’ll need to align these channels with your customer support. Keep in mind that 73% of customers use multiple channels during their lifecycle, so you’ll need to prioritize certain channels over others. Additionally, you must decide how your support team will use each channel. 

The data from these channels must be integrated into one centralized place. The integration process will form the backbone of your omnichannel support strategy. This data should be used to update and expand your strategy.

Choose the right tools and platform

Robust tools and platforms are the foundations of implementing a successful omnichannel strategy. However, data shows that over 20% of customer service agents state they have a lack of tools or the wrong tools in place. Luckily, this has an easy fix: evaluate the impact tools will have on your omnichannel strategy before purchasing them. Here’s a few points to keep in mind:

  • Scalability
  • Pricing
  • Integration capabilities
  • Security
  • Flexibility
  • Functionalities 

Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, you’ll need to continuously audit your tech stack as your company evolves. Then, you can identify the tools that are still useful — and those that aren’t.

Ensure consistent branding and messaging

Brands that implement omnichannel support must have consistent branding and messaging across all channels. This consistency ensures clarity and accuracy no matter what channel is used. Whether it's email, phone, live chat, or social media — customers should receive the same message from all reps. This is especially true during times of disruption or when conveying company plans and policies.

Train customer support representatives

Companies must ensure their customer support representatives are equipped with the skills to navigate customers through their journey. This entails setting time aside to provide training. 

But how often should you train your customer service reps? Let’s take a look at survey results that show how often reps actively learn new skills for their roles:

  • A few times a month or more often (32%)
  • About once a month (30%)
  • A few times a year (28%)

Ultimately, depending on what works best for your company, training should take place either every quarter, half-year, or year. You can provide training to your support representatives in the following ways:

  • Peer relationships
  • Virtual and in-person conferences
  • Formal mentors
  • Job shadowing
  • Documentation 

Monitor customer feedback and analytics

To ensure you’re giving customers the best possible service, it’s important to monitor feedback and track analytics across your omnichannel support. One way to do this is to use analytic tools to collect data on how customers interact and feel about your brand.

For instance, customer satisfaction (CSAT) remains the most important KPI for almost 75% of customer service leaders. To gather this, you can conduct surveys. Here are a few more metrics to track:

  • Speed of resolution 
  • New sales and repeat purchases
  • Customer lifetime value
  • New customer registration
  • Most used channels
  • Ticket volume

Additionally, understanding and comparing the performance of your support channels is crucial to the success of your omnichannel support strategy. This will help your brand stay on top of what support channels deliver the best customer service. Keep in mind that not all KPIs are the same for each channel, and shouldnt be monitored equally. 

Offer self-service options

Self-service options allow customers to find answers to their questions quickly and easily. They save time for customers as they get immediate resolutions, and for your support staff, who can then focus more on complex cases. Data shows that 35% of consumers find it important to have a self-serve customer available. Here are some self-service options you can include in your omnichannel support:

  • Knowledge base
  • AI-powered chat and messaging
  • FAQ pages 
  • Automated call center
  • Support forum
  • Mobile help apps
  • Text messages on mobile devices

FAQs

What’s the difference between omnichannel and multichannel support?

Although omnichannel and multichannel have similarities when it comes to customer service, their different approaches impact the way customers receive support.

Multichannel customer service uses multiple communication channels like email, SMS, telephone, social media, and online forums to help customers with their questions and issues. These channels work independently of each other and have little interaction.

Omnichannel goes a step further by providing a customer-centric and consistent experience across all channels. It enables customer support agents to have access to all customer data in one centralized place to better serve customers. This allows customers can move freely between your channels without interruption. 

How can businesses measure the success of their omnichannel support strategy?

Measuring the success of your omnichannel support strategy helps determine if it’s having a positive impact on your business and customer relationships. This can be done by tracking KPIs and metrics like:

  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT) 
  • Ticket Volume
  • Next issue avoidance
  • Agent touches
  • Ticket reopens
  • Resolution times
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)

You can also use analytics tools to track customer behavior across all channels. This will give you a sense of how customers are interacting with your brand across different channels, and where you may need to improve the customer experience.

Conclusion

Omnichannel support creates a seamless customer experience across all digital channels and in-store locations. There’ll be challenges along the way —  but with a commitment to follow the best practices —  implementing an omnichannel customer service strategy doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. You’ll meet customer needs, increase agent productivity, boost customer engagement, and reduce churn no matter where your support team is contacted.

Michelle
Content marketer

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