Often, companies use “crosschannel,” “multichannel,” and “omnichannel” to describe the same phenomenon in customer experience (CX). There are currently no clear definitions of these industry terms, and what’s worse is that they all mean different things to different people and different organizations.
What everyone does agree on is that these terms focus on customer-centric strategies that represent different types of interactions a customer has with a business, aiming to provide the ultimate CX. Here’s a foundation for us all to reach a common definition:
By reaching a common definition, businesses can figure out what they want to achieve and where they are in their efforts. In a maturity model, businesses that succeed in CX go from silo-channel, to providing multichannel choices, to creating cross-channel consistency, to finally delivering an omnichannel experience that makes customers feel like they’re engaging with one brand across the entire customer lifecycle.
OM • NI • CHAN • NEL
“Omni” basically means one – one experience the consumer has with a brand that makes it feel like one brand. In omnichannel strategies, every interaction, whether it be email, in-store, website, chat, or phone, provides client-facing teams with the same access to the same level of information. This not only proactively personalizes individual experiences, but also makes each engagement feel like it’s coming from one brand that already knows the customer – it helps predict what the customer wants before they know they need it. Achieving a successful omnichannel strategy is hard to do if departments don’t share a common view of the customer, but new technology can enable this “dream state” of CX.
CROSS • CHAN • NEL
Take “cross” to mean crossing different customer touchpoints seamlessly. Although very similar to omnichannel, the notion of one experience is not included in this definition; the seamlessness of the handoff may actually feel different to the consumer, even though it contains basic data collected from their last interaction. In cross-channel strategies, the experience may not “wow” the customer using predictive information that an omni-type of interaction would, but it consistently makes different touchpoints less repetitive for the customer by reducing how many times they need to share the same information.
MUL • TI • CHAN • NEL
A multichannel approach to CX means providing multiple channels so customers have a choice of where they can engage. Rather than forcing customers to one channel, they get to decide from a selection and choose what works best for them based on convenience – this inherently makes for a better experience. Multichannel strategies may or may not be seamless like cross-channel, but they do provide around-the-clock access for customers to reach you. Admin maintenance and staffing required to keep each channel open 24/7 means this strategy does need some level of organizational unification. First determine if it’s feasible to provide all the options to every customer, otherwise the overhead can come at a high tax of costs and churn.
Looking for more CX buzzword definitions? View “Modern CX Terms Defined: Part 1 – Customer Experience Terminology“.