What's going on?


26 March 2013

By: Danny Singer

Blog #5: Many channels ≠ Multi-channel ≠ Omni-channel


When does a call centre stop being a call centre and becomes a contact centre? Well, the stock answer is "when it starts supporting non-voice channels". That answer may very well still hold true in some quarters but it is no longer sufficient. Handling many channels is not the same as managing a multi-channel strategy or indeed an omni-channel one. So what's the difference?

Handling many channels is pretty straightforward. Most organisations manage this to some degree. If they can handle emails, letters (remember those?), and perhaps web forms they are for all intents and purposes handling several channels.

Multi-channel tends to be a little more sophisticated than that. At its core lays the concept of being able to start a transaction on one channel and then continue it on another (or indeed several others). For instance, you may start by browsing the website, filling in a web form or sending an email, then later perhaps have a web chat with an agent. In due  course that may evolve into a telephone call and eventually some physical mail.

At the root of any multi-channel capability is an underlying customer relationship management (CRM) capability that is able to support all these channels and make all transactions visible to all channels in near real time. Furthermore, there is a requirement for the business processes that support each transaction to be implemented in software rather than memorised by agents. This is necessary because any of the steps of such transactions may need to be handled with no human intervention.


So, what is "omni-channel" then? The definition of this concept is still relatively fluid, but what seems to differentiate it from multi-channel is the fact that several channels can be used simultaneously.

For example, I could be on the phone talking to an agent and as we discuss their various products, the agent is able to send pictures of these products to my smartphone. Alternatively, I may be doing my weekly grocery shop online and need some assistance. While I continue to shop, I can start a web-chat session and the agent can place products in my virtual shopping trolley at the same time.

The technology behind omni-channel involves a seamlessly integrated system that updates the underlying databases and business processes in actual real time across all channels. Omni-channel is still in its infancy but there is little doubt that over the next few years it will become the norm.

Most organisations will be expected to perform this feat of technological artistry as a matter of course. It would be untrue and presumptuous of us to say that here at Noetica we foresaw this trend. However, we are in the fortunate position to be able to support multi or even omni-channel implementations due to the unique design and combination of
features that Synthesys™ has to offer.

The relatively recent addition of web-chat to the list of channels that our Synthesys™ platform now supports (in addition to web self-service, email, SMS, white mail, etc.) in conjunction with our underlying CRM engine, and the web services integration tools that our call scripting now fully supports, make Synthesys™ a perfectly positioned offering for the evolving world of omni-channel contact.