Is Omni-Channel Support for Every Business?


Since the start of the pandemic, it seems like every phone call we make has the same recorded warning. It goes something like, “We are experiencing higher than normal call volumes due to the COVID pandemic. Expect longer wait times…” While that makes sense for some businesses, it feels like an excuse for others.

In an attempt to handle the higher volume of calls, some businesses have implemented new service options. After giving the dire warning of longer wait times, callers are offered other service options such as text or chat. These are omni-channel options and can potentially provide a better customer experience.

Omni-Channel vs Multi-Channel Customer Support

Omni-channel support integrates text, email, chat, social media, and messaging to provide a unified experience that allows customers to switch between different channels and experience high-quality service. Customer service agents take notes about the customer and any actions taken during interactions. The notes can be accessed by other agents interacting with the customer, regardless of the channel. Customers don’t have to repeat their issue multiple times.

Multi-channel support offers customers multiple ways to contact a business but customer interaction history is not shared across the different channels. Customers have to repeat their information each time they access a new channel or are transferred.

Clearly, omni-channel delivers a better experience, but even offering a simple non-integrated text or chat channel is often preferable to doing nothing. Businesses must determine which is right for their business and which they can implement to best support customers.

I recently ordered from a bridal registry at Crate&Barrel and received a confirmation email with a big thank you and a bold printed customer service number I could call at any time.

Crate&barrel thank you email

When my order hadn’t arrived within a couple weeks, I called the customer service number, got the warning about long wait times, and was then offered the option to move to a text or chat. I first tried text and had a confusing interaction that seemed to flip back and forth from a chat bot to a live person.

Bad omni-channel chat example

After becoming frustrated with the text channel, I switched to online chat. My chat session was promptly ended because no one was available to help. So, I called the customer service number again and waited on hold. When someone finally helped, I was told that I had to call the store. I called the store and got a recorded message about curbside pickup hours and then the call was disconnected.

This omni-channel experience was beyond frustrating. I spent a lot of time trying to get help on different channels and still didn’t have information about my order.

Effects of the Pandemic

The pandemic forced a rapid adoption of digital communication channels by both businesses and customers. Crate&Barrel is using an omni-channel system to provide a better customer experience, but do they know how it is actually working? An incredible number of businesses that spend time and money building omni-channel service fail to test it out. At the same time, 82% of consumers now feel more comfortable using digital channels to manage at least some issues. At the same time, 59% of customers care more about their experience and expect a good experience, regardless of the channel they use.

It’s no surprise that more people are seeking customer support using their mobile device. Unfortunately, businesses aren’t keeping up with customer expectations of their mobile engagement. 90% of customers say their support experience on mobile was negative. That is significant when most customers leave a business after only one or two bad experiences.

What do Customers Expect?

Accuracy and Efficiency

Customer expectations haven’t really changed. When contacting a business, 75% of customers want accurate or efficient interactions. They don’t want long wait times, multiple transfers, having to repeat information, or difficulty reaching a live person. Yet, these continue to be pain points for customers.

  • 89% having to repeat information
  • 56% long wait times
  • 40% multiple transfers
  • 33% difficulty reaching a live person

Human Interaction

With omni-channel communication, the ability to seamlessly deliver the human touch when appropriate ties it all together. In my experience with Crate&Barrel, their system told me that I needed to speak with a customer service rep. And yet I had difficulty reaching one. Customers must be able to easily reach a live person when needed. Well-trained staff that can manage multiple channels, address customer concerns, and deliver a positive experience is the key ingredient to meeting customer expectations.


90% of customers expect consistent interactions across all channels. Regardless of whether a business uses multi-channel or omni-channel for customer support, the priority is to provide an efficient, accurate experience that will grow the relationship with customers. Businesses may need to initially take smaller steps into digital customer support that enable them to meet customer expectations without frustrating them. Whatever channels are offered, customers expect them to efficiently resolve problems and have little tolerance if they add additional friction to their experience with the brand.

About Peoplocity

Peoplocity helps you step up your digital game without losing the human touch with a 2-way messaging platform. Businesses provide their customers with a personalized mobile app to ask questions and get help. Businesses use a cloud-based platform to respond to customers and to deliver information, reminders, alerts, and promotions to customers on their mobile app. It’s more efficient for businesses and increases customer satisfaction.

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